Blessed Beltane, Sea Witches! The trees are budding and blossoming, the birds are singing, and the Earth is bursting into life! Come the end of April, we'll be midway between the spring equinox (Ostara) and the summer solstice (Litha), which means it's the official start of summer!
Beltane is an eclectic, cross-quarter pagan holiday that owes most of its themes and customs to the Irish Lá Bealtaine and Scottish Latha Bealltainn, with echoes of the hedonistic Roman festival Floralia.
This is a time to celebrate, a time to fully unfurl and face the sun! Here’s how you can get into the Beltane spirit and celebrate the start of summer:
Reconnect with Nature
We are a part of it. We are in it and of it, affected by it and able to influence it. Now is the time to celebrate and embrace our inherent role in it! As the world around us bursts into life and color, we are invited to fully embrace our connection to the rhythms and cycles of this planet.
We might not have any cattle that need to be moved out to summer pastures, but we can all feel the waxing warmth of the sun, hear the birds returning from winter migration, see the suddenly bright green new leaves on yesterday's naked trees, and relish in the increasing freedom of longer days.
This is a time for boldness, newness, and enthusiasm. Time to clean up and redecorate, go for a new haircut or some daring new duds, and shake off the last remnants of winter. This is a time for nature walks and picnics in fields of wildflowers, ritual baths with blossoms from your garden, shameless nudity, gratuitous flirtation, and sensual romance.
Manifest with Fire
To renew spiritual defenses and ensure prosperity and wellness, all fires in the community would be extinguished and re-lit from a ritual fire started only with friction, known as a needfire. All parts of the needfire - the flames, embers, ashes, and smoke - are considered sacred and capable of granting health and protection for people and property.
We can emulate the elemental essence of a fire festival today with safe and legal bonfires, home fireplaces, or even just with candles.
Flowers & Water
Fire isn't the only element that's especially potent at Beltane! The morning dew on May 1st is said to be infused with the power to preserve youth, clarify skin, and enhance beauty and sexual attractiveness. Druids would collect dew in hollowed out stones prior to sunrise on May Day morning, and young women would roll in the dew, or anoint their faces with it. You can do the same! (And if you gather Beltane dew, you can keep it to use throughout the year.)
As mentioned earlier, Beltane customs are also reminiscent of the ancient Roman festival Floralia, which honors Flora the goddess of flowers, vegetation, and fertility. This is a holiday that demands we go absolutely mad with flowers. Flowers everywhere. Flower garlands, flower crowns, flowers decorating every edge and surface, flowers on your food and in your drinks, and flowers delivered in baskets or bundles to the front doors of all your friends and neighbors. (Do you remember doing this as a kid for "May Day"? Do your kids carry on the tradition?)
It's a perfect day for tactile engagement with nature, so go roll in some dewy clover and be blessed as heck!
Sea Witch Beltane Cookies
These sweet, summery, rosemary lemon sugar cookies are seasonal twist on Minimalist Baker's classic vegan recipe. Find ingredients and instructions below!
Vegan Rosemary Lemon Sugar Cookies
1/2 cup vegan butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 Tbsp fresh chopped rosemary (save any blossoms to garnish!)
1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp non dairy milk
1/2 cup vegan butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp non dairy milk
1 Tbsp lemon juice (adjust to taste)
Cream softened butter 'til fluffy, then add sugars, vanilla, and pumpkin, and beat until smooth. Stir together flour, rosemary, corn starch, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, then add to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until blended. (Not too much!) Add alternative milk and mix until a soft dough forms. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
To make frosting, beat softened butter 'til fluffy, then add vanilla and powdered sugar. Mix, then add lemon juice and alt milk and blend until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 350F and place tablespoon-sized balls of dough two inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Press cookies flat with the bottom of a cup and bake for about 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Use a cooling rack to cool cookies completely before applying frosting. Decorate with rosemary blossoms.
May it be a bright and blessed Beltane for all!