The super moon that announces Bealtaine was just rising over Lake Calabogie near my home in the Ottawa Valley on April 26th when I took this photo. Seeking wisdom to share with you as we approach the great festival of Bealtaine on May 1st, I found an article from 2012 by Celtic teacher and writer Dolores Whelan, author of Ever Ancient, Ever New (Columba Press, Dublin, 2006)
Dear friends, Greetings. Bealtaine has finally come to Ireland!
Bealtaine, the second most important festival of the Celtic calendar after Samhain, marks the passing from the dark inwardly focused to the bright outwardly focused half of the year.
There is something almost primal in my love of Bealtaine or May-time. Sometimes I wonder what is it that is so special about May time in Ireland? Is it the longer evenings? Is it the millions of wildflowers, primroses, wild garlic, bluebells and dandelions that grace the hedgerows? Or is it the burst of colour in the gardens or window-boxes? Is it that special almost translucent quality of greenness which is only present in May or the blanket of whiteness created by the ubiquitous Hawthorn?
Perhaps it is all of these together that allows the world around us to take on a larger dimension and allows us to see so clearly and so vividly the new life bursting forth after the restrictive darkness and coldness of winter. And perhaps the sense of the sap rising within ourselves adds to our capacity to see the world anew. It is as if both the soul of the earth and our own souls have awakened and are seeing the world as if for the first time.
Many of us who grew up in Ireland in the 50’s and 60’s have cherished memories of the Bealtaine / May time celebrations that took place in towns and villages all over Ireland. Joyful events like the May procession when we children dressed up in our Communion dresses or best Sunday outfits and walked through the streets where flowers decked the doors of the houses. We sang “Oh Mary, we crown thee with Blossoms today Queen of the angels and Queen of the May,” celebrating the union of heaven and earth and the fecundity of the mother and announcing the arrival of summertime.
Many people created a May altar in their homes with wild flowers and a picture of Mary the Mother of God to celebrate Bealtaine.
We sang “Thuagamar fhein an samhradh linn” ( We bring the summer with us or into us) reminding us that summer is not only a season happening in the land it is also a quality that we can embody in ourselves.
Perhaps what is most striking for me about the festival of Bealtaine is that it holds a great sense of anticipation and possibility. This new season has arrived, one that promises long days, perhaps even sunny ones. And who can know what will unfold during this time?
Some of the ancient customs associated with the festival of Bealtaine (at the time of the full moon in May) are still practised by some of us e.g. the ritual of going to a high and sacred place before sunrise to wait and greet the first rays of sun on the morning of La Bealtaine and bring water from a Holy well and allow those first rays of sun to strike the water; enacting the ancient ritual of the masculine and feminine energies uniting and empowering each other.
Gratitude and abundance are qualities that I associate with May-time because abundance is reflected everywhere at this time. It is difficult not be grateful in the month of May!!
For me Bealtaine is also a state of mind. It is a space where I can risk bringing something new out into the world of form so that it can blossom into its fullness. It is a place in me where I step boldly into the world, like all of nature does in May-time, regardless of what lies ahead. To know your own May-time requires a deep and sensitive listening to yourself and a willingness to be true to your process. I have often tried to force May-times in my life, to force a piece of work out of its inner space before it was ready, or to force myself to be in May-timebecause some aspect of my ego thought I should be. What I have learned is that when I do that to myself nothing blossoms!
I am also learning to recognise the many Bealtaine moments that are available in my life every day. These opportunities that happen at unexpected times are moments when I say yes to my life as it is this moment, and allow the moment to blossom into its fullness.
So today let us give thanks for the beauty of Bealtaine in the world around us and for the blossoming energy of Bealtaine wherever it is within ourselves.
Let us also honour the journey which began at Samhain and moved through each of the seasons until it reached Bealtaine, because I have found that, in truth, there can be no Bealtaine without Samhain.
Le gra and beannachtai , Dolores Whelan
The golden light of the Bealtaine sunrise at Deerpark Court Cairn, Co Sligo, May 6 2012