Beltane is a springtime festival, traditionally celebrated with fire. The word Beltane originates from the Celtic God “Bel” meaning “the bright one,” the Sun God Belenus. Beltane is the half way point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. It honors life and birth.
Historically observed throughout Ireland and Scotland, it marks the time of year when cattle were driven out to pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle and the crops for the summer. Special bonfires were lit, and it was believed that the smoke had healing powers. People would jump through the flames for protection, and they would even drive their cattle through the bonfires.
Hearths in each home would be put it out, and then re-lit, with the communal Beltane fire. People would decorate their floors and windows with May flowers. The would decorate branches with ribbons, feathers, and shells, and bring them inside for display. Dinner would be a feast, with lots of mead and cakes. Offerings are left out on the doorstep to appease the fairies. It also became customary to decorate a may bush in the community, burn it at the end of the festival, and dance around it.
The morning after the feast and the fires, it as believed that the first water drawn from the wells had special protective powers. Maidens would roll in the morning dew and rub the dew on their faces for beauty and youth. People would collect the ashes from the sacred fires, and bless themselves by dabbing their faces with the ashes. They would sprinkle the ashes on their cattle and livestock.
3 Ways to celebrate Beltane today
Start your garden! The best way to honor Beltane is by making things grow, whether its a planter on your window, a vegetable garden, or some beautiful landscaping.
2. Make an altar. Pick a small space in your home, and set down a cloth. Decorate your altar with flowers (even dandelions), a candle, and symbols of fertility such as seeds, horns, or blossoms. You can add a mother goddess symbol, or draw a sigil on a piece of paper. Check out my Pinterest board on sigil magic here.
3. Have a fire. If you have a fire pit outside, have a fire under the night sky. You can even just bring a candle outside. Sit by the flame/s and mediate on mother earth and the coming of summer. Put your toes in the grass. What are you going to grow in this season? What are you going to prune out of your garden to make room for your expansion?
Let me know how you are celebrating Beltane. Until then, merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again!
What is the difference between Lupricalia and Valentine’s Day?
Lupricalia was an ancient Roman Pagan Festival of love and lust, celebrated on February 15th and dating back as far as the 6th century B.C. King Amulius’s sister broke her vow of celibacy, and as retribution, he ordered her sons Romulus and Remus to be drowned in a river. A servant saved their lives by placing them in a basket and sending them down the river, where they were caught in a fig tree on the bank.
Legend says they were saved by a wolf mother, who they named Luperca. They were later adopted by a shepherd and his wife, who raised them. As men, they killed their uncle Amulius, and they celebrated Lupercalia in February, to honor the she-wolf, and please the Roman fertility god, Lupercus.
The celebration began with animal sacrifice, and then two priests would smear the sacrificial blood on their foreheads. The blood would be wiped clean with a piece of wool dipped in milk, and the priests were required to laugh while doing so. This represented new life and procreation. The two priests would then run through the village and whip women who got close enough, with pieces of hide from the slain animals. Women usually welcomed the lashes for good luck with fertility. Couples were paired up by pulling names from a vessel or a jar. The celebration ended in feasting and love making!
Saint Valentine came along much later, in the 3rd century A.D. He was sentenced to death for performing marriage ceremonies with Christian couples in love, during a time when Christianity was persecuted. One story says that while in jail, Valentine tutored the blind daughter of one of the guards, and they fell in love. The night before he was executed, he wrote her a love note and signed it “from your Valentine.”
About 200 years later, the Pope, in an effort to ban the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, declared February 14th as the day to celebrate Saint Valentine. Little did he know that the spirit of both holidays would collide. The color red, which now represents hearts and love, originally represented the blood of the animal sacrifice. Valentine’s Day is more about cards and chocolates, romantic love, and sex, than about Saint Valentine himself.
Both holidays have been overly simplified and romanticized over the centuries, but here are some less extreme ways that you can celebrate Lupercalia this weekend.
Three ways to celebrate Lupercalia on February 15th
1. Have a rose water bath
The day after Valentine’s day, the price of roses drops dramatically. Grab a simple bouquet and draw yourself a bath. Add a touch of your favorite body wash, a few tablespoons of epsom salt, and a few drops of essential oil like lavender or rose of course! Pull the petals from your roses and sprinkle them on top of the bath. Light some candles (those are probably on sale too). Turn on a good self love meditation track and sink in. Here is a quick 6 minute session by Michelle Chalfant on Youtube. Maybe grab a box of chocolates at 50% off and go wild!
2. Make a self love altar
All you need is a small shelf or table in your home, in a room that is peaceful, where it won’t be disturbed. Decorate the altar with meaningful items that make you feel loved. Maybe a piece of lace as the table cloth, a pink or red candle, a white feather. You could include a picture of a wolf or a little wolf statue to honor Lupercal. Add some evergreens or fresh rosemary to represent long lasting, unconditional self love. A piece of rose quartz would help you raise the love and beauty vibes. Face your altar during meditation, or just admire it each morning for awhile.
3. Read your cards
You can also do this with a regular deck of playing cards: the old hearts, clubs, spades and diamonds. Here is a list of the suits and their meanings.
First, decide on a spread, maybe a simple three card spread. The first card you draw will represent you, in regards to your love life. The second card will represent the other person (whether you’ve met that person or maybe s/he is on the way). The third card will represent what you should be mindful of in this relationship, or what purpose the relationship is serving in your life. Or the first card is your past, the second is your future, and the third is how you can love yourself more in the present.
Shuffle the deck as you ponder your three questions and ask your spirit guides to help you. Spread the cards out on a table, it can be as messy as you want. Wave your hands over the pile of cards and feel for warmth or vibrations. Pick up three cards that speak to you. Look up their meanings online, and try to be open to the messages that are coming though.
Need a little help? Contact me for a reading! I’m available for readings via email, phone, or in person. You can also host a Galentine’s Day party with your friends and play with the cards together. You can book me for a party; it’s really fun to get tarot readings as a group. You can book an appointment right through my Facebook page.
May your Lupercalia/Valentine’s Day weekend be full of light, love and self-confidence!