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Being opposite each other on the wheel of the year, they separate the year into halves. Halloween also called Samhain is the Celtic New Year and is generally considered the more important of the two, though May Day runs a close second. May Day ushers in the fifth month of the modern calendar year, the month of May. This month is named in honor of the Goddess Maia, originally a Greek mountain nymph, later identified as the most beautiful of the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades. By Zeus, she is also the mother of Hermes, God of magic.
He, in turn, may be traced to the Middle Eastern God Baal.
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For hundreds of years, that title has been proper to the vernal equinox approximately March 21 , another holiday sacred to the Great Goddess. This rather startling departure from tradition would seem to indicate an unfamiliarity with European calendar customs, as well as a lax attitude toward scholarship among too many Pagans.
By Celtic reckoning, the actual Beltane celebration begins on sundown of the preceding day, April 30, because the Celts always figured their days from sundown to sundown. And sundown was the proper time for Druids to kindle the great Belfires on the tops of the nearest beacon hill such as Tara Hill, Co.
Meath, in Ireland. Frequently, cattle would be driven between two such bonfires oak wood was the favorite fuel for them and, on the morrow, they would be taken to their summer pastures. Such associations include the obvious phallic symbolism of the Maypole and riding the hobbyhorse. The Puritans, in fact, reacted with pious horror to most of the May Day rites, even making Maypoles illegal in Long after the Christian form of marriage with its insistence on sexual monogamy had replaced the older Pagan handfasting, the rules of strict fidelity were always relaxed for the May Eve rites.
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And modern surnames such as Robinson, Hodson, Johnson, and Godkin may attest to some distant May Eve spent in the woods. These wildwood antics have inspired writers such as Kipling:. And Lerner and Lowe:.
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Some of these customs seem virtually identical to the old Roman feast of flowers, the Floralia, three days of unrestrained sexuality that began at sundown April 28 and reached a crescendo on May 1. There are other, even older, associations with May 1 in Celtic mythology.
According to the ancient Irish Book of Invasions, the first settler of Ireland, Partholan, arrived on May 1, and it was on May 1 that the plague came that destroyed his people. May Eve was also the occasion of a fearful scream that was heard each year throughout Wales, one of the three curses of the Coranians lifted by the skill of Lludd and Llevelys.
It is an earth-centered holiday that is celebrated all over the world around May 1st—5th.
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The astrological date for Beltane is when the sun reaches 15 degrees Taurus, a power point in astrology, symbolic of one of the four portal times. This is the perfect occasion to practice unconditional love by honoring our bond with humans, nature spirits, plants and animals. We can do this by giving loving gifts, planting flowers, trees, vegetables, and herbs, feeding wild animals and insects birds, squirrels, bees, etc. Believe me, birds are not the only ones to use this convenient watering hole, we have had deer, raccoon, bear, fox, cats and dogs lapping in ours.
For this reason it is extremely important to keep the water fresh. Traditionally, this is a time of dancing, Maypoles, bonfires, gifts of flower garlands, seeds, and woodland coitus. May morning is a magical time for wild water dew, flowing streams, and springs , which is collected and used to bathe in for beauty, or to drink for health.
The Roman Catholic tradition of crowning Mary with flowers on May 1st has pagan roots. Decorating homes, barns, and other buildings with green budding branches, including Hawthorn. May baskets were given or placed secretly on doorsteps to friends, shut-ins, lovers, others. May Bowl was punch wine or non- alcoholic made of Sweet Woodruff blossoms.
Thorns are considered protective trees. Whitethorn, Olive and Hawthorn are all believed sacred to the Goddess.
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There was a strong taboo on breaking hawthorn branches or bringing them into the house except on May Day. This taboo is still strong for the Irish for they loath to cut a lone hawthorn, a thought to be a fairy tree. Sycamore is a God tree and has a long magical association, for its leaves are often those shown on foliated heads of the God of Nature, Jack in the Green, found as a pub sign and in old churches.
The wood is used green for carving and is often used for Welsh 'love spoons" given as tokens of betrothal at around May Day. Beltane Fires Traditionally, sacred woods were kindled by spark from flint or by friction. Jumping over the Beltane Fire, moving through it, or dancing clockwise around it was believed to bring good fortune.
Livestock was driven through it or between two fires for purification and fertility blessings. In ancient times Druid priests kindled it at sacred places; later times, Christian priests kindled it in fields near the church after performing a Christian church service. Rowan twigs were carried around the fire three times, then hung over hearths to bless homes. Getting head and hair wet in Beltane rain to bless the head.