MAY DAY: celebrating the ancient traditions of Beltane in our new world

I’m not sure there has ever been a more appropriate time in our lifetimes to say this: MAY DAY! MAY DAY! That’s right, 4/20 is officially over (on the calendar, at least). In Irish, Scottish, and pagan tradition, the first day of May is generally celebrated with festivals, frolicking, and bonfire parties. Known as Beltane or May Day, this midway point between the spring equinox and summer solstice looked a little different this year. Given the current need to practice social distancing, we couldn’t exactly do a whole lot of frolicking. (And bonfires are currently banned at the beach.) We might be living in a different time than the revelers of May Days past, but there are other ways to appreciate the turn of the season toward summer.

Symbolizing fertility and abundance of the earth and its inhabitants, the energy surrounding Beltane is peak spring, when flowers and new growth are most abundant. The weather gets warmer, the creatures feel friskier, and longer days mean more sunshine ahead. In a time where a lot of scary things seem to loom ahead, it is more important than ever to balance our awareness with something positive to look forward to. Even though our summer is certainly going to be different this year, it is still important to appreciate the small things like flowers and sunshine, because these are gifts we receive just for being on the planet. Remember, just because there is bad stuff happening in the world doesn’t mean there’s nothing good! Being here is what we are currently being especially called to appreciate.

Barring the ability to cavort around a community bonfire or May pole, there are a few simple things you can do to enjoy this abundant energy for yourself. Because Beltane is often celebrated with fire, you may want to try this on a smaller scale by lighting a candle. Think of it as your own personal bonfire, ok? Another way to celebrate – I think you’ll love this – is by enjoying abundance in the form of treating yourself to something delicious from the earth, with natural and delicious ingredients you can appreciate as having sprung forth in abundance this season. Pour yourself a sweet libation – honey is associated with this day, so mead if you have it or honey in tea can be another way to take in the blessings of this time. “Tea and cakes” is also a traditional pagan way to celebrate and give thanks for abundance. If you have access to nature, whether in the form of a local park, backyard, or houseplant, spend time appreciating it and noticing any new growth that has popped up. Whether it is through a window or in a safe outdoor location, let the sun shine on your forehead while you take a few breaths. (Just try it… you’ll feel like sunshine.)

This is a great time to take a moment to remember that while challenges lie ahead, the possibility still exists that we may well have a lot to look forward to, too. Like when this madness is over!!! Keep finding little signs of light in the present, and hold out some hope for the future, and know we’ll get to frolic again in full force. (And that is gonna be LIT.)

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