MIAMI (TWH) – Referenced in William Bells’s (1856) e-book, “On the English nomenclature of the days of the week,” John Jamieson’s Dictionary of the Scottish Language mentions a Gaelic rhyming proverb:
Woe to the mother of a magician’s son,
When the Beltaine occurs on a Sunday.
Jamieson states he does not perceive the verse; however, Bell explains, that the writer of “Britannia after the Romans” declares it “a notion that cannot be easily explained but by supposing that the great slaughter of the Neo Druid Magi happened on that day.” That was one of many earliest printed references to Betaine we might find.
He adds that a separate account by Thomas Pennant states that:
“On the 1st of May, in the Highlands of Scotland, the herdsmen of every village held their Bealtine. They cut a square trench in the ground, leaving the turf in the middle : on that they make a fire of wood, on which they dress a large caudle of eggs, butter, oatmeal, and milk, and bring besides the ingredients of the caudle, plenty of beer and whisky^-for each of the company must contribute something. The rites begin with spilling some of the caudle on the ground, by way of oblation; on that, every one takes a cake of oatmeal, upon which are raised nine square knobs, each dedicated to some particular being, the supposed preserver of their flocks and herds; or to some particular animal, the real destroyer of them. Each person then turns his face to the fire and breaks off a knob, and flinging it over his shoulders, says, ‘I give this to thee, preserve thou my horses; this to thee, preserve thou my sheep, and so on. After this they use the same ceremony to the noxious animals. This I give to thee, oh fox, spare thou my lambs; this to thee, oh hooded crow; this to thee, oh eagle!’ When the ceremony is over, they dine on the caudle; and after the feast is finished, what is left is hidden by two persons deputed for that purpose; but on the next Sunday they re-assemble and finish the reliques of the first entertainment.”
This account made us ponder whether there have been any Beltane (or Beltaine) tales in the media and how may the presentation of Beltane may need modified. So we managed a traipse by means of memory lane of revealed Beltane accounts, long before The Wild Hunt (this Wild Hunt, not that Wild Hunt).
Many of us keep in mind maypoles as a part of celebrations in native communities particularly rural ones. We found a quotation in The Christian Science Monitor referred to as “Nay on May Day” by Thomas DiBacco. He writes about Thomas Morton who erected what might have been the first maypole on the American continents, an 80-foot one no much less, and on Might 1st, 1627 at the Plymouth Colony. Alas, it was reduce down shortly as a result of it appeared to recommend immoral exercise and even worse, idleness. DiBacco writes, “The problem with the maypole and May Day festivities was the American public’s equation of the holiday with idleness at a time when labor was scarce and work was the order of the day.”
DiBacco also cites Washington Irving, who in 1822, visited the UK and commented that,
“I shall always remember the delight I felt on first seeing a Might-pole. It was on the banks of the Dee, shut by the picturesque previous bridge that stretches throughout the river from the quaint little city of Chester. I had already been carried back into former days, by the antiquities of that venerable place… The Might-pole on the margin of that poetic stream accomplished the illusion. My fancy adorned it with wreaths of flowers, and peopled the inexperienced financial institution with all the dancing revelry of Might-day.“
More lately, newspapers occasionally- sparingly- coated Might Day occasions. For example, Eleanor Blaus of the The New York Occasions reported that in 1981:
At Longstreet Farm in Holmdel Township, a Monmouth County park just west of exit 114 of the Backyard State Parkway, there shall be an 1890’s Might Day celebration tomorrow from 1 to 3 P.M. The occasions will embrace dancing around a Maypole and taffy pulling for all who wish to attempt, in addition to organized games for adults and kids. Haywagon rides at 75 cents a visit may also be obtainable.
We also discovered a 1984 reference to Beltanes in Guardian Publications masking England and Wales by Ralph Blalock discussing lapwing chicks (a kind of wading hen, we needed to examine too) commenting on Beltane. He famous that, “The month started with traditional May Day celebrations, not in honour of the International Working Man or anything like that but because it was the old Celtic quarter-day of Beltane, alias the Roman Feast of Floralia.”
Blalock added, “Following quickly were Rogationtide, Ascensiontide and Whitsuntide, all celebrated by various rites according to local custom. Whitsuntide, for instance, was within living memory the occasion for village Club Feasts, and in earlier times for Whitsun Ales.”
And in 1985, we additionally found a reference in the San Diego Union-Tribune in an article by Lucretia Steger, explaining that “There are witches among us that needn’t fear.” The article even coated myths about witches: “A few of the extra widespread myths are that witches can’t cross operating water, eat salt or cry real tears, for instance, or that their voices cannot be captured on tape.
One of the interviewed witches responded to the myths. “None of those are true, says Lady Mare.” The article added “She eats salt, cries real tears and has taken many trips across running water. ‘Not only that,’ she says, ‘but my voice is recorded on my telephone answering tape.’”
A lot of the articles from the current past discussing Beltane concerned a conversation about Witchcraft and the holiday on the other aspect of the Wheel of the Yr that our southern colleagues are celebrating: Samhain. The San Diego Union-Tribune article mentioned above is from an interview at Halloween. Not surprisingly, we discovered many others from the northern Mabon-Samhain interval; however they weren’t overlaying Beltane, they have been discussing Witchcraft or Paganism.
We found other mentions, too many to cover and not all flattering. For instance, from the journal Pure History, Might 1993 (v.102), we discovered this discussion:
“May Day was called Beltane by the ancient Celts. On this day, the sun rises midway between the place where it rises along the horizon on the spring equinox (due east), and its northernmost rising point on June 21, the summer solstice. The significance of May Day was not lost on the Celts. Beltane was a full-blooded pagan ritual day, when the protection of the gods during the newly begun growing season was invoked in a variety of ways. The earliest traditions were terrifically sinister. To appease three deities, three separate lethal punishments were given to a person choosing the Beltane cake, a burned piece of grain pancake, in a sacred ritual lottery. In 1984 near Manchester, England, a peat cutter discovered one such sacrificial victim: the well-preserved body of a man, who proved to have been murdered about A.D. 50. The victim had been axed so hard that the tops of his molars had been sheared off. A noose had then been twisted around his neck, crushing his windpipe. Finally, his jugular was lanced, and he was dumped in a bog. A burned piece of grain bread was found in his stomach. The British tabloids named him Pete Moss.”
Sometimes we discovered a Beltane reference related to fiction. But for Beltane proper, in terms of a contemporary celebration related to modern Paganism, we needed to do some extra searching. But we did find some. The earliest we found was on the finish of the 80’s decade.
In 1989, The Unbiased in the United Kingdom reported on April 29, 1989 a brief temporary that, “More than 100 hippies who arrived at Barbury Castle in Wroughton, Wiltshire, to celebrate the ancient Beltane Festival were dispersed by police. There were no arrests.” The Occasions added on Might 2, 1989 that the “Hippy celebration” ended peacefully, although did point out that Beltane was a cross-quarter pageant!
On April 29, 1990 there’s another quick mention by the Unbiased about Beltane. Apparently, “More than 400 travellers were camped on Hungerford Common in Berkshire to celebrate the pagan festival of Beltane, the height of spring.”
One of many earliest media coverages in america of a contemporary Pagan Beltane that was not part of a Halloween dialog or a dialog about historic apply surprisingly comes from The Miami Herald. The article was printed on April 26, 1994, overlaying the Church of the Iron Oak who had sought a permit for a Beltane celebration in the backyard of one in every of its members and was met with some resistance by local authorities. The police by no means showed and the occasion happened. The Miami Herald reported the story noting that, “Members belong to the Wicca faith, which pays homage to Earth spirits and other non-Christian gods and is based on Northern Celtic tradition and magic.”
We did find a reference to Beltane two years earlier, however it’s connection to the holiday was not clear. We discovered a letter to the editor of the St. Petersburg Occasions that talked about Beltane however noting it as part of Wicca. It turns out that the letter was a response to an article titled, “Witching hours spook neighbors” by Christopher R. Jones. Wherein we study a neighborhood feud the place “two women as well as a cast of other witches” have been training Wicca in their yard to the outrage of neighbors. We study from one frightened neighbor that the witches put on black robes. The neighbor notes that she is “Christian and they’re witches. I’m scared because of the kinds of things that are going on or at least the sounds of the things that we hear,” Mrs. Streeter stated. “We can’t help but wonder if they’re sacrificing animals.” There was apparently even a digital camera crew filming the Calling of the Quarters. Nonetheless the neighbor noted that, “When all of the newspapers and television are gone, the witches are going to go back to the things that they were doing before, like all the noises and loud chanting in the middle of the night.”
Thirty years later, right here we are. We’re building infrastructure. Paganism and Witchcraft have gotten more mainstream despite discrimination and misinformation. We even have our personal news supply. There’s no need to seek out offbeat sources or teachers to share the which means and power of Beltane.
To our colleagues in the southern hemisphere, might you might have a blessed and meaningful Samhain.
To our colleagues in the northern hemisphere, might the fires of Beltane convey many heat blessings.