Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day, Beltaine, Walpurgisnacht

May 1st - the magical spring day that is celebrated in so many ways in so many cultures. Since many of my ancestors lived in the lands whose festivals, spring rites, and religious groups celebrated this day, I'm taking a day to share some of the mysteries and magic of the day.

Celebrated as Beltaine (Beltane, var.), this holiday with its roots in Celtic history is primarily a celebration of the midpoint of the period between the beginning of spring and the start of summer. It was a time when livestock was released into the fields and meadows as the seasons warmed and daylight grew longer. Bonfires were lit to mark a time of purification and transition, welcoming in the season in the hope of a good harvest later in the year.

For Neo-Pagans and Wiccans (for whom it is a Sabbat), May 1st celebrates the height of Spring and the flowering of life. The Goddess manifests as the May Queen and Flora. The God emerges as the May King and Jack in the Green. The danced Maypole represents Their unity, with the pole itself being the God and the ribbons that encompass it, the Goddess. Colors are the Rainbow spectrum. Beltane is a festival of flowers, fertility, sensuality, and delight. It is said that the veil between our world and that of the Fae is at one of its thinnest points on this magical day, and many legends speak of visits by the queen of the Faeries, Maab and her court to cause mischief in our world.


Walpurgisnacht (Walpurgis Night) is a traditionally religious holiday of pre-Christian origin, celebrated by both christians and non-christians alike throughout eastern Europe. The current festival is in most countries celebrating it named after St Walpurga. Due to her holy day falling on the same day, her name became associated with the celebrations. Walpurga was honored in the same way that Vikings had celebrated spring and as the Vikings conquered Europe, the two dates became mixed together and created the Walpurgis Night celebration. Early Christianity had a policy of 'Christianising' pagan festivals so it is perhaps no accident that St. Walpurga's day was set to May 1, much like the Christian holiday of Easter is connected historically to the pagan holiday of Oester.

Bonfires were a focal point of this celebration as well in most European countries although in some places like Sweden and Finland, the festivities include fairs and carnivals as well! In England, a special christian mass called Roodmas was also celebrated at midnight on May 1st, historically believed to draw christians away from the "pagan" celebrations.

Down thru the years, many rites and rituals and traditions have been born of the original Beltaine feasts. England still observes the day with traditional English May Day rites and celebrations which include Morris Dancing, crowning a May Queen and celebrations involving a Maypole.

Catholic traditions include May crowning of Our Lady, honoring Mary as our heavenly mother. In some areas of the US, May baskets are still prepared. These baskets are usually filled with flowers or treats and left at someone's doorstep by a secret admirer. The basket giver would ring the bell and run away. The person receiving the basket would try to catch the fleeing giver and if they caught the person, a kiss was exchanged.

However you may acknowledge the first day of May, I hope it has been/will be a wonderful day for you, filled with all the promise of spring and renewal and transformation and life and love!

A heartfelt thanks to the many magical mystical shops whose unique and whimsical wares have created a sense of nature and faerie beauty for this May Day blog.

May Queen fantasy art print - strangeling
Maypole Pucks - Littlecreatures
Flower Fairy Doll- 10 inch Waldorf Style Doll w Butterfly Garden Seeds- SweetAlyssumDolls
Forest Dryad Pendant SoN - ElysianFields
Garden Guardians - 2as1
Wild Wood Fairy House with working lights pond and fairy - Centaur1201
Tiny Grass Fairy - Pendant - jMichelleBoutique
Fairy Bower Moonlight Blue Ear Cuff Vine Wrap - Thyme2dream

4 comments:

Valerie said...

Very nice article, Karen. Thank you for showing my Leaf Spirit. Merry Beltane!

Baroness Bijoutery said...

Beautiful post..thank you so much.

Robert W. Leonard said...

What a wonderful post. This time of year always makes me think of the Camelot story and Arthurian Legend. Two religions coming clashing together. And the song The Lusty Month of May, from the musical. It always makes me smile listening to it.

JewelryWorksbyKim said...

Happy Beltaine!

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