Summer is coming in and winter’s gone away. It is time to celebrate the joys of Beltane, now that the Earth is growing green – warmed by the power of the sun. All around us we can see the Pacific Northwest coming back to life. After the long winter, we are ready for the return of the longer, warmer days.
Beltane is the name for the Gaelic May Day festival. Most commonly it is held on May 1, or about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.
Beltane is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature, and it is associated with important events in Irish mythology. It marked the beginning of summer and was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people and to encourage growth. Special bonfires were kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. The people and their cattle would walk around the bonfire or between two bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bonfire. These gatherings would be accompanied by a feast. Doors, windows and the cattle themselves would be decorated with yellow May flowers, perhaps because they evoked fire. In parts of Ireland, people would make a May Bush: a thorn bush decorated with flowers, ribbons and bright shells. Many of these customs were part of May Day or midsummer festivals in other parts of Great Britain and Europe.
Beltane celebrations had largely died out by the mid-20th century, although some of its customs continued in some places. It has been revived as a cultural event. Since the late 20th century, Celtic neo-pagans, Wiccans and those who seek spirituality in nature have observed Beltane, or something based on it, as a religious holiday.
In Tacoma, Beltane observances come courtesy of Crescent Moon Gifts and the Mystic Sanctuary Gift Shop. At Crescent Moon Gifts, the holiday will be observed on Saturday, April 28 at 6 p.m. The public is welcome to this free ritual. Crescent Moon Gifts is located at 2506 6th Ave. For information visit www.crescentmoongifts.com.
Lakewood’s Mystic Sanctuary Gift Shop is hosting a Beltane maypole ritual and potluck on Sunday, April 29 from 3-6 p.m. It will be a festive day including a Beltane ritual, maypole, potluck and music. People of all paths, traditions and ages are welcome to attend. The public ritual is open to all. No experience or knowledge of rituals is needed and there will be a free class prior to start time.
It is suggested that you bring maypole ribbons, if you wish to join the dance. The fabric ribbon should be at least 18 to 20 feet long and at least one inch wide. Please no plastic or wire-edged, as the ribbons shall be ritually burned later.
Bring a potluck dish to share with 10-12 people. Please bring your dish ready to serve as this is an outdoor space with no power, kitchen or running water. Please label the ingredients of your potluck dish, as many people have food allergies or intolerances.
Bring drums and other musical instruments to participate in the drum and music circle.
Feel free to bring flowers for the altar and wear your brightest and most festive clothes, masks and flower crowns.
Suggested donation is $5 per person to help with supplies. This is a suggested donation; however, any amount is good, and no one will ever be turned away for not having a donation.
Mystic Sanctuary Gift Shop is located at 8415 Steilacoom Blvd. SW., Lakewood. For more on the Mystic Sanctuary celebration of Beltane, visit www.mysticshoppe.com.