Beltane – The Ritual of Summer Begins

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Beltane Fire

by Beth Hansen-Buth
Beltane, or May Day is a celebration of flowers coming into bloom, and is often considered a spring festival today. The celebrations usually begin on April 30th at sundown, and involve things like bonfires, selecting a May Queen & King, dancing the may pole, and other quaint old world customs. Today there is a renewal of celebrating this yearly fire festival around the world. In Scotland the Beltane Fire Society will be celebrating it’s 20th year of putting on this festival which attracts 12 thousand people to Calton Hill in Edenburg. Just as Halloween/Samhain marks the beginning of winter, Beltane marks the beginning of spring. Legends tell us that on May Eve the Fairy Queen rides forth to lure mortals to her realm.

In Germany, April 30th is known as Walpurgisnacht, and it was believed that witches flew on their brooms to the Brocken Mountain where they danced all night around bonfires. This night is named after St Walpurga, who came from England in the 8th century to become the abbess of a German monastery, who’s feast day is May 1st. In Sweden and Finland there are still huge bonfires on this night, and May Day picnics are the norm.

These ritual activities attune the community to the cycle of the year, and to each other as a part of the cycle of life. Donald Tyson has this to say about the importance of ritual:

Ritual is a mechanism for changing all four levels of being: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. We all know that our feelings affect our physical health and condition. We know that our minds, both the part we see and the part we do not see, control our feelings. What many do not realize is that there is a fourth level of spirit that determines the state of our minds…The greatest benefit of ritual may be, not its limitless power of transformation, but the way it allows those who practice it to perceive value in things they already possess, whether these are the forests and lakes around them, or the people in their lives.

Participating in a Beltane ritual allows us to welcome Summer with an attitude of excitement, celebration, and community. At the same time, we have the opportunity to honor and revere the cycle of life and nature as sacred. For over 30 years In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre has held a May Day Parade and Festival at Powderhorn Park, here’s the details of this year’s event:

This year’s theme is Somos Agua / We Are Water
Sunday, May 6 the Parade begins at 1:00pm at Bloomington Ave and 26th Street in South Minneapolis, proceeding south to 34th Street. The Tree of Life Ceremony and an all-day festival follows in Powderhorn Park.

Time: 1:00- 4:00
Cost: free

Weather permitting, the Eye of Horus Secret Garden Labyrinth will be available for walking and meditation during daylight business hours. Come and visit the flowers and have a happy Beltane everyone!

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