I love creating my own celebrations and rituals for the Wheel of the Year, but I always start by looking to the past, to how my ancestors celebrated, to local traditions in my community, and how best to align those with how I connect with Mama Earth and her shifting energies.
For instance, at Bealtainne we are in the Air energy of Spring, moving towards the Fire energy of Summer. So I may use drumming and song/chanting for Air, and candles and incense for Fire.
If you can, celebrate Bealtainne outdoors with Mama Earth, Grandmother Moon and Father Sun:
- Make an offering to a tree (such as petals, corn meal, tobacco, etc)
- Light a traditional Bealtainne bonfire or candle
- Dress like a Faerie, as they are known to join us at Bealtainne
- Wear something green to represent the lush leaves of the Green Man . . . and maybe even make a mask!
Nine Bealtainne practices
Start your rituals by cleansing with a branch of flowering hawthorn, or any other local flowering tree/shrub.
Collect fresh local flowers and leaves for decorating your home and altar. Hawthorn flowers — this tree is known as the Queen of the May — are traditional but may not be local to you; use whatever is flowering in your locale. You could even craft a Green Man with the leaves! And consider making a flower essence with the blossoms you collect.
Craft a May Bough and use on your altar or on your dining table, using the sacred woods of Bealtainne (willow, hazel, alder, birch, ash, yew, elm, oak) or any local trees flowering in your area. Traditionally, the bough would be placed upright in a vase packed with fresh soil, then decorated with leftover painted eggs from Easter (clearly a Northern Hemisphere tradition!) or with prayer / wish clouties.
TIP: For the prayer clouties, you could use a ribbon, piece of yarn or strip of cloth. Make your wish or intention, then tie it to the May bough. Alternatively, ethically tie your clouties to a living tree in your garden or close to home.
Create herbal sachets with loose incense (I share tips on how to make a Bealtainne incense here) or herbal blends.
Sow a wild garden. Have a bare patch of soil? Throw some seeds from local wild flowers, and watch Nature assert herself.
Handcraft a Bealtainne candle and use it to burn your intention (or spell!) for the year.
Create a flower garland, for hanging in a window, on a door, or for wearing on your head! This image above was modified with my Lumyer app but I make the real thing on Bealtainne.
Craft a miniature maypole for your garden or altar. In the past, I have used twigs or wood chopsticks for the pole, and affixed ribbons to the top.Traditionally those colours are red and white, representing the womb and the male seed. Let your imagination go wild! The Maypole represents the interweaving of the energies of the Divine Masculine (the pole itself) and Divine Feminine.
Make a May Wine (do they call it November wine in the SH? Bealtainne wine?) or other seasonal Bealtainne beverage, as follows:
There are very many versions of May Wine, also known as May Cup here in the Northern Hemisphere, and this version may be the simplest. It uses Woodruff, the traditional herb for May Wine, fresh strawberries and your favourite bottle of dry white wine. I have also made this with prosecco, or with a prosecco/dry reisling blend.
Woodruff has a beautiful scent when dried, reminiscent of freshly mowed grasses. This is due to the presence of coumarin, also found in plants such as meadowsweet, sweet grass, sweet clover, mullein, and the tonka bean.
A word of caution: Coumarin is a strong medicinal compound. It is used medicinally as a blood-thinner/anti-coagulant. If you are already on any type of blood thinner, substitute another flavourful herb for your May Wine.
I start the Bealtainne celebrations with a little May Wine, by adding a sprig of fresh woodruff (which I’ll also use in a loose incense formulation for my Beltainne altar) to a glass of chilled wine, or make a May Wine punch with one of these recipes:
Bealtainne Cup Recipes
Source: Kindling the Celtic Spirit, by Mara Freeman (p. 148)
- one bottle of white wine (you can also use a non-alcoholic wine)
- juice and grated rind of one lemon
- fresh organic strawberries
- handful of fresh woodruff (galium odoratum). Dry for two days in a covered bowl OR use fresh whole leaves and flowers.
- add 1/3 of the wine to the woodruff leaves, and steep for an hour
- filter and add to the remaining wine, adding the lemon juice and grated rind
- add sliced strawberries
- float fresh woodruff flowers on top
Other Bealtainne Wine recipes
From the Northern Shamanism website
Marinate a handful of freshly dried woodruff in the juice of one lemon and half a bottle of Rhine wine for four hours; then add 6 tablespoons of sugar and another bottle and a half of the wine. Just before serving, add a bottle of seltzer for sparkle, and/or a bit of brandy for a stronger drink.
From the Food.com website
On “true” Beltainne , I may try this variation which uses white wine, brandy, champagne (or a sparkling white wine) and strawberries!
What a “spirited” way to
begin the Light Half of the Year!