May 1

* Altar * Herbs * Stones * Magick * Activities * Food


May is the time of fertility and new beginnings after a long winter. The Faeries are afoot! They dance in the hills and roll in the grass, reveling in the joy of warm May breezes. Our spirits are high with the lust and heartiness of spring. New life is stirring and appetites are keen. -Laurie Cabot, Celebrate the Earth

In Celtic tradition, the two greatest festivals of the solar year are Samhain and Beltane, celebrations of death and rebirth, respectively. Love is in the air at Beltane. In our rituals, we celebrate the union between the Great Mother and her young Horned God. Their coupling brings fresh new life on Earth. Some form of this Great Rite is enacted on this sabbat in nearly every modern pagan circle. The Great Rite symbolizes the sacred marriage, or sexual union, of the the Lord and Lady. Often the rite is performed symbolically by a male and female who place a knife (a phallic symbol) into a chalice (a female or yonic symbol). In Old Europe, whole villages would celebrate May Day by slipping away into the woods for indiscriminate sexual encounters. Any children conceived during this occasion were known as "merry-begots" and were considered children of the gods. These "greenwood marriages" were acts of sympathetic magick believed to have a positive effect on their crops, animals, and themselves. (In this age of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, however, we must exercise responsibility -- by means of safe sex, monogamy, or even abstinence. Use your better judgment.)

Crop fertility was a strong theme at this sabbat. Besoms were ridden hobbyhorse-style through fields by women in symbolic fertility rites. Menstruating women ran and danced naked in the newly-sown fields. Cows were led to the fields to calve, and ritually consecrated chalices of sheep's blood and milk were poured on the crops, as were ashes from the balefire.

The Altar

Drape the altar in a green cloth and decorate it with blooming flowers and herbs.


All-heal, blessed thistle, broom, curry, daffodil, dogwood, coriander, dragon's blood reed, fern, fireweed, nettle, flaxseed, hawthorn, marjoram, paprika, radish, rue, snapdragon, mushroom, almond, meadowsweet, rose, woodruff, tansy, elder leaves.


Rose, jasmine, ylang, ylang, peach, musk, or vanilla.


Malachite, garnet, rose quartz, emerald, beryl, tourmaline.


Spells to ensure prosperity, conservation, safety, and love.


Jump the balefire. The bonfire, or need-fire, is one of the oldest Beltane traditions. When lighting the fire, use nine sacred woods from the following list:

oak, apple, hawthorn, birch, elder, ash, blackthorn, grape vine, mountain ash (rowan), holly, willow, cedar, yew, and hemlock.

Ashes from the balefire can be scattered in the fields as a fertility charm. Women wishing to conceive can tie a bag of the ashes around their necks. Traditionally, cattle and other animals were driven between two fires for protection, healing, and purification. Modern pagans can ritually purify tools or other things in the balefire. Jump the dying embers of the fire for summer blessings.

Dance around the maypole.

Gather the first wild herbs of the season.

Go a-Mayin' by going to the woods and fields to gather flowers. Take a picnic.


Wash your face in dew at sunrise on Beltane for beauty in the coming year. (Traditionally the dew from the hawthorn tree, but dew from grass and flowers will do.)

Make daisy chains and fresh flower wreaths and chaplets (head dresses) to wear and to place atop the maypole. Braid flowers in your hair. Make and wear leafy green masks to represent the Green Man who has returned.

Make a wish at the hawthorn tree, a tree associated with faeries. Place strips of cloth symbolizing your wish in the tree (the color should be appropriate to the nature of your wish, i.e. blue for health, pink or red for love, green or gold for prosperity). Take some time to attune to the tree. When you feel you have contacted its spirit, visualize your wish coming true as you hook the cloth on one of the tree's thorns, chanting your wish. When you have finished, leave a gift for the tree.

Make love in the woods. Beltane is the time of year when the Goddess and God consummate their passions. Traditionally it is a time when lovers pledge to live together for a year and a day. At the end of the period, they may part ways if things haven't worked out. If all has gone well, they may make plans for a handfasting at Midsummer.

Commune with the faeries.

Mark the boundaries of your circle with oatmeal, a traditional Beltane grain.


Oatmeal and dairy products. Begin the day with a hearty bowl of Irish oatmeal topped with cream and brown sugar or country butter. Oatmeal brings good fortune and encourages the power and magick of the faeries. We always have warm oatmeal cookies and vanilla ice cream as a Beltane treat.

Farls (Oat Cakes)

3 cups real mashed potatoes
2 cups dry oats
2 Tablespoons margarine or butter
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch pepper
Pinch rosemary

Soak oats in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes until soft and slightly swollen. Mix them with other ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Knead until mixture is like a thick dough. If it seems too thin or moist, add a teaspoon or two of flour. When thoroughly mixed, form small sections into small patties. Fry in hot vegetable oil in a small skillet until lightly browned. Serve immediately.

May Wine
from "Dancing with the Sun" by Jasmine Yalenorn

1 cup sweet woodruff
2 bottles rose' wine
4 dozen rose petal ice cubes
1 quart strawberries
1 quart chopped peaches
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup white rum
2 bottles champagne
1 bottle white wine
1 liter lemon-lime soda

Two weeks before serving: clean woodruff and pack into one bottle of wine. Cork and let sit.
The day before serving: make four dozen ice cubes by placing rose petals in the compartments before adding water. Freeze until solid.
Hull and wash the strawberries. Slice. Mix peaches and strawberries. Add sugar and rum. Marinate overnight.
An hour before serving: Strain woodruff out of wine and discard leaves. Mix champagne, all remaining wine, lemon-lime soda, and fruit in a large bowl. Stir.
Add ice cubes 15 minutes before serving. Serves 20.