Talk:Beltane

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Older comments[edit]

I thought Beltane was May Eve. Is this just because I have no idea what I'm talking about?  :-)

In Irish, Oíche Bealtaine is May Eve, and Lá Bealtaine is May Day. Mí na Bealtaine, or simply Bealtaine is the name of the month of May. Evertype 10:14, 2004 Dec 16 (UTC)

Could someone more knowledgable than I parse out an historically accurate background for Beltane (and thus for May Day) that is distinct from the modern revival? --trimalchio

-- I will do a Samhain on it (tomorrow, I'm off out for dinner with my wife) and root out this undue emphasis on Neopaganism. It is an old Celtic festival and deserves better treatment than this. sjc

Thanks, sjc. I'm all for the neopagan component of the article (living with a neopagan will do that to a guy, so I thought I should register that vote) but I do think that it is a bit misbalanced.--trimalchio

"Historically accurate" is always tricky because like any other historical festival we only have partial records and evidence for what went on at various points in history and the event has morphed over generations. --mgaved 17:21, 26 April 2007 (UTC)


Neopagan or not neopagan? I recall dancing around a Maypole of sorts in first grade, at age 6. Our teachers took a bare pole onto the playground, we affixed strips of green crepe paper to the tree and we danced in circles around it. We saw nothing particularly pagan about it at the time, and this was a public high school in Alabama in 1964. - Dwmyers

It is traditionally pagan, and has been revived or preserved by the Neopagan tradition. Evertype 10:14, 2004 Dec 16 (UTC)

Sounds more like May Day. May Day and Beltaine are two very different things. Beltane isn't neopagan IT SELF, althought some neopagans celebrate it or holidays they call Beltane. I think that is an important thing some people need to learn. Beltane is a Gaelic holiday, that some neopagans celebrate. Just like I'm a Gael that celebrates some Norse and Asian holidays, that doesn't ever make those holidays Gaelic.


Maypole dancing is a component part of the pre-christian Celtic phallic/fertility cults. If you like I'll do an article on it. sjc

Maypole dancing is *Germanic*, the Scandinavians, English, Germans and other continental Germans (Dutch, Austrians etc) do it, Celts have never done it.:] Well, maybe some Irish or Scots that don't speak Gaelic anymore, but it's not Celtic.
No more so than any of the many other assorted folk customs from pre-Christian roots. I assume you received presents from an elf and carved lanterns from fruit too. - Montréalais
It's doubtful Gaelic was ever a universal language right across Scotland. Sorry, a bit of an aside. Probably after Pictish language wewre pushed out it became dominant and a prestige language but there have always been several languages in what is now Scotland. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Scots_language —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Mgaved (talkcontribs) 17:17, 26 April 2007 (UTC).

Clarification needed: is Beltane a single day or a "season", as the opening line seems to say (or both?) -- Evercat 17:27 Apr 30, 2003 (UTC)


Beltane is a single day.

The Old-Irish law tracts Beltaine appears in the pural "belltanaib".--147.1.234.165 (talk) 18:52, 3 June 2014 (UTC)


I deleted some glaring factual errors (e.g., the Vernal Equinox may be celebrated the world over, there is no evidence beyond modern era Neopagan books that the Celts ever celebrated it. For further information, visit www.adf.org.) I also deleted some creative spellings, some Wiccan-centric explanations for the holiday and my own smart assed comment about the creative spellings. I did all this so that the file could accurately represent several different paths (Wiccan, Neodruids, Mesodruids, etc.). The focus was a little heavy on the One Great Goddess theory stuff before. Amarshall


Hmmm. Just because the Neopagan Beltane derives from numerous sources doesnt mean that there should not be an article about it (given that a good number of folks do observe it). Perhaps there should be seperate sections in the article for the Gaelic Beltane and the Neopagan one. Logotu


Maybe someone would like to something on May Eve? It is my understanding this is the original name given to the neopagan holiday that has often become confused with Beltane. A whole article on it, what neopagans believe about it and do, linking to the Beltane article saying that some celebrate it instead, or mix the two (along with May Day, the neopagan celebration is a combination of Germanic maypole and fertility-focus, Gaelic need fire and purification-focus, and the Wiccan idea about a dying God and his consort/mother, which seems to be the most common form, which is why I think it should go back to just being called May Eve, since it's so different from Beltane, and not just regular Beltane being celebrated by neopagans), would be in order?

While being a purist is all very well, it's sometimes not practical. Beltane seems to be the most common name for the Neopagan Spring festival (and yes, it combines elements from May Day, May Eve, Beltane, and probably some garbled anthropology, in an attempt to create a generic non-Christian Spring observence; live and deal). -- Logotu

Beltane is Gaelic, as a word, but there's evidence in the Coligny calendar that it was part of the Gaulish year as well, and additional evidence from Welsh texts that May Eve/May 1 or calen Mai had particular associations with the Otherworld, much as Beltain in Irish medieval texts is used. It would be almost impossible to "filter" the various influences out. Certainly the vernal equinox is not something that seems to have been marked on the Coligny calendar, nor was it important to the Irish until they began to use Christian calendar-keeping. DigitalMedievalist 16:22, 5 Jan 2004 (UTC) Lisa

Want to specify the evidence in Coligny? Evertype 10:14, 2004 Dec 16 (UTC)

You may be interested in the WikiProject, WikiProject Holidays, a WikiProject that will focus on standardizing articles about Holidays. It has been around for quite some time, but I'm starting it up again, and would like to see some more members (and our original members) around the help out. Cheers.Ilγαηερ (Tαlκ) 21:10, 21 August 2005 (UTC)

Note: I have been English-speaking for some 50 years, but I'm quite sure that the Irish for "fire" was "teine," not tane. So the feast, the "fires of Baal" is spelt Bealteine. Inserted by Sylvester O'Farrell "sofarrell@sympatico.ca"

The article immediately launches into two paragraphs of etymological analysis. The reader has no idea what Beltane actually is until paragraph 3, so I've reordered things a bit. Jon 23:15, 5 February 2006 (UTC)

Pronunciation[edit]

Could we have someone who's fluent in Irish or Scottish give us an audio pronunciation of this word? Denelson83 04:17, 1 May 2006 (UTC)


Until then it wouldnt hurt to at least provide a phonetic approximation.

I believe the correct pronunciation sounds something like "BALLchin-AH"

EarrachApr.17,2007

Depends which word you mean. The Irish Gaelic pronounciation, the Scots pronounciation, other? Scottish pronounciation of Beltane is "Bell-Tayn" (equal emphasis) --mgaved 17:09, 26 April 2007 (UTC)

beltaine[edit]

I'm pretty sure that Beltaine isn't only Irish, it already existed in the antiquity. So in my opinion you need make more enquiries about Beltaine.


I've added the derivation of the word from the Oxford English Dictionary. I left in the comment about "The word Beltan in Wicca means 'Fire in the sky.'" This, despite the fact that there are no sources referenced for such a comment, nor the fact that "Wicca" is not a language. --Shootingstar 10:27, 10 May 2006 (UTC) Wicca is not a la guage, and is a phoney modern invention. The most obvious derivation is either "the mouth of fire" "beal tine" or "beul teine" depending on dialect referring to the gap between the fires through which the cattle were driven. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 92.237.213.203 (talk) 10:33, 21 June 2014 (UTC)

Definitions and etymology clutter![edit]

The reason I shifted the etymology of the word into a separate section is so that the first paragraph explains, in a direct and concise manner, to the reader what Beltane actually is, rather than launching straight into a lengthy discussion about how it is spelt in which language, where it came from, what it originally meant, and so on. Please refrain from cluttering up the introduction with even more of it, and please consider editing the Etymology section.

I've reshuffled again. Hopefully this is clearer, the first paragraph now concisely explains what Beltane is. Moved most of the rest of it to Etymology, which is now bigger than the rest of the article. Not sure how much of it is truly noteworthy, but it will do for now I suppose. Also, we need a citation for the Wicca thing, otherwise it probably should go. Nothing against Wicca really, but we're editing an encyclopaedia and claims need sources and references. Cheers! Jon 12:55, 13 June 2006 (UTC)

tree[edit]

Running around the tree with ribbons or strokes of paper reminds me of the may-tree which some villages in the south of the netherlands(where i live) plant in the beginning of may. It is an unusual high (it's very high, 25 meters or something) tree with only some green leaves at the top and it has some ribbons in usually yellow and white hanging from it. It simbolises fertility, just like the beltane feast in Wicca. Thought you might like to know ;) -Gwynn

Irish and Canaanite?[edit]

The following has been added by at least one editor:

The original root of the term Beltaine is descendant from the early iron age Canaanite name Ba'al meaning God, which evolved from the proto-Semitic word El for "strength" or "power", used as "lord" or "ruler" that originally referred to a primary sun god deity.
Ba'al and El were names for henotheistic fertility gods in the Canaanite and Phoenician religions that were tied to the start of agricultural cycles of the seasons, later being disseminated along early Mediterranean trade routes. The concept of a single diety such as the Hebrew God Elohim and Allah for Islam developed from these earlier sources.

Please provide documentation for this claim from a reliable source. Justin Eiler 02:54, 23 October 2006 (UTC)

(Moved from User talk:Justin Eiler)

I’ve located an early reference regarding a Celtic - Semitic language connection.

"One of the 19th centuries' most notably famous language experts was James Cowles Pritchard, who lived from 1786 to 1848. Called 'the founder of modern anthropology,' one modern reviewer stated that he had "unquestionably done more than any other single individual to place Ethnology on a scientific basis." In his "Eastern Origin of the Celtic Nations" (1857), he says that there is "a remarkable analogy" between the Hebrew-Semitic languages and the Celtic (which he spells old-style with a 'k' as in 'Keltic'). He further states that the Celtic language "forms an intermediate link between [the Indo-European] and the Semitic, or perhaps indicates a state of transition" from Semitic to European languages. (p.349) Dr. Pritchard prepared a three-page chart tracing word origins showing his readers the connection between Celtic and Semitic, and states, "it does not appear probable that the idioms of North Africa are even so nearly related to the Semitic, as the latter are to the Indo-European languages."

I will continue to search for other corroborating citations to substantiate the linguistic source of Celtic Beltaine to the Semitic deity of Ba'al. However, I do not believe that a linguistic connection is necessarily mandated.

The god Ba'al was the primary deity of the Phoenician people. The Phoenicians were the earliest known maritime traders whose travels extended to establishing colonies in the Celtic areas of Galician Spain and the British Isles to obtain tin, essential for bronze production as well as silver, iron and lead. The extensive contacts between the Semitic Phoenicians and their Celtic trading partners had to seed religious beliefs of the more advanced Semitic Mediterranean culture into the more primitive Celtic Atlantic counterpart.

There is substantial evidence of Semitic Phoenician influence on Celtic culture extending back at least four millennia. The separate linguistic origins of the rapid expansion in trade in and around the Mediterranean basin had already begun to meld together through regional contact before the thrust of Celtic expansion across Western Europe had even begun 3,000 years ago.

That Celtic growth was heavily influenced by Greek culture from its inception in central Europe. The Greeks were the earliest trading partners of the Phoenician sea traders. It is impossible that Phoenician culture had not made a substantial impact on the development of the newly emergent Celtic society.

Absent any further documented references, the logic of a Beltaine – Ba’al connection is difficult to dismiss. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Gabel (talkcontribs) .

Greetings, Gabel. I'm honestly not sure of where you are getting your information: Prichard's work Eastern Origin of the Celtic nations made connections between the Celtic languages and Sanskrit, not Semitic languages. Please see James Cowles Prichard for more information.
The supposed connection between Ba'al and Beltane starts not with Prichard, but with Cormac_MacCuilenan. However, this etymological connection has been rejected since at least the early 20th century. The theory is mentioned but explicitly refuted in the Encyclopedia Brittanica 1911: "Following Cormac, it has been usual to regard it as representing a combination of the name of the god Bel Baal or Bil with the Celtic teine, fire. And on this etymology theories have been erected of the connexion of the Semitic Baal with Celtic mythology, and the identification of the beltane fires with the worship of this deity. This etymology is now repudiated by scientific philologists, and the New English Dictionary accepts Dr Whitley Stokes's view that beltane in its Gaelic form can have no connexion with teine, fire." source
The problem is, this "folk etymology" is popular in Christian apologetics, and many modern apologetics sources will mention the theory, yet omit any mention that it has been refuted. Justin Eiler 15:23, 23 October 2006 (UTC)

I am unsure why Baal has to travel from North Africa? Why not plucked from the pages of the Bible and applied by early Irish Christians to a local false god? (I am thinking of Lugh or Angus Og).

Take the early Irish written description of one of the events of Beltaine (aka Cet Samain):

From Tochmach Emir (said to date to 8th century): “co beldine .i. bil-tine .i. tene soinmech .i. da tene do gnidiss la h-æss rechtai no druid co tincetlaib moraib & do lecdis na cethra etarræ ar tedmonnaib cecha bliadna. Nó co beldine 'diu, ainm de idail. is ann doaselbti dine gacha ceathra for seilb Beil. Beldine iarum beldine, dine cecha cethrai.” “To Beldine, i.e. fire of Bil, viz., a lucky fire, i.e. make two fires following the people of the law (i.e.law being the old testament?) or the druids used to make two fires with great incantations, and to drive the cattle between them against the plagues, every year. Or else until Beldine, the name of an idol. It is then that a “dine" [the newly born?] of every livestock would be given over into the possession of Bel. Beldine accordingly bel-dine, a “dine” [the newly born?] of each livestock.”

From Cormac Sanas (from the short version, which said to be dated to circa 700): “To Beldine, i.e. fire of Bil, viz., a favouring fire, or two fires with the druids used to make two fires with great incantations, and to drive the cattle between them against the plagues, every year. Or to Beldin, viz., Bel the name of an idol. At that time the young of every neat were placed in the possession of Bel. Beldine, then Beltine.“

I am not good translation Irish or an era, so “h-æss rechtai” maybe I am wrong to identify this with biblical law. However it is worth comparing the passage mentioning Baal (aka Molech) and fire from the Bible.

Jeremiah 19:5 "They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind"

Jeremiah 32:35: “And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”

2 Kings 23: 9 “Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren. 10And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. 11And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire. “

Leviticus 18:21: “And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.”

I am not first to make this connection. It was referenced in early 19th century Irish discussion of Beltaine (fire of Biel). "In early scripture history, we read that the people not only passed their cattle, but their children, through the idolatrous fires of Baal and Moloch" from Dublin University magazine Vol 2, 1850.

And James MacKillop in his 'Myths and Legends of the Celts' tells: "The portrayal of cruel idols [i.e. Crom Cruaich] demanding human sacrifices may be an echo of the scriptural accounts of Tophet and Moloch (2 Kings: 23), as Eoin MacNeill suggested (1921)." Yet in regard to sacrifices the bible passages says the children "pass through the fire". (The claims of sacrifice of children may be Roman propaganda for a just war against the Carthaginians.) In “The strange world of human sacrifice” by Jan N. Bremmer', he introduces the ideas of Old Testment scholar O. Eissfeldt (1887-1973). Who understood mōlek in relation to Punic molk/mulk, a cogante common name as part of child sacrifice terminology. The Imlk phrases should be rendered in the following way: 'to cause one's son/daughter to pass through the fire as a molk-sacrifice.'

[Wikipedia (Moloch): "Other references to Moloch use mlk only in the context of "passing children through fire lmlk", whatever is meant by lmlk, whether it means "to Moloch" or means something else. Though the Moloch sacrifices have traditionally been understood to mean burning children alive to the god Moloch, some have suggested a rite of purification by fire instead, though perhaps a dangerous one.[3] References to passing through fire without mentioning mlk appear in 18:10-13; 2 Kings 21.6; Ezekiel 20.26,31; 23.37. So this phrase is well documented in scripture, and similar practices of rendering infants immortal by passing them through the fire, are indirectly attested in early Greek myth, such as the myth of Thetis and the myth of Demeter as the nurse of Demophon. Some have responded to the proponents of this view of the Moloch sacrifices (being only a ritualized "pass between flame") by pointing out their failure to understand the Hebrew idiom le ha'avir ba'esh to imply "to burn" and their use of anthropological evidence of suspect relevance to draw parallels to early Hebrew religious practices. . ... Texts referring to the molk sacrifice mentioned animals more than they mentioned humans"]

So my understanding is that peoples of the Biblical Near East and their colony of Carthage passed their young though two fires as a blessing (or as a baptism). However similar practices occur outside the Semitic speaking world:

Description of spring festival Palilia for the god/goddess Pales from Ovid Fasti Book IV (beginning years of 1st century AD):

“… Of beans, in chaste purification, in my full hands: Indeed, I’ve leapt the threefold line of flames, … Saying: ‘Protect the cattle and masters alike: And drive everything harmful from my stalls. … Huge cakes for Pales, Mistress of the shepherds.’ … Then leap, with nimble feet and straining thighs Over the crackling heaps of burning straw. … They and their cattle leaping through the flames, …”

From Propertius: The Elegies: Book IV.1:1-70 Rome and its history (end years of 1st century BC):

“they celebrated the Parilla, annually, with bonfires of straw, and such purification as we repeat now with the docked horse’s blood.”

Fraser links Palilia with the Slavic purification fires of St George’s Day festival, held on April 23. He notes the Estonians burnt sulphur on St George’s Day in a custom similar to the Romans on Palilia. He also offers a quote from Shakespeare to show the English also lighted fires on St George’s Day.

From “Revue des études ethnographiques et sociologiques, Volume 1”,1908:

“In the East, also, St. George is reputed to be a giver of offspring to barren women, and in this character he is revered by Moslems as well as Christians. His shrines may be found in all parts of Syria ; more places are associated with him than with any other saint in the calendar. The most famous of his sanctuaries is at Kalat el Hosn, in Northern Syria. Childless women of all sects resort to it in order that the saint may remove their reproach. Some people shrug their shoulders when the shrine is mentioned in this connection. Yet many Mohammedan women who desired offspring used to repair to it with the full consent of their husbands. Nowadays the true character of the place is beginning to be perceived, and many Moslems have forbidden their wives to visit it.3 Such beliefs and practices lend some colour to the theory that in the East the saint has taken the place of Tammuz or Adonis.4 But we cannot suppose that the worship of Tammuz has been transplanted to Europe and struck its roots deep among the Slavs and other peoples in the eastern part of our continent. Rather amongst them we must look for a native Aryan deity who now masquerades in the costume of the Cappadocian saint and martyr. Perhaps we may find him in the Pergrubius of the Lithuanians, a people who retained their heathen religion later than any other branch of the Aryan stock in Europe. This Pergrubius is described as « the god of the spring, » as « he who makes leaves and grass to grow, » or more fully as « the god of flowers, plants, and all buds, n On St. George's Day, the twenty-third of April, the heathen Prussians and Lithuanians offered a sacrifice to him. A priest, who bore the title of Wurschait, held in his hand a mug of beer, while he thus addressed the deity : « Thou drivest away the winter ; thou bringest back the pleasant spring. By thee the fields and gardens are green, by thee the groves and the woods put forth leaves, s According to another version, the prayer ran as follows : « Thou drivest the winter away, and givest in all lands leaves and grass. We pray thee that thou wouldst make our corn to grow and wouldst put down all weeds. » After praying thus, the priest drank tho beer, holding the mug with his teeth, but not touching it with his hands. Then without handling it he threw the mug backward over his head. Afterwards it was picked up and filled again, and all present drank out of it. They also sang a hymn in praise of Pergrubius, and then spent the whole day in feasting and dancing.1 Thus it appears that Pergrubius was a Lithuanian god of the spring, who caused the grass and the corn to grow and the trees to burst into leaf. In this he resembles Green George, the embodiment of the fresh vegetation of spring, whose leaf-clad representative still plays his pranks on the very same day in some parts of Eastern Europe. Nothing, indeed, is said of the relation of Pergrubius to cattle, and so far the analogy between him and St. George breaks down. But our accounts of the old Lithuanian mythology are few and scanty ; if we knew more about Pergrubius we might find that as a god or personification of spring he, like St. George, was believed to exert all the quickening powers of that genial season — in other words, that his beneficent activity was not confined to clothing the bare earth with verdure, but extended to the care of the teeming flocks and herds, as well as to the propagation of mankind. Certainly it is not easy to draw a sharp line of division between the god who attends to cattle and the god who provides the food on which they subsist.”

“But St. George is more than a patron of cattle. The mummer who dresses up in green bough on the saint's day and goes by the name of Green George* clearly personifies the saint himself, and such a disguise is appropriate only to a spirit of trees or of vegetation in general. As if to make this quite clear, the Slavs of Carinthia carry a tree decked with flowers in the procession in which Green George figures ; and the ceremonies in which the leaf-clad masker takes a part plainly indicate that he is thought to stand in intimate connection with rain as well as with cattle. This counterpart of our Jack in the Green is known in some parts of Russia, and the Slovenes call him Green George. Dressed in leaves and flowers, he appears in public on St. George's Day carrying a lighted torch in one hand and a pie in the other. Thus arrayed he goes out to the cornfields, followed by girls, who sing appropriate songs. A circle of brushwood is then lighted, and the pie is set down in the middle of it. AU who share in the ceremony sit down around the fire, and the pie is divided among them. The observance has perhaps a bearing on the cattle as well as on the cornfields, for in some parts of Russia when the herds go out to graze for the first time in spring a pie baked in the form of a sheep is cut up by the chief herdsman, and the bits are kept as a cure for the ills to which sheep are subject.”

This reminds me of the English Jack-in-the-Green of May day. From “English pageantry: an historical outline” by Robert Withington:

“THE " JACK-IN-THE-GREEN " AND " WHIFFLER " A popular figure in the May Day celebrations of England, and one seen in pageants today, is the "Jack-in-the-Green." Its origin may, perhaps, be similar to that of the " wild-man " whom we shall discuss in the next section of this chapter; he may go back to ivy-wreathed Summer in the pre-Christian Spring festival. A " Jack-in-the-Green " heads the May Day processions of sweeps at Oxford,2 at Cheltenham;3 and sweeps at Cambridge " evidently used to have a similar festival, as the children still go around with a doll, hung in the midst of a hoop wreathed with flowers, singing the ditty — ' The first of May is garland day And chimney-sweepers dancing day.' " At Bampton 6 and at Witney 6 they still have a Jack-in-the-Green, accompanied by various attendants. A " Jack o' the Green " was one of the characters in the Chester pageant of 1908; he also appeared in the Lichfield Bower of 1913, and I saw one at Knutsford on May Day, 1914. " This piece of pageantry," says Strutt, in an excellent description, " consists of a hollow frame of wood, or wickerwork, made in the form of a sugar-loaf, but open at the bottom, and sufficiently large to receive a man. The frame is covered with green leaves and bunches of flowers interwoven with each other, so that the man within may be completely concealed, who dances with his companions, and the populace are mightily pleased with the oddity of the moving pyramid." 7 This kind of thing combines features of the " giant" with those of the " wild-man," perhaps drawing from both."

Frazer in the “The Golden Bough” writes:

Amongst the Slavs of Carinthia, on St. George’s Day (the twentythird of April), the young people deck with flowers and garlands a tree which has been felled on the eve of the festival. The tree is then carried in procession, accompanied with music and joyful acclamations, the chief figure in the procession being the Green George, a young fellow clad from head to foot in green birch branches. At the close of the ceremonies the Green George, that is an effigy of him, is thrown into the water. It is the aim of the lad who acts Green George to step out of his leafy envelope and substitute the effigy so adroitly that no one shall perceive the change. In many places, however, the lad himself who plays the part of Green George is ducked in a river or pond, with the express intention of thus ensuring rain to make the fields and meadows green in summer. In some places the cattle are crowned and driven from their stalls to the accompaniment of a song: “Green George we bring, Green George we accompany, May he feed our herds well. If not, to the water with him.” “Among the gypsies of Transylvania and Rouman is the festival of Green George is the chief celebration of spring. Some of them keep it on Easter Monday, others on St George’s Day.” “On the Thursday before Whitsunday the Russian villagers ‘go out into the woods, sing songs, weave garlands, and cut down a young birch-tree, which they dress up in woman’s clothes, or adorn with many-coloured shreds and ribbons. After that comes a feast, at the end of which they take the dressed-up birch-tree, carry it home to their village with joyful dance and song, and set it up in one of the houses, where it remains as an honoured guest till Whitsunday. On the two intervening days they pay visit to the house where their ‘guest’ is; but on the third day Whitsunday, they take her to a stream and filing her into its waters.”

This marks the end of Morena reign as the Slavic winter; in the same character of Gaelic figure of the Cailleach (who embodies winter) and whose corn dolly is transform on February 1st into Brigit. Morena is now ready to resume her young spring maiden appearance and to re-marry Jarilo (Green George).

In Ireland we have “On May-eve, every family sets up before their door a green bush, stew over with yellow flowers, which the meadows yield plentifully. In the countries where timber is plentiful, they erect tall slender trees, which stand high, and they continue almost the whole year; so as a stranger would go nigh to imagine that they were all signs of ale-sellers, and that all houses were ale-houses.” Per Sir Henry Peirs, in his Description of Weastmeath, written in 1682.

Where did the May tradition come from? “The tree of life: An archaeological study” by Edwin Oliver James, 1966:

“THE EASTER CEREMONIES AND THE ATTIS RITES this usually fell in Lent, and sometimes in Passiontide, it was inappropriate for the springtide revels, and conflicted with the ban on feasts in Lent, except on Sundays and Saturdays, issued by the Council of Laodicea in the fourth century. Consequently, until the eighth century it was never rigidly observed on March 25th. And then it was not the occasion of popular festivities, these being transferred to May 1st, the equivalent every alternate year of March 25 in the preJulian calendar.1

THE MAY-QUEEN AND THE MAY-POLE AND THE GREEN MAN

Thus in and after the eleventh century customs analogous to those hitherto associated with Magna Mater Festival were held on May 1st, in which Cybele reppeared in the guise of the May Queen with the May-pole …”

Plutarch is quoted saying "Phygians believe that their god [Attis] sleeps in the winter but awakes in the summer, and so they perform rites to lull him to sleep in the winter and in the summer ones to arouse him, in the manner of Bacchic [Dionysus] rites".

Attis this shares the a Live-Death-Live story with Yarilo (green George) and Dionysus (Bacchus), plus 19th century tales of Angus Og sleeping through winter and awakening in spring. I also believe that the tale of Lleu has the same character as a Live-Death-Live story.


Independently I find the Turk’s also celebrated St George’s Day, which they call “ Hidirellez”. Hidirellez is from the combination of Khidir-Elias. (The Koran tells of Khidir the spiritual teacher to Mohammed.)

St Elijah the Thunderer, was for Slavs identified with the supreme thunder god Perun, and George with his son Yarilo. Khidir is thought by some (http://khidr.org/hizir.htm) as a version of the Green-man/Green-George. I also find the Turks associate Hidirellez with the Kurdish fire festival of Nevrouz (New Day), i.e. the Perisan Nowruz, which is said to be the day of the rebirth for Dumuzid (Tammuz), which occurs on the spring equinox.


ALSO why should the day be know for fires that cattle are driven through, when it is the start of the marriage year?

The 8th century law tracts has marriages being at Beltaine per Dr Binchy comment on Westropp work on early Irish law. (see “Fair of Tailtiu and Feast of Tara” by Dr Binchy, Eriu XVIII) The law tract I found is "One-ninth of his (the man's) increase, and of his corn, and of his bacon is due to the woman if she be a great worker; she has a sack every month she is with him to the end of a year, i.e. to the next May-days, for this is mostly the time in which they make their separation." found in "Cáin Lánamna 'The Law of Couples' is an Old Irish law tract dated to the beginning of the eighth century CE which is part of the Senchas Már tradition of legal texts. The only continuous copy of the tract is found in the Trinity College, Dublin MS H.2.15A in a section dated to the beginning of the fourteenth century." http://books.google.com/books?id=aaREAAAAcAAJ&dq=inauthor%3A%22Ireland.+Commissioners+for+Publishing+the+Ancient+Laws+and+Institutes+of+Ireland%22&q=hand#v=onepage&q=beltaine&f=false Muireagain (talk) 02:09, 3 September 2011 (UTC)



in west germany (west of cologne) they celebrate by putting a MAIBAUM (a decorated tree/branch) on houses .. usually men put there to houses were their adored women live. They white tiny furry willow tree thingies are used and there is probably more customs similar to celtic.. hence I think you are safe to assume that these are pre-christian rites

"Sabbats" template[edit]

I have removed the "Sabbats" box that was recently placed at the top of this article. I feel it is misleading in that it re-instates the POV that Beltane is primarily a Wiccan or Neopagan thing. We have worked hard to make this and the other Gaelic fire festivals more historically accurate, and more reflective of the spectrum of people who observe the festival. We have a Gaelic festivals nav box at the bottom, and links in the body to the Wiccan "wheel of the year"; we do not need an additional nav box for the Wiccan sabbats. --Kathryn NicDhàna 20:39, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

transcription on article[edit]

[bʲɑl̪ˠt̪ˠəɲə] might be more clear than your symbol for the paltaised dental —Preceding unsigned comment added by 159.134.220.103 (talkcontribs)

I'm not too skilled with IPA, so if you think it's clearer I'd say go ahead and add it :-) ~ Kathryn NicDhàna 05:42, 9 January 2007 (UTC)

Etymology section==== Ribbon weaving dance a 19th Century innovation?[edit]

In his "Stations of the Sun" (Oxford), the British historian Ronald Hutton says the historical record in the British Isles does not support the ribbon-weaving dance as having any greater antiquity than the 1840's or so. People danced around maypoles for many centuries before that, just not doing the ribbon-weaving thing until well into the 19th century...

EarrachApr.17,2007

Timing[edit]

I was always told that Beltane started at sunset on 30 April, which was also Beltane Eve, and finished at sunset on 1 May, as apparently all Gaelic days were measured thus. If this is right, suggest this is added.

195.33.121.133 11:58, 30 April 2007 (UTC)

The folk references for the Celts' ("gauls," per se) beginning their days "at night" dates back to Julius Caesars' Gallic Wars. This classical reference was perhaps thoroughly recycled into the western consciousness by the fact that for the last several hundred years, at least, The Gallic Wars has been a favorite for use as a primer by Latin teachers. IMHO, the phrasing "at night" is pretty ambiguous and just as well could have been describing our traditional convention of beginning the day at midnight, also "at night". earrach April 30th, 2007

I think there was a reason why this aspect of the Celtic day wasn't included in the article but I'm not remembering at the moment. One reason might be that the traditional Gregorian calendar date is only part of the story. Since it's also tied to an agricultural cycle, some see this aspect being as important as the set calendar date observation. Then there is the lunar cycle and the exact solar holiday, both often fitting into celebrations as well. I'll ask a couple of the people who have worked on the article about it. Pigman 17:55, 30 April 2007 (UTC)



Yow. OK. I've compressed it some, and cut what seemed like OR. It may still be more than we need in terms of etymology. I mean, I'm into etymology, but what we had there was making me glaze over. I'd also appreciate it if someone else would source that section. I can source the Irish and Gaelic, if needed, but I'd prefer someone else to tackle the P.I.E. Argh. ~ Kathryn NicDhàna 05:42, 9 January 2007 (UTC)

Chirstian calendar like the Jewish calendar start the day at sunset, just like Caesar's description of the Celts. The Christian (Catholic) calendar also starts the year on March 25th.

In Muirchu's seventh century Life of St Patrick, he tells of Saint Patrick lighting a fire on the Eve of Easter in offense to pre-Christian beliefs. The rival feast of King Loegaire mac Neill is taken by some as the Feast of Tara occuring at Beltaine aka Cet Samhain (beginning of summer). Dr Binchy points out the impossiblity of Easter to occur as late as May day. Yet upto the sixth century Pagans and Christain Gauls who have rival Easter celebration on the Vernal Equinox (i.e. Hilaria), with in the Julian calendar is March 25th. As I point out elsewhere Beltaine waas the begining of the Irish year for marriages.

The 11th century "Birth of Aedh Sláine" from book of the Dun Cow (Scribe H) descibes Samhain as heathens' Easter "For these were the two principal gatherings that they had: Tara's Feast at every samhain (that being the heathens' Easter); and at each lughnasa, ..."

The 11th century "The banquet of Dun na n-Gedh” a pseudonim for the Feast of Tara have the guests eating Goose eggs that are available in February/March and may as late as June.

The 14th century or earlier version of the "Battle of Maige Rath" tells that Feast of Tara was held c628 in the middle of May (i.e. 15th, Scottish date for Beltaine).

The 12th century or earlier "The Expedition of Dathi", O'Curry translation (and also Mary Ferguson), places “The Feast of Tara” at Beltaine. The tale also mentions Samain (at All Saints), yet places Dathi, the King of Tara, is at Aed Ruad in Co. Donegal.

Muireagain (talk) 02:50, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

fertility, sexuality==== Where's the sex?[edit]

Beltane was originally a big holiday not only dealing with fire-jumping and bonfires, but of fertility. Couples would go to have sex in plowed fields to encourage crop fertility. In addition, communities would raise a maypole as a symbolic action of coupling as well, again to encourage fertility. St Patrick wrote of it, as did cùChuliann, who complained of the people of Ireland ever quitting this particular ritual. Where is the mention of all this? Egthegreat 01:47, 22 March 2007 (UTC)


Surprised no info on the heavy emphasis this holiday has, anciently, traditionally, and currently, on fertility and sexuality. Beltane was a celebration of and invocation of fertility and abundance and sexuality ("the lusty month of May"), and was traditionally a time/night of continuous all-night sexual coupling by most everyone, even to the point of choosing someone fairly at random to couple with if one was not in relationship. I'm just surprised this article doesn't mention sexuality. Softlavender

Tu podes ajudar a enciclopédia portuguesa?

AJUDE-NOS POR FAVOR!

I agree! Why is this not mentioned in the article?216.70.159.9 18:31, 1 May 2007 (UTC)

Observed by...[edit]

I would suggest removing Scottish and Irish people from the infobox. The overwhelming majority of them do not 'observe' Beltane in any way.--Nydas(Talk) 20:23, 1 May 2007 (UTC)

Hmm... disagree Nydas. While the majority don't celebrate anything but Consumeristmas, there are certainly widespread Beltane traditions all over Scotland and Ireland, and the Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh (which happened only a few days ago) is packed out to the gills. --MacRusgail 19:29, 2 May 2007 (UTC)
Where are these 'widespread' festivals? Nothing appears to take place in Glasgow, for example. The Edinburgh event attracted 15,000 people, about 0.3% of the Scottish population.--Nydas(Talk) 20:55, 2 May 2007 (UTC)
I've removed the infobox from this article. Like a lot of infoboxes, it was nothing but a magnet for original research and oversimplification. What the heck is 'relatedness' with regards to festivals? Who 'observes' Boxing Day?--Nydas(Talk) 17:17, 5 May 2007 (UTC)
I'm sure nothing happens in Glasgow. Most of the folk in that city seem to have forgotten they are Scottish! (Judging by the football and the way they act) Have a read through books of Scottish folklore. In Edinburgh for example, an old tradition says that you wash your face in the morning dew on Arthur's Seat the next day. Not on Calton Hill, which will probably be covered with urine from thirsty revellers. --MacRusgail 19:59, 5 May 2007 (UTC) p.s. Plenty of people observe Boxing Day, they get the day off don't they?

Nydas, I disagree about the infobox. I don't see anything in the box that is original research. It is a standard infobox found on holiday articles, and sourced material in the article itself documents the info contained therein. I say we put it back. - Kathryn NicDhàna 18:53, 5 May 2007 (UTC)

The infobox effectively states that 'Beltane is observed by Scottish and Irish people'. No collaries, no context, no explanation, and it's pretty misleading to boot. That's just typical of the sort of problems that bedevil the use of infoboxes on Wikipedia. Some articles are appropriate for the simplistic information found in them, other are not. Holidays are one example. What on earth does 'relatedness' mean in the context of a holiday? Every holiday article uses an original definition of 'relatedness'. Australia Day is apparently related to 'all other national holidays'. By the same token, I could insist that Beltane is 'related' to all other fire festivals. It's a never-ending cycle of original research, oversimplification and talk page disputes. Better to be rid of it. There are plenty of holiday articles which thankfully lack the infobox, and they're better for it: Ramadan, Hogmanay, Groundhog Day, Bastille Day, etc.--Nydas(Talk) 20:10, 5 May 2007 (UTC)

This talk about Samhain[edit]

... I have no other words for it, just WTF? "Like the festival of Samhain, opposite Beltane on October 31st, Beltane was a time when the Otherworld was seen as particularly close at hand." Where did that came from? It needs to be re-written, at least. I've seen kids confusing Beltane with Samhain completely after reading this article. User:Diana Prallon

I think that's a completely uncontroversial statement. I'm not sure what to do about "kids" who are confused by a simple comparison. Perhaps I'll tweak it slightly, but I don't think it's a confusing concept. Slàn, - Kathryn NicDhàna 20:28, 9 May 2007 (UTC)

Dr McCone produced a paper whether he ascribes two Samain(s); one at the being and end of summer period. Personally I believe the latter is the relocation of the original. Before the start of May was called Beltaine, it was called Cet Samhain, start of Samhain. Comparison to the Celtic months in the Coligny calendar where Giamonios is equated with the Irish month Gam (and other insular Celtic language), i.e. winter. Winter per the bible is the ninth month and so Mi Gam is an older Irish name for November (ninth-month). Six months prior is May that corresponds with the Celtic month of Samonios the cognate of Samhain. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 147.1.234.163 (talk) 20:39, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

Etymology of "Lá Bealtaine"[edit]

I have a source in front of me that suggests the Irish name came directly from Belenus, and the Belenus article states that this "might" be the truth, but without referencing. This article says differently, suggesting that Belenus and Bealtaine are both of common origin. I'm going to ask this bluntly - which is correct? - Zeibura (Talk) 20:08, 7 August 2007 (UTC)

Beltane and Saint Patrick[edit]

During St. Patrick's confession and conversion efforts, I read this encounter, which refers to Beltain and the bonfore tradition. In those days of the High Kings, as Beltain approched, all fires in Ireland were extinguished. Bonfires were prepared and laid on the top of hills surrounding the High King's palace at Tara. The High King would, after dark, kick off the Beltain festivities by lighting his fire first.

St Patrick was in contest with the Old Religion. He certainly had and manifested a stalwart moral courage. The following account is one of many fragments - a series of uncooridinated episodes of his time in Ireland. He and his Christian followers - probably from the extant Celtic Church in Britain who were in his entourage -- prepared their bonfire on a hilltop and lit it off prior to the Hign King setting his on fire. The High King's privilage was probably connected to his role as the pagan high priest. Since the celebration of Beltain was commemorated by bonfires, this lighting off of his (Christian) bonfire was contrary to the official protocol. This event certainly provoked the Druid clergy and caused the ire of the High King.

It happened that Easter that year in question was hard by Beltain. Here follows an account quoted from 'Patrick', called The Lighting of the Fire and collected by Alice-Boyd Proudfoot, copyright 1983, ISBN 0-02-599280-5.

"Patrick made straight for the citadel of Tara and arrived at the Hill of Slane, ten miles away, on the eve of Easter Saturday. This was the day of the year on which it was his duty to light the pascal fire." (The fire was symbolic of Christ's resurrection, the light coming forth from his tomb, commemorated now by Orthodox priests in the Church of the Holy Seplecur (sp)each Easter.)
"It was also the pagan festival of Beltain celebrating the beginning of summer, this being symbolized by the extiinguishing of all fires throughout the country. A ceremonial fire was then lit by the Druids, from which all other fires were re-ignited. It was a crime punishable by death to allow any fire until this was done, as Patrick well knew.
"Preparations for the Druid ceremony were in full swing when a light was seen on the distant Hill of Slane, rapidly becoming a great glow in the darkening sky. The Druids ran to the High KKing in anger, crying with as strange foreboding, 'If that fire be not put out, it will burn forever.'
"The king and his Druids, in eight chariots, sped to Slane,m where a great crowd of people had already gathered. Patrick came through them to meet the king, singing 'Some in chariots and some on horse, but we in the name of the Lord.' ....
"The king was impressed by Patrick's courage, the people were charmed by the song, the Druids conceded defeat and the Church had entered into its estate in Ireland" -- W. Bryan —Preceding unsigned comment added by Freeholder (talkcontribs) 16:10, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

In fiction[edit]

Wheel of Time series mentions bel tine or beltine, which I presume to be based on this. --M.A. (talk) 19:06, 13 February 2008 (UTC)

Etymology and sourcing[edit]

The contested etymology in here needs to be sourced, and I am removing the redundancies from the lede. That Bealtaine is the name for the month is not controversial. Just look at GA wiki or any Gaeilge dictionary. If you have no Gaeilge, leave it for others that do. In general, the article is well-sourced, so I am removing the unexplained moresources template from the top. Please flag individual statements or sections that you think need better sourcing, and/or bring it up here on the talk page. By the way, folks, edit summaries are your friend. Go raibh maith agat, - Kathryn NicDhàna 03:21, 4 May 2008 (UTC)

Geography and etymology[edit]

I realise that this is in category:Ireland but the geographical scope of traditional festivals is wider than the article implies. It's hardly plausible that traditional social activities dissolve at frontiers before those frontiers are historically created. And on etymology the appearance of the name in an Irish document doesn't of course mean that the festival historically was known by the same name everywhere; in other words presumably the claim isn't being made that a traditional festival is an invention of inhabitants of Ireland(?). If the article is just describing the Irish name of the festival, or Irish evidence for it then that could be made a bit clearer. Otherwise this should probably be in at least a couple more categories than at present: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/british_prehistory/ironage_intro_06.shtml Hakluyt bean (talk) 21:30, 22 May 2008 (UTC)


Still the first day of summer[edit]

May 1 is still the first day of summer in Ireland (see Irish Calendar). This article might give the impression that Bealtaine/May 1 is no longer the first day of summer. Similarly, 1 Feb/ Brigid's Day is first day of spring etc. Dunlavin Green (talk) 12:15, 1 May 2009 (UTC)

Just a Cultural Citation

Ride a white swan like the people of the Beltane

Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page without content in them (see the help page). T-Rex - Ride a White Swan 1970 92.21.50.189 (talk) 23:18, 17 August 2009 (UTC)Dommer92.21.50.189 (talk) 23:18, 17 August 2009 (UTC)


On this note, the passage "The astronomical date for this midpoint is closer to 5 May or 7 May, but this can vary from year to year.[1]" should perhaps be changed to include the fact that it is only in THAT part of the world where this is actually correct. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 202.78.137.225 (talk) 22:14, 29 October 2011 (UTC)

Astronomically speaking, the first day of summer has changed and will change due to the rotation of Earth's axis. The reason Beltane is celebrated as summer on May 1st is because at the era of its height, May 1st was the first day of summer. February 1st was the first day of spring, November 1st the first day of Winter, and August 1st the first day of fall/autumn. The Earth makes a complete cycle about its axis every 26,000 years, which when factoring in the other Milokovich cycles this evens out to 21,000 years. I guess my point here is that if it takes 21,000 years to completely precess through the calendar which since we know the number of days that summer is off by (about 51) and the total number of years, doing the math as such Days off (51 Days) * 365 Days in a Year / 21,000 Years Total gives very close to 3,000 years ago, which is a good answer for when the Celts/Gallic tradition would have started (agrees well enough with history to work).

1stcontact2035 (talk) 22:56, 1 May 2012 (UTC)

My apologies, I messed up writing out the math above - should read 51/365*21,000 = 2934 years. Though due to the way summer solstices work, that is a very approximate number only accurate within the span of nearby centuries. Also it should be noted, that the astronomical summer solstice for Earth's Northern Hemisphere at this point in time is in early July, let's give an approximate date of July 7th. Taking that into account, the math would work out more like 67/365*21,000 = 3854 years, which is a far more interesting time period (late 5th millenium BC to mid 4th millenium BC), very active with the type of monument building that would fix such a date, including the Pyramids and Stonehenge.

1stcontact2035 (talk) 23:37, 1 May 2012 (UTC)

Hıdırellez[edit]

Hıdırellez is celebrated in Turkey (also apparently outside of Turkey) on May 5th. Bonfires are set up at the eve of Hidirellez and people jump over it. Also roses are very important on this day (which seems to replace Hawthorn. I wonder if these two festivities have the same root. AverageTurkishJoe (talk) 01:34, 21 December 2009 (UTC)

Belotenia[edit]

The article cites "MacKillop (1998) p.39" with the claim that the Gaulish name of the festival was Belotenia. I assume this is a misattribution. I presume that the actual statement found in the reference is that the reconstructed Celtic term would have been *Belotenia in Gaulish if it existed. Or do we actually have an attestation of Gaulish belotenia? Where? --dab (𒁳) 09:26, 3 May 2010 (UTC)

Beltane, Beltain, Bhealtain[edit]

The spelling of the term changes throughout the article. Unless there is some compelling reason to not use the common spelling of "Beltane," all instances of the word (aside from etymology discussions and the alternate spellings in the first sentence) should be changed to agree with the title of the page. If there is a compelling reason to use a different spelling, then the title should be changed as such. Wyrdsol (talk) 01:27, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

Is pre-Christain Samhain festival in really Cet Samhain (Beltaine)?[edit]

If you read above you will see reference to Irish records (one back to the seventh century) that have the feast of Tara at Cet Samhain (Beltaine). I believe homophonics of Samhain and Sam-fhein are in part the source of the identification with November 1st (All-Saints day). I do suggest that where is an end of summer pre-christian festival, however it's traditions are found in Martinmass with the death of the summer vegation god. It is the return of this vegation deity and his marriage to the earth goddess that is celebrated at Tara around Beltaine (Cet Samain).

Muireagain (talk) 01:29, 6 September 2011 (UTC) (I offer more at the Samhain page.)

Celtic Period section[edit]

I think I should bring the discussion here to explain why I reverted the recent edit to the Celtic Period section, since explanation has been asked for. As far as I can tell the section is supposed to relate to the pre-medieval period, so the material that's been added here (after the Chadwick quote) doesn't relate to the section at all since it's referencing recent sayings and customs that have been recorded in folklore. Since it doesn't relate to the Celtic Period, I removed it; I think the mythology is far more appropriate to the section, since it (in theory) articulates elements of pre-medieval beliefs.

I'm also a bit worried about the saying that's been given - the only saying I'm aware of is from Martin Martin where he gives "they would describe a man as being in a great strait, or difficulty, [by saying] that he is between the two fires of Bel," which is quite different from what's been given here and I can't find any reliable references for that. Perhaps the whole section after the quote from Chadwick could be moved to a more relevant section in the article, but I think it needs referencing first.

I won't revert anything again because I don't want to get involved in any edit warring, but if anybody has any input that would be good. Thanks. Ririgidi (talk) 18:58, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

Ireland was mainly Christian and Celtic from the dawn of Irish history (5th century) up until the 17th century (when the Gaelic order ended) and Bealtaine celebrations don't seem to have changed much in that time, so the headings "Celtic period" and "Medieval period" are needless. It might be best to have one section about Bealtaine from the 5th to 17th centuries and another section about Bealtaine since the 17th century.
What we really need is more content and more sources. ~Asarlaí 21:58, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
One major problem with your view is that the citations often only support information for a particular period. To use a source which applies only to more recent times to source older activities is to seriously misapply the citations. Cheers, Pigman☿/talk 19:27, 5 May 2012 (UTC)
As I noted before, Bealtaine customs didn't change much throughout the centuries. Thus, I think it would be better to have a section about Bealtaine customs in general up until the 19th century. The festival had mostly died-out by the 20th century, and was then revived. The "Revival" section can deal with modern customs. ~Asarlaí 19:37, 5 May 2012 (UTC)
There are different sources in different periods that tell us different things, and I think the article should reflect that. The major revision made it seem that nothing had changed over the millennia, and that celebrations were the same everywhere, but that's not the case. While the roots are basically the same, customs differ between Scotland and Ireland, and even depending on the part of Scotland or Ireland you come from. The sources can only be applied so far, and if they can only be applied to certain time periods then that is something that should certainly be reflected in the article as well.Ririgidi (talk) 19:52, 5 May 2012 (UTC)
Most of the sources I find describe historic Bealtaine customs in general. I havn't been able to find any sources yet that say certain customs were only done in certain periods. They say that a certain custom was popular until the 18th century/19th century/whenever or that a certain custom was popular during a certain period or at the time of writing.
How do you suggest we deal with this?
Here's what I propose. I'd like to read everyone's feedback. ~Asarlaí 20:16, 5 May 2012 (UTC)

Rewrites and a bit of revert-warring[edit]

Anything that is added to this article must be accurately sourced to WP:V and WP:RS standards. Efforts to radically reorganize the text without checking that this falsely attributes new content to sources that were there to source different content is inappropriate and even, at times, disruptive. Therefore, those sorts of edits should simply be reverted. The burden for adequate sourcing is on the editor adding new content (or radically re-arranging the content in a way that disrupts the sourcing). Additionally, the different sections in the article re- Ancient Celtic, Gaelic folklore, modern revivals, are there because not all of the customs and beliefs are documented as existing in all these different time periods. To attempt to merge them all is misleading and inaccurate, and editors should revert those sorts of disruptive and confusing edits. - Kathryn NicDhàna 18:50, 5 May 2012 (UTC)

~Asarlaí, not to be rude, but at least three people (four if you include me) are saying that your additions are seriously muddling the article and the current sourcing/citations. I'd also note that the CR FAQ is really only an appropriate source for the Celtic Reconstructionist section. So I suggest you take the hint that consensus is running against you in this matter. Cheers, Pigman☿/talk 19:16, 5 May 2012 (UTC)
Yes, I'm aware The CR FAQ might not be the best source, but I'd just begun adding information from The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore when you reverted the whole lot. I was also about to begin adding information from other more reliable sources. Please see my proposed rewrite of the history section in my sandbox and let me know your thoughts. I plan on adding more sources when I get the time. ~Asarlaí 19:34, 5 May 2012 (UTC)

Expansion (April 2013)[edit]

Well, I finally got around to finishing my re-write of the article. Here is the before and after. Any feedback is welcome. ~Asarlaí 16:17, 2 May 2013 (UTC)

Modern customs[edit]

Clearly this needs a new section indicating that in modern times it is customary to celebrate the Celtic holidays by a flurry of editing activity on the relevant pages on Wikipedia Zymurgy (talk) 19:28, 30 April 2013 (UTC)

Eye witness - First hand accounts?[edit]

Can anyone provide eye witness accounts of cattle being driven between to fires at May-Day? I have only found descriptions of it occurring at the Summer Solstice. Sources like Martin Martin make no reference to this custom occurring at May-Day. Also when where cattle moved between pastures? I find reference to this occuring on St Patrick's day. Wouldn't moving cattle on May-Day devastate the crops (i.e. trampling or eating of). Also would the fields used for cattle's winter pasture be left fallow in the summer? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 147.1.234.163 (talk) 18:41, 10 May 2013 (UTC)


18th and 19th century Ireland and Scotland did not perform the custom that Cormac's glossary associates with Beltaine. Instead such customes occured across the lands at Mid-Summer:

Ireland: "I find the following, much to our purpose, in the Gentleman's Magazine for February 1795, vol. Ixv. p. 124: "The Irish have ever been worshippers of Fire and of Baal, and are so to this day. This is owing to the Roman Catholics, who have artfully yielded to the superstitions of the natives, in order to gain and keep up an establishment, grafting Christianity upon Pagan rites. The chief festival in honour of the Sun and Fire is upon the 21st of June, when the sun arrives at the summer solstice, or rather begins its retrograde motion. I was so fortunate in the summer of 1782, as to have my curiosity gratified by a sight of this ceremony to a very great extent of country. At the house where I was entertained, it was told me that we should see at midnight the most singular sight in Ireland, which was the lighting of Fires in honour of the Sun. Accordingly, exactly at midnight, the Fires began to appear: and taking the advantage of going up to the leads of the house, which had a widely extended view, I saw on a radius of thirty miles, all around, the Fires burning on every eminence which the country afforded. I had a farther satisfaction in learning, from undoubted authority, that the people danced round the Fires, and at the close went through these fires, and made their sons and daughters, together with their cattle, pass through the Fire; and the whole was conducted with religious solemnity.' This is at the end of some Reflections by the late Rev. Donald M'Queen, of Kilinuir in the Isle of Sky, on ancient Customs preserved in that Island." From “'Observations on Popular Antiquities", Volume 1, by Geeraert Brandtand Henry Ellis, 1813.

Scotland: "the least considerable of them is that of midsummer. In the Highlands of Perthshire there are some vestiges of it. The cowherd goes three times round the fold, according to the course of the sun, with a burning torch in his hand. They imagined this rite had a tendency to purify their herds and flocks, and to prevent diseases. At their return the landlady makes an entertainment for the cowherd and his associates." From “Scotland and Scotsmen in the eighteenth century”, Volume 2, by John Ramsay, Alexander Allardyce, 1888, p.436

The description of force-fire reminders of the Irish Church Easter tradition of yearly lighting a fire from which all other fires where lite from. Which is relected in the 7th century story of St Patick's encounter at a feast of Tara and the festival of Samhain (were I would say Summer defeats Winter and not the Christain feast at the start of winter). — Preceding unsigned comment added by 147.1.234.163 (talk) 20:19, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

So in the southern hemisphere...[edit]

Which do they celebrate on the equator? Beltaine or Samhain? Confused. Kortoso (talk)

Flower color[edit]

The article says, "Yellow flowers such as primrose, rowan, hawthorn, gorse, hazel and marsh marigold..." However, rowan and hawthorn have white flowers. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 17:58, 5 February 2014 (UTC)


Summer's defeat of Winter[edit]

I cited the existance of Dr Cone's paper about the Samain. Though I believe the begining of summer was the original Samain.

Here (below) is the custom performed on May 1st in the Isle of Mann and Wales plus across Europe. This ritual battle where summer defeats winter is found in the Maiden's victory over the Cailleach at Samain in medieval tales (Don tSamain Beos, Fagail na samna and Scél na Samhna). Where the battle is played on a fidchell board and wrapped up in Christain thought. It also corresponds to the mythical tale the Second battle of Magh Tured where Lugh and Balor, which would seems to be recast in Christain terms as the battle of Armageddon (where the forces of light defeat forces of darkness). Lugh as St Michael kills the Antichrist who in Irish tales can be a magical man with an eye in the middle of forehead (read Balor).

(When the Antichrist is depicted as a dragon (Irish seems to have their own version of tale), it parallels the image is found atop of some of the Celtic Jupiter columns within continental Europe. The others columns depict the solar figure mounted and armed with a lightning bolt, as if he was the image of St George. The images of defeating a serpent man parallels markedly with the Slavic confliction between their chief god Perun and serpent water god Veles. The later was either represented as Satan or as a saint, hence we have another possible depiction the defeat of the Antichrist).

19th Century custom from the Isle of Mann: “… ‘In almost all the great parishes they choose from among the daughters of the most wealthy farmers a young maid for the Queen of May. She is dressed in the gayest and best manner they can, and is attended by about twenty others, who are called maids of honour, she has also a young man, who is her captain, and has under his command a great number of inferior officers. In opposition to her is the Queen of Winter, who is a man dressed in women's clothes, with woollen hoods, fur tippets, and loaded with the warmest and heaviest habits one upon another ; in the same manner are those who represent her attendants dressed ; nor is she without a captain and troop for her defence. Both being equipped as proper emblems of the beauty of the spring and the deformity of the winter, they set forth from their respective quarters ; the one preceded by violins and flutes, the other with the rough music of tongs and cleavers. Both companies march till they meet on a common, and then their trains engage in a mock-battle. If the Queen of Winter's forces get the better, so far as to take the Queen of May prisoner, she is ransomed for as much as pays the expense of the day. After this ceremony, Winter and her company retire and divert themselves in a barn, and the others remain on the green, where, having danced a considerable time, they conclude the evening with a feast, the queen at one table with her maids, the captain with his troop at another. There are seldom less than fifty or sixty persons at each board.’ …" From “The folk-lore of the Isle of Man” by Arthur William Moore”

From Wales: “An aged Welshman described the battle as conducted in South Wales in the following way: "When I was a boy, two companies of men and youths were formed. One had for its captain a man dressed in a long coat much trimmed with fur, and on his head a rough fur cap. He carried a stout stick of blackthorn and a kind of shield, on which were studded tufts of wool to represent snow. His companions wore caps and waistcoats of fur decorated with balls of white wool. These men were very bold, and in songs and verse proclaimed the virtues of Winter, who was their captain. The other company had for its leader a captain representing Summer. This man was dressed in a king of white smock decorated with garlands of flowers and gay ribbons. On his head he wore a broad-brimmed hat trimmed with flowers and ribbons. In his hand he carried a willow-wand wreathed with spring flowers and tied with ribbons. All these men marched in procession, with their captains on horseback heading them, to an appropriate place. This would be on some stretch of common or wasteland. There a mock encounter took place, the Winter company flinging straw and dry underwood at their opponents, who used as their weapons birch branches, willow-wands, and young ferns. A good deal of horse-play went on, but finally Summer gained the mastery over Winter. Then the victorious captain representing Summer selected a May King and the people nominated a May Queen, who were crowned and conducted into the village. The remainder of the day was given up to feasting, dancing, games of all kinds, and later still, drinking. Revelry continued through the night until the next morning.” From “Folk-lore and folk-stories of Wales” by Marie Trevelyan, 1909. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 147.1.234.163 (talk) 20:49, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

Beltain[edit]

Really? I know there are modern google results, but... really? Are there any sources that are WP:RS for the actual subject of the article? - CorbieV 20:11, 1 May 2014 (UTC)