Gimmicks, bonfires and what witches do, the Eve of Beltane or May Day is upon us. To add to the energetic pandemonium, 5 planets — Jupiter, Pluto, Mars, Saturn and now Mercury — are all retrograding in the sky, giving us the optical illusion and palpable fear that all we have set forth will come to a screeching halt. What auspicious timing; the art of witchcraft and one of its most potent holidays is here and instead of running away from the onslaught of energies why not face the bonfire with gusto and jump in.
The cultural mythology and true magical lore that surrounds the eve of Beltane also known as Walpurgis Night in European and Scandinavian countries is filled with a tradition of celebrating fertility and the height of springtime with full freedom, passion and a bit of mischief in all activities. It is a time of year when the veils between the worlds are quite thin and an essential night for spell casting. In German folklore, Walpurgis Night was a diabolical evening, Walpurgis translating to “Witches Night,” where witches would meet and convene with the Devil atop the highest peak, Brocken, in the mountains of central Germany. The 17th-century German tradition of a meeting of sorcerers and witches on May Day eve is deeply influenced by the descriptions and fascination with witches, the devil and sorcery found in much of German 15th and 16th century literature. In Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and other eastern European countries, the eve of Beltane is a farewell to the last day of April and the welcoming of bountiful crops, sunshine and romantic courtship.
Along with Samhain, Beltane is one of the Great Sabbats for Wiccans and other Pagans who follow the Wheel of the Year. May 1st marks the official beginning of Summer and Beltane or “Bel-fire” corresponds to the Celtic god of fire Bel, “Bright One” the god of light and fire. The Bel-fires were lit on hilltops to celebrate the return of fertility and life to the world. One of the popular traditions is to jump over the bonfire for various intentions; finding a mate, safe journeys, or healthy pregnancy. Cattle and other herds were driven through two fires to bring luck and a healthy supply of milk on April 30 and then on May 1st (in Ireland) the cattle were taken off to their summer pastures until Samhain.
Beltane is also a frank and joyous celebration of sexuality and fertility. Maypoles are erected as representations of phalluses, and dancing around the Maypole, hunting for nuts, and staying up to watch the May 1st sunrise are all festive things to do. Love spells and divinations as well as beauty spells, such as washing your face in the May morning dew to beautify the skin, are also popular.
On the eve of Beltane, start a small fire in your cauldron or light a large red candle to symbolize fertility (in all senses of the word), love, passion and joy. Work your magic skyclad, or nude, and start your spell close to midnight. Whether it is for clarity in regards to a lover, creative inspiration, or purifying oneself for the new season, fire magic can be used in numerous ways. Put on some music that inspires ecstatic dancing and move wildly around your fire until you fall into a trance. When your energy is raised and your intent clear, send all of it in to the fire and when the moment feels right, jump over it. Working nude is preferred for fire safety and as an expression of healthy sexuality and love for one’s beautiful body. If you have a partner, what a perfect ritual to share with your loved one and let the sparks ignite your passion deep into the night as the sun rises on May morning.