Bealtaine, the beginning of Summer (we hope!)

The Celtic calendar had two main seasons, warm and cold. The end of the cold season and the beginning of summer were marked by one of the most important festivals of the year, Bealtaine. The corresponding festival for the end of the Summer and beginning of the winter was Samhain which has now become Halloween.

Belenus- The go-to God for all things Bealtaine

Belenus- The go-to God for all things Bealtaine

Bealtaine traditionally fell on the first of May and was highly symbolic for the indigenous population of Ireland. This corresponded to the date when cattle could be driven to open grazing and was therefore a time of great importance for pastoralist societies.  The lighting of great fires in prominent locations was central to the celebration of this festival, presumably to reflect the rebirth and rejuvenation of the sun. It was also customary to drive cattle between large fires in order to protect them from disease. TGE Powell in his book The Celts believes that the word is a combination of the celtic word for fire (tine) and reference to a god called Belenus known widely in Northern Italy, south-eastern Gaul, Nordicum and south-west Britain. Belenus is thought to have been a sun-god and his name is believed to have meant ‘Brilliant’ or ‘Bright’ one. In modern Irish Bealtaine is still the name given to the month of May.

Fire, a key component of Bealtaine

Fire, a key component of Bealtaine

More recently a particular raucous festival has become very popular in Edinburgh know as Beltane which involves naked dancers, drums and massive fires on Carlton Hill on the eve of the 1stof May.

Dramatic scenes at the Beltane Fire Society's annual festival on Edinburgh's Calton Hill

Dramatic scenes at the Beltane Fire Society's annual festival on Edinburgh's Calton Hill

2 Comments

Filed under Know Thy Place

2 responses to “Bealtaine, the beginning of Summer (we hope!)

  1. emeralds82

    Reblogged this on Emeralds82 and commented:
    Fantastic blog to follow and this is just one of the many great posts you will come across! This post details the old Celtic Calender in Ireland.Here’s to the start of Summer.

  2. Pingback: Fire in a bottle « manbehindthecurtain

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