First thoughts on Beltane

30th April – 2nd May  

The word Beltane is from ‘Bel’ meaning ‘the bright one’ and ’teine meaning ‘fire’; together meaning ‘the fire of the Bright One (the Sun)’.  It is the last of the three Spring festivals, after Imbolc and Ostara, and is seen as the beginning of the light half of the year, although this occurred at Ostara.  It is a cross-quarter day and a Spirit Night alongside Litha and Samhain.

Sun God

Traditionally the four Goddess festivals/seasons are about the Earth; Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lammas and fall between those of the God which are about the Sun; Midwinter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Midsummer Solstice and Autumn Equinox.  Perhaps Beltane may be seen as both a God (Fire) and Goddess (Earth) festival as the Earth is so pronounced at this time, with the new life given to her by the Sun.  We shall see another potential reason for this in the second thoughts on Beltane tomorrow.  Certainly, at this time, the god is growing and becoming more potent and vital as he goes towards his zenith at Litha (Midsummer Solstice).

Bel (Beli, Belenos) is the Celtic Sun God, the deity of light, health and healing.  In some parts of Europe, Belenos was thought to drive a chariot carrying the Sun’s disc.  In his healing aspect, he is associated with healing waters, wells and springs. He is often associated with the greenwood and the green man. The wheel, sunburst, head with penumbra or halo are the symbols and associations of Bel.


Bel Fires were lit when the Tuatha de Danann arrived in Ireland on 1st May and burnt ships at dawn in honour of Bel.  Household fires were extinguished and relit from the Bel-Fire (Bale Fire). The ritual welcoming of the sun and the lighting of the fires was also believed to ensure fertility of the land and the people. Farm animals were passed between the Bel Fires to cleanse, protect and make them fertile as they went to summer grazing.  People leapt over Beltane fires for fertility and purification. 

Where will you look to see the new growth sprouting?  What needs to be extinguished before being re-lit from a renewed source?  What light can you bring into your own, or someone else’s life?  Who or what needs your nurturing now?

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