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Beltane

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This article is about the Gaelic holiday. For the Celtic Doom metal band see Beltaine (band), for the Inkubus Sukkubus album see Beltaine (album), and for the song by Marc Bolan and T. Rex see Beltane Walk.
Beltane
Observed by: Gaels, Neopagans,
Other names Beltaine, Bealtuinn
Meaning: "Bright fire"
Begins: Around the midpoint of the Sun's movement
between the Vernal Equinox and Summer Solstice.
Occasion: Traditional first day of summer in Ireland
Symbols: Bale fire
Related to: Walpurgis Night, May Day

Beltane or Beltaine (from Irish Bealtaine or Scottish Gaelic Bealtuinn; both from Old Irish Beltene, "bright fire" from *belo-te(p)ni) is an ancient Gaelic holiday celebrated around May 1."Bealtaine" (pronounced IPA //) is the name in modern Irish for the month of May. It is also the traditional first day of summer in Ireland. It is a Cross quarter day being midpoint in the Sun's progress between the Vernal Equinox and Summer Solstice. May 5 (Old Beltane) is the actual astronomical date.

Early Gaelic sources from around the 10th century state that the Druids would create a need-fire on top of a hill on this day and rush the village's cattle through the fires to purify them and bring luck ("Eadar d theine Bhealltuinn" in Scottish Gaelic, "Between two fires of Beltane"). People would also go between the fires to purify themselves. This was echoed throughout history after Christianization, with lay people instead of Druid priests creating the need-fire. The festival persisted widely up until the 1950s, and in some places the celebration of Beltane continues today. A revived Beltane Fire Festival has been held every year (except 2003) during the night of 30 April on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland since 1988, and attended by up to 15,000 people.

Beltane is a specifically Gaelic holiday, not "Celtic", as other Celtic cultures, such as the Welsh, Bretons, and Gauls, do not celebrate it - though many cultures did celebrate a springtime festival known by various names.

In neopaganism, the name Beltane or Beltaine is used for a sabbat, one of the eight solar holidays, which is celebrated on this day. Although the holiday uses features of the Gaelic Beltane, such as the bale fire, it bears more relation to the Germanic May Day festival, both in its significance (focusing on fertility) and its rituals (such as maypole dancing). High Beltaine is celebrated through a reenactment of intercourse between the May Lord and Lady. Gerald Gardner, the principal originator of the Wiccan religion, referred to the holiday as May Eve.

Among the neopagan sabbats, Beltane is a cross-quarter day; it is celebrated in the northern hemisphere on May 1 and in the southern hemisphere on November 1. Beltane follows Ostara and precedes Midsummer (see the Wheel of the Year).

See also

External links

fr:Beltaine it:Beltane

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