Beltane: The Spring Cross-Quarter

"The Dryad and the Tree Spirit", by Josephine Wall

“The Dryad and the Tree Spirit”, by Josephine Wall

Tra la! It’s May!
The lusty month of May!
That lovely month when ev’ryone goes
Blissfully astray.
Tra la! It’s here!
That shocking time of year
When tons of wicked little thoughts
Merrily appear!
It’s May! It’s May!
That gorgeous holiday
When ev’ry maiden prays that her lad
Will be a cad!
It’s mad! It’s gay!
A libelous display!
Those dreary vows that ev’ryone takes,
Ev’ryone breaks.
Ev’ryone makes divine mistakes
The lusty month of May!

— “The Lusty Month of May,” Camelot (film)

At Beltane, the light is waxing stronger. Beltane is traditionally celebrated on the eve of May 1st. Some Neo-Pagans celebrate the spring cross-quarter at the midpoint between the spring equinox and summer solstice, which usually occurs around May 4th or 5th in the northern hemisphere.

Beltane corresponds with the English quarter-day, “May Day.” The most common folk element of May Day celebrations that continues today is the maypole, which has been adopted by many Neo-Pagans. The maypole is a large pole set vertically in the ground, around which dancers circle with brightly colored ribbons. Beltane or May Day is universally considered a time for joyful celebration. For many Neo-Pagans, Beltane is associated with the marriage of the Oak King to the Goddess. On the Wheel of the Year, Beltane is the mirror image of Samhain, when the Wild Hunt is set loose to bring winter into the world. In north­ern Europe, Walpurgis Night is celebrated on the eve of May 1st as the last night that the Wild Hunt of winter rides free. For many Neo-Pagans, Beltane and Samhain are treated as the most important dates on the Wheel of the Year.

Mythologically, at Beltane, the Dark God is bound. In other versions, he is slain. The Stag King takes his oath to the Goddess, now the May Queen, the representative of sovereignty. The God­dess and her Consort are married. By virtue of his marriage to the Queen, her Consort is crowned and becomes the Oak King.

Updated 2019




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