The celebration of May 1st, or Beltane is one of the most important festivals the year. The word Beltane literally means, "shining fire." This is one of the most exciting festivals of the Wheel of the year. It is also one of the only holidays that is usually celebrated in the light of day.
The collecting of spring flowers is one of the popular customs of this day. For thousands of years, people would go into the fields to collect the pretty flowers and exchange them. Towns people would often proceed through the village streets putting flowers on all the houses and buildings. People inside the homes would offer them wonderful food and goodies to eat as sort of a spring version of "trick or treat."
Another benchmark tradition of this holiday is the Maypole. In tradition, a fir was used. The young, unwed men would go to the forest and return with the tree that would be fashioned into the pole. The pole was brought to the center of the village to be guarded through the night until the first day of May. On that day, the people would come and dance around the maypole clockwise to bring fertility and good luck. Later, brightly colored ribbons were woven around the pole by the dancers as they wove around eachother. This symbolizes the balance of masculine and feminine energies and the duality of life. The ribbons would then be removed and kept in a safe place to be burned in the Beltane fires of next year. This action represents the old dying to give birth to the new.
Fertility is a central theme of Beltane. The people lived in close connection with the Earth. To have food to eat, the crops and the beasts of the fields would have to be fertile. In the time of the ancients, this was a life and death matter. For this reason, we have a number of holidays and rituals that are connected with fertility. The maypole is connected to this theme by way of the view point of it being a phallic symbol.
Another fertility representation is the custom of jumping the cauldron. Couples wishing to conceive children will jump the cauldron together. Fertility of all areas of life are invoked during this holiday as well as sexual fertility. This is the day for Wiccans to laugh and banter about having the most joyous of times!
A seasoned Green Witch am I, With plant wisdom and magic to share.
A child of the flowers am I, With blossoms budding from my hair.
A friend of the Fairies am I, A crown of leaves and flowers I wear.
A daughter of the Earth am I, Walking Her ways with feet ever bare.
A sister of the waters am I, Flowing wild and free without a care.
At one with the blowing winds am I, Singing softly through the midnight air.
A keeper of the fire am I, Let me kindle your passions if you dare.
Connected in Spirit with You am I, Fused together as one in prayer.