Beltainne Rites and Charms

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Beltaine is the start of the light or samos half of the year. It starts now at dusk on the 30th of April and continues through May 1st. For the ancient Celts though, this was a holiday that depended on nature for it's beginning. Traditionally, it was celebrated when the Hawthorn trees began to bloom. This time would vary over the land and was not fixed to the calendar until fairly modern times.Spelled variously, Beltaine, Belltaine, Beltain, Beltine, Beltane, Bealtaine, Bealteine, Boaldyn (Manx) or Bealtuinn (Scots Gaelic), it is also called May Eve or May Day. This festival was known by various other names in other Celtic countries: Cetshamain (from the Old Celtic - Kentu-saminos, 'first of summer') in Ireland, Shenn do Boaldyn on the Isle of Mann, Calan Mai, Dydd Calen Mai or Cyntefrm in Wales, Calá Mé in Cornwall and Kala-Hañv in Brittany. . It isn't specifically mentioned in the Coligny Calendar, but there are references from the ninth century Irish commentator Cormac, talking about Belo-teniá, 'bon fire of Belos (the bright)'.-Taken from The Wheel of the Year at Muin Mound Grove, ADF by Rev. Skip EllisonOn BeltaneBeltainne RiteBeltane
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April 30th (eve.) through May 1st (day), May 5th if corrected to our modern calendar.The Spring Crossquarter: Beltane, pronounced "BALCH in ah", approximately marked the halfway point between the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice; the middle, or crown of Spring. Other names: May Day/May Eve; Walpurgis(nacht).Much has been written of the apparent division of the Celtic year into two halves: a dark half from the great bonfire night of Samhain (All Hallows), through the winter and on to the fires of May Eve; and the bright half: from May Day on through the summer, along to Samhain again. The eves of these two thresholds of the year were said to be dreadful nights when the veil between this world and the Otherworld was thinnest, and consequently, over the centuries there has accumulated much lore of magical events and magical encounters transpiring on these nights.As fearful of the Eve of May the people were, all the more eager they were for the revelry of the day to come... a descendant of the Roman feast of flowers, the Floralia: Maypole dancing, Morris Dancing, Mummers plays and May caroling are but a few of the persistent May Day traditions that the Puritans tried vainly to extinguish during the Reformation. These joyous celebrations of the Crown of Spring; the Threshold of Summer were too deeply entrenched in the lives and history of the people to be snuffed out by the Church's railing against their "heathen ways".Floralia, the Roman feast of Flora, Goddess of the Flowers; Queen of Spring, may possibly be at the root of some of the popular British Mayday customs with which we are familiar. Still current in medieval times a thousand years later and cherished and protected by the common folk and gentry alike through the harshness of the Protestant Reformation right up to the current day-- the spirit behind these practices clearly reflects the European Ancestors' passionate love and reverence for Springtime and Her flowers.Even today in America as well as in the Old Countries, children rise before the sun to gather and decorate baskets of May-morn' flowers and later, just as generations of their ancestors did, once more they'll dance 'round and 'round, braiding the gaily ribbon-bedecked Maypole, the ancient symbol of fertility and phallic potency (ironically, now more often at parochial schools!). Above them, sighing on the winds from across the sea and across the ages, you can almost hear the old maysong: "Summer is a cumin in!"Key Words/Key Concepts:May Day; May Eve; May Morn; Maia; Flora; Floralia; The Crown of Spring; May-Queen; Morris Dancers; May Baskets; dew; Midmorning;Flowers/ buds; Hawthorn; bonfire night; The Fire of Bel(inus); May Pole; Hobby-horse; May Day Processional; courtship; bannock;
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Purpose and PrecedentSlainte agus failte! Welcome to the offering rite of Bealtainne, the Hinge of Summer, the Day of Blessings. Now the earth grows green again in fact, warmed by the power of the Sun and the Waters' cool strength. Shoot has become bud and bud is flowering as all life burns with the kindling of love's fire. Now we rejoice in the heat of May, and look forward to the greater heat of summer.In elder days the feast of Bealtainne was a day of power and duty, when every fire was extinguished and every clan held fast to its luck for the coming season. The folk left their work and went into the fields and the greenwood. They roved among the blossoms and made love to one another to celebrate the Power of Life. They went into the Groves and made their worship of the God/desses that sustained them.As the ancients did before us, so we do now, and so our descendants may do in the future. We are come into the Grove to worship as they did, to offer to the Ancestors; to offer to the King and Queen of the Sidhe clans and all the Nature Spirits; and to offer to the beloved Shining Ones. Today we honor Aine, the Queen under the Mound, the erotic power of renewal. Today we honor the Mac Oc as Aengus the Harper, the enchanting life of the Earth. Today we kindle new flame in ourselves as we dance among the Bealtainne fires. And tonight, may we practice the Rites of Love in whatever way our spirit may guide us, to sustain the Power of Life. Ta go maith!Honoring the Patron PowersA cloaked woman emerges, stands to the north of the Hallows with head bowed and cloak closed. Druid speaks:In elder days, Erin the goddess was the mother of clans, called Aine, queen of the noble ones. Aine the mighty mated with mighty men and from them she bore many peoples. As each of them grew old she would renew her youth and love again.So for us is the living earth goddess, who grows old with the winter and renews her youth in this merry, magical time. With each of her renewings she brings the flowing of new life, the erotic blossoming of every kindred, not just for the continuing of clans, but for the delight and regeneration of all beings.Aine the ancient Calleach the mighty Bones of the Earth Answer your childrenMother to maiden Winter to summer Root into blossom Answer us, changerFlow now the waters All hearts rejoicing Laughter and loving Bounty and blessingNow in the hinge-time Wise ones are caling Show us your wonder O maiden of May!all: Aine, accept our sacrifice!An offering of scented oil is made to the Fire. The woman removes her cloak to reveal a young maiden, erotically dressed. All cry: Hail the queen of the May!The May Queen speaks, saying:Let the goddess of Earth hear our call as I hear it! Blessings upon all who do honor to the shining ones. In this season of renewal we do honor to the goddess of the wells, for the sacred well is the eye of the earth, the giver and receiver, the gate of the Sidhe!Maiden holds large bundle of cut flowers, says:Now let the well be dressed, honoring our simple symbol of all the worlds' sacred wells.Nine men come forward in turn to dress the Well, surrounding it with flowers. All sing 'Way to the Well'. When all are finished the Druid speaks:Surely it is true that when the maid of May appears in any place or any heart the delight of love cannot be far behind. In Erin the power of love's joy was worshipped in Aengus Og, the son of Dagda and Baonn. He is the golden harper, whose music wakens longing and fulfillment in mortal hearts. He is the silver voice, calling all to come away from earthly care and join in the joy of May. Now let us welcome the young lord.The young son Maponos Aengus the harper Son of the Dagda Whose staff is the strongestBorn of enchantment The son of the Mother Sing, O enticer Delighter of maidensSap in the branches All making merry Bee to the blossom Hie to the MayingRaise now the May-rod Aengus we name you Wonder child rising Come to our callingall: Aengus Og, accept our sacrifice!An offering of scented oil is made to the Fire. The Bile, or other phallic rod is passed from woman to woman with much merry jesting, kissing of the pole, etc. ... The May Queen then places the pole in the Earth again, saying:Awake, O King-To-Be! Enter now the maiden Earth and bring joy and blessing to us all! Beannachtai!Offering to the SidheThe Faery Tree is brought out, or the Druid walks to the Tree (at the South?) Clouts of many colors, sparklies and amulets are available to hang on the Tree. Druid speaks:In the elder days Aine the goddess was a queen of the Sidhe-folk, ruling form her mound in the south of Erin. Likewise Aengus was a king of the gentle people, making the faery music beneath the Brug Na Boyne. Now we call to them to open the way to the people of peace.On the feast of Bealtainne the veils between the worlds are thin. Now we honor the nobel clans of the otherworld, the spirits of Earth to join our dance and receive due offering.Come to the gates, gentle and lovely ones. Hear our call, we the children of Earth, who remember you. We offer you our worship, our reverence and our blessing.You who rule in the wildwood, who give luck or bane, you who teach us the hidden ways and aid the wise, receive now these offerings made in your honor:The druid will recite the various Powers of the Sidhe, and one of the folk will tie a ribbon or clout or whatever to the Tree for each. This should go on for ?9, ?27 things, such as:To the queens under the hill -- Oonagh the Lovely, Cailleach the Ancient, Medb the Mighty and all...To the kings under the hill -- Finvarra the Handsom, Bodb the Red, Eochaid the Stallion and all...To all the Sidhe-folk of poetry and wisdom -- Inspirers and singers, you who grant sight and hearing...To all the Sidhe-folk who are warriors, wardens and keepers, champions and hunters, wrathful protectors...To all the Sidhe-folk of the makers, iron Sidhe and gold Sidhe, wood Sidhe and clay Sidhe and the folk in the loom...To all the Sidhe-folk of the soil, tillers and reapers, cattle Sidhe and arbor Sidhe and folk of the hearth...To all the Sidhe-folk of the Earth, stone and soil, stream and pool, bird and beast...To all the Sidhe-folk of the sea, merrow and selkie, of sunlit shallows and the deeps...To all the Sidhe-folk of the air, trooping sidhe and the voices on the wind...To all o fyou we give these gifts and ornaments, asking you to bless us in the joy of the living...all: Noble Sidhe, accept our sacrifice!Praise OfferingsThe company is instructed that if they do not have a praise offering they may come quietly to the Tree through the rest of the rite and make their offering. The Tree will be planted in the country after the rite.The BlessingFollowing the Hallowing and Drinking of the Waters the Druids work the Fire of Blessing. Druid Speaks:Now as we stand filled with the power of our Goddess and God, let us work the spell of the Beltainne fires to drive away ill and bring us luck in the coming summer.Two fire-vessels are brought out and prepared. Sacred woods are available as in the charm. One man and one Woman bring fire from the Fire. Fires conjured, saying:We kindle these magic fires In the presence of the mighty ones In the power of the lovers By Dagda the fire and by Brigid the fireBy oak -- grant strength By rowan -- grant magic By hazel -- grant wisdom Spring from darkness into lightRise as the warmth of summer's sun This Beltainne day Kindle within each of our hearts A flame of love and wit and might To friend and foe and all beings Bring peace and beauty to the land As life begins anew.Ta Go Maith!Now join hands all... Step lightly in the dance and leave your winter cares behind Receive the blessing of the shining ones As you pass between the faery fires Dance now, in the joy of May!Final Blessing:Music is struck up and a line dance led by one of the Druids, dancing between the two Fires, maybe doubling back for kisses. All finally spiral into clump with a roar/om. Druid deepens trance one last time, then speaks:Bless, O great ones true and bountiful Ourselves, our kind and our friends Our work and our wealth. May the Waters of Life sustain us May the Fire of Passion enliven us From day to day through every turning moon From season to season Through all the sacred year. May the ancestors strengthen us May the Sidhe-folk open our ways May the goddesses and gods grant us wisdom. Let the seeds of spring shoot and bud And let our lives blossom with the May. By our magic and gby the blessings of the old ways Let all our blossoms come to fruit! Ta Go Maith!ClosingAs usual.
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This is designed to be performed within the standard ADF format, with the changes given. As part of the ritual briefing it must be determined how many people will be taking part in the bannock rite, so the number of pieces the bannock must be cut into will be known. The Season A sense of foreboding fills the Celtic world at Beltane, then. There is the disappearance of Rhiannon's son and the great claw through the window in The Mabinogion. There is divination to see if the summer's weather will be good. And there are the purifying fires which give the feast its name. Beltane is a time of crisis. In a pastoral community it is the time when animals are moved from their winter holdings to the summer pastures. This means a crossing from areas close to settlements into essentially wild areas. In an agricultural community, the crops are beginning to grow. No longer protected beneath the ground, and not yet fully grown, they are in a vulnerable liminal state. The danger comes from the spirits of the land that are Outsiders. Not having been brought into the human community (through their choice or ours), they can be expected to be at cross purposes with us. We make our gains at their expense. We therefore propitiate them, making peace with chaos before we can build our cosmos. The Ritual The main purpose of this ritual is to appease the Outsiders, and to win their consent in our forming civilization in their midst. Once this is done, we may confidently ask our household deities to protect our homes. The rite of choosing the marked bannock piece may originally have been performed to choose a sacrificial victim. In historic times the chosen one was purified by fire, a representative of the community. In his purification we are all purified of the baneful influences of winter. He must first perform the community's work. He is sent into the unknown, bringing an offering to the Outsiders. Although the workings of the gods have chosen him, there is still some uncertainty as to the acceptance of the offering. Even if he returns successfully he must be purified before he is readmitted -- he has become sacred, and by going so closely to the Outsiders may have acquired some of their influence. The elaborate turning and covering rite has the practical purpose of confusing everyone as to which piece has been marked. Ritual, it solemnizes the moment and incorporates all present into it. The people put part of their own bannock pieces into the chosen one's bowl as an acknowledgement of his service. Practically, this provides him with the means for his own offering. Finally, at the end, each attendee is purified individually by the smoke of the fires, a rite found both in Celtica and Rome. Props A bannock on a plate. A cloth to cover the bannock. A knife to cut the bannock. A bowl of barley. An offering bowl. Celebrants Two Priests (D1 and D2) Diviner The Opening Prayer D2: Ta muid anseo leis na dheithe a adhradh! D1: We are here to honor the gods! D2: We come together on this sacred day to celebrate the feast of Beltane to call in the summertime to win from chaos a peaceful time in which to gain our harvest. Appeasing the Outsiders D1: The time of resting has ended, the time of planting has come. We take our fields from the unmarked lands, measuring our world out in their midst and in the midst as well of those who dwell there, those who dwell beyond the borders. D2: We will make an offering, then, to assuage the Outsiders to appease them and please them and win from them their grudging consent for us to form our island world, our homes, our culture, our people, our fields, within the great surrounding sea. D2 holds the bannock up and presents it to the others. She puts it back down and makes a mark on the underside. She holds it up, to show the mark to the others. She puts it down on its plate and cuts it, making sure that the mark falls on only one piece. She turns it three times, deosil, saying the following, one line with each turn: I make this turn for the blessings of the High Gods I make this turn for the blessings of the Honored Dead I make this turn for the blessings of the Nature Spirits The Diviner chooses a non-grove member, and the two of them go to the bannock. The Diviner holds a cloth about six inches over the bannock, and the non-grove member turns it three times, deosil, and then returns to her place. The cloth is lowered onto the bannock, and one of the grove children comes forward and turns the bannock three times, deosil. The child returns to his place. D2 then brings the covered bannock about the circle, deosil, and each adult takes a piece from under the cover. When all have taken one, the one who has the marked piece holds it up. The chant ceases. D1 motions the marked person to him. D1 and D2 hold their hands in blessings over him and say: D2: As you go beyond the nemeton's borders, may the blessings of the ancestors go with you. D1: As you go beyond the nemeton's borders, may the blessings of the deities go with you. D2: As you go beyond the nemeton's borders, may the blessings of the land spirits go with you. All hold their hands up in blessing and say: As you go beyond the nemeton's borders, may the blessings of the three kindred go with you, and our blessings as well. The marked one goes to the gate and says: To those beyond the border whether gods or goddesses whether spirits or dead to those who were before us and dwell in the darkness of our world's shadow: I come to you with offering to buy from you a world. He goes out through the gate and makes offering of his bannock piece. When he returns, he is met at the gate by the diviner, who asperges him, saying: Div: We purify you from the Outsider's influence. We cut you off from them, that you might return to the people. The Diviner conducts him to the fire, where he is met by D1 and D2. D2 gives him barley, and D1 says: D1: Offer to the holy ones, and become once more part of the people. After he offers the barley to the fire, D2 says: D2: People of the tribe, encircle the nemeton, creating about this one who has returned the sacred enclosure. They circle deosil once. The marked person then rejoins the circle to the right of D1, who hands him an offering bowl. The Offerings The Diviner says: Div: With the Outsiders appeased we may make our offerings. Starting with D1 and going deosil, each person goes to the marked one and gives him a piece of their bannock piece, before going to the fire and placing the rest in it. As the offering is made, each person prays to his or her patron deity or deities to protect their household in the coming season, saying something like: To < > and < >, who watch over my household, I offer this bannock. Protect my household, people and beasts, land and all on it. When the turn comes for the marked one, he uses the pieces the others have given him as his offering. After his offering, D2 says: Pour out on us, Kindred, all your blessings, bestow on us your gifts, offer to us, with open arms, the endless bounty of your unfailing power. On fields and cattle All: Let blessings fall. D2: On hearth and home All: Let blessings fall. D2: On family and friends All: Let blessings fall. D2: On all our world, from edge to edge, and all within it All: Let blessings fall. D2: From now to Samhain, be our protection. Uphold the cosmos in which we dwell. From all that would harm us All: Protect us, kindred. D2: From all that would wear us down All: Protect us, kindred. D2: From all that would damage the world of people All: Protect us, kindred. D2: Upon all that we own Upon all that is ours Upon all that is dear to us All: Let blessings fall. The Cauldrons of Purification D2 lights a fire in two cauldrons which have been placed near the gates, transferring flame to them from the main fire. As she does so, she says: The fires of Beltane are fires of purification. Recessional D2: As we leave the nemeton, we pass between two fires. May they burn away in us the accumulated detritus of winter. We leave the season of inside; We enter the outside. References Danaher, Kevin. The Year in Ireland. St. Paul, MN: Irish Books and Media, 1972. Leach, Maria (ed.) Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1972. The Mabinogion. tr. Jeffrey Gantz. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1976. Ovid. Fasti. tr. James Frazer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976.
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