Beltane is the festival of the Sacred Marriage, and is the time of the year when sexuality and fertility are recognised and most revered.
Beltane is a time for singing, dancing and making merry. The Maypole Dance is traditional at this time, and the following ritual incorporates music, dancing and the traditional Beltane fires.
For this ritual you will need:
- A Maypole (a straight tree with space around which to dance is ideal, or even a Hill’s Hoist will do!)
- Ribbons for the Maypole (you will need an even number, and they must be quite long – at least 4 metres.
- 2 cauldrons, and bricks upon which to stand them.
- Fuel for the cauldron, and matches.
- A bowl of almonds for the Beltane fires.
- Hand drums, tambourines and any other instrument you would like to use for the Beltane Song.
- Attach one end of each of the ribbons to the top of the Maypole.
- Set up the cauldrons or bonfires, ready to light. Set them at least 2 metres apart, with a wide enough gap between them for couples to walk between.
- Ensure that all members of the group have learned the Beltane Song, and that they have any instruments ready that they wish to play.
- Ensure that the group have learned how to dance the Maypole.
- Any couples who wish to be handfasted, or who wish to declare their love or friendship, should be prepared to walk between the fires together.
Cast circle in your preferred way, ensuring that the sacred space includes the Maypole and cauldrons. The group should face inwards and, when ready, begin the Beltane Song*:
Brightly the fires at Beltane burn
Rise, as the dusklight is fading
And we will dance as we sing this song
Sing, for the Lord and the Lady!
Magickal Covens at beltane meet
Mystical powers together
And we will rise as we weave our spell
Weave for the Lord and the Lady!
When the song is finished (it may be sung several times, in rounds and in parts, depending on the group’s wishes), the Beltane Priest/ess should step forward, and say:
It is Beltane
A time of power, a time of joy
A time of pleasure, and a time to be with loved ones.
Beltane is a time for committments –
A time to acknowledge the love and friendship we have for each other.
Those who choose to walk between the fires
Will be bound, in the eyes of all,
Until the next year, when the Beltane fires are lit again.
Then, should they so choose,
They may part in peace from one another.
Are there any here who wish to declare their love?
If a couple state that they wish to declare their love, a Handmaiden should light the fires. As she lights the first fire, she should say: For the Lady and the groups should repeat this.
As she lights the second fire, she should say: For the Lord and the groups should repeat this. She should then offer almonds to the couple, who take a small handful each, to be used as an offering.
These fires are the eyes of the Lord and Lady
Walk between them, and know that you are blessed.
The first couple walk between the fires, and cast their almonds – half into each fire. Then the statements are repeated for any other couples or friends who wish to declare their love, and they too pass between the fires in the same way.
One all couples have passed through and returned to the Circle, the whole group join hands in a circle, and the Beltane Priest/ess says:
Now, as a symbol of the strength and unity of this group, we will pass through the fires together.
The group pass between the fires as a line of individuals holding hands, and rejoin their hands afterwards.
The Beltane Priest/ess says:
This rite is done.
Next, as the fires begin to die down, the group dance the Maypole, singing and making merry.
Lastly, cakes and ale are shared, and the Circle is closed.
The Beltane Song is part of the Wheel of the Year Pagan Song cycle, and the sheet music (and midis) is freely available at the Choral Public Domain Library.