The following ritual is suitable for a coven or smallish public group.
Planning in advance / Setup
- A brazier, cauldron or bonfire.
- Confirm approval with appropriate fire safety authorities in your local area first, and obtain appropriate permits.
- Appropriate kindling
- Lighter or matches
- Torches or lamps
- A hand drum
- Boughs of hawthorn in bloom
- (For PART TWO) Threads / wool / ribbons to represent Air (yellow), Fire (red), Water (blue) and Earth (green); scissors
- (For PART TWO) Tall trees, posts or telegraph poles for maypole dancing
- (For PART THREE) Chalice and Athame for the Great Rite (symbolic version)
- (For PART THREE) Cakes (snacks) and Ale (Cider or Juice); snacks
The group will need to appoint a Beltane Queen and Horned God. These are usually female and male, but do not need to be. They do not need to be a couple for this ritual.
The group will also need to appoint a member or members to a) Cast Circle, b) Close Circle and c) Direct the ritual action.
PART ONE: The Ritual begins after sundown.
The group gathers around the fire to be lit (bonfire, cauldron or brazier). The Horned God and the Beltane Queen must stand opposite each other, facing each other, with the Fire between them.
Each member present should have a bough of hawthorn in bloom. If hawthorn is not available, any local, native wood in bloom is fine.
Circle is cast as a member walks sunwise around the fire, leaving enough room between the fire and participants for the action to take place:
Air, Fire, Water, Stone
Breath, Flame, Wave, Bone
As I will, So it be done!
Three times around, the Circle found
Three times around, the Circle bound
We are between the worlds.
One of the members, lights the fire. Once lit, s/he begins the following words / song, and others join in:
Brightly the fires at Beltane burn
Bright, as the dusk light is fading / faded
And we will dance, as we sing this song
Sing, to the Lord and the Lady!
(The song is a round, and can be sung in unison, or as a round, and can be elaborated / embellished upon as the group wishes.)
The song dies down to humming, and simple hand drumming in rhythm.
One by one, the members of the group come forward, while the humming (or low singing) continues, kiss the flowers of the hawthorn they carry, and speak aloud (or think upon in private if they choose) a wish for fertility, love, sex or happiness that is relevant to them for the coming year.
Then, when their wish is fully complete in their mind or in words, they cast their blooms upon the fire.
Once all the blooms have been cast, the High Priestess says clearly:
It is done.
It is done.
It is Done!
To which the Horned God responds happily and sexily (or in a friendly way, depending on the relationship between them):
And begins to chase the Beltane Queen sunwise around the circle, slowly at first, then quicker and quicker. They walk / run three times around the fire, at the end of which he catches her, and embraces and kisses her (it is up to the group to what extent! It can be a friendly scheek kiss if you wish, as this is all symbolic).
All members then take follow the couple’s lead, circling the fire three times sunwise to the beat of the drum, then end at their original places (or thereabouts), spread around the circle.
The Circle is closed, starting in the South, moving widdershins (against the sun):
By Earth, Water, Fire and Air:
The Circle is open
Yet remains unbroken
Merry meet, and merry part
And merry meet again!
The group watch the bonfire die (or put out the flames if they wish).
The first part of the evening is complete.
PART TWO: Decorate the world, and dance the maypole!
After a brief break inside (toilet break etc.), the group heads out on the town. They will need their balls of coloured wool or reams of coloured ribbon for this part of the evening.
The goal here is simply to find tall, straight trees and telegraph poles, and dance the May Dance around them in colours of yellow, red, blue and green. At the bottom of each pole, cut the threads and tie the colours in a bow 🙂
Don’t get caught!
PART THREE: Great Rite and Cakes and Ale.
GREAT RITE: The group returns to the host home, and gathers around the table.
A member acting in the role of HPS plunges her athame into a chalice of cider or wine, and says the following (or similar):
At this time of Beltane, the Lord and Lady are joined as One. We Honour the Lord. We Honour the Lady. We Honour them as One. Blessed Be!
The Chalice is shared around the group, until it is drained.
CAKES AND ALE:
The blessing of cakes and ale generally occurs towards the end of a ritual. Eating and drinking is an excellent way of grounding excess energy and generally ‘coming back down to Earth’. It reminds us of our physical needs and nature, and prepares us for re-entry into the physical, day-to-day world.
Blessing of cakes and ale is also a beautiful and practical way to honour the Divine Presence, and thank him/her for all the gifts and joys we are given. In a very real way, we acknowledge our physical self, and the physical world around us.
Although called ‘cakes’ and ‘ale’, ritual food does not necessarily and literally have to be cake and ale. It is common to share biscuits, home-made bread, or even crackers and dip. Ale can be anything from water or juice to fortified wine.
It is, however, important to remember that if minors are to be present, it is much easier to serve everyone soft drink or water than to share two chalices, one for adults and one for minors. Sharing a soft drink together is also much more inclusive. Apple juice is an excellent option, as apples are a fruit sacred to the Goddess.
To bless the ritual meal, take the platter of cakes from the altar, raise them in front of the altar, and say:
By the Lord and the Lady, who I do worship and honour, are these cakes blessed. I thank the Great Ones for their bounty.
Next, take the Chalice of ale, raise it in front of the altar, and say:
By the Lord and the Lady, who I do worship and honour, is this ale blessed. I thank the Great Ones for their bounty.
Feast on the cakes and ale, meditating on your commitment to your path, then close the Circle (if necessary) when you are ready.