How To Hold a Family Friendly Beltane Ritual

Some History On Beltane

Beltane is a Celtic word which means 'fires of Bel' (Bel was a Celtic deity). It is a fire festival that celebrates of the coming of summer and the fertility of the coming year.  Celtic festivals often tied in with the needs of the community. In spring time, at the beginning of the farming calendar, everybody would be hoping for a fruitful year for their families and fields.  Beltane rituals would often include courting: for example, young men and women collecting blossoms in the woods and lighting fires in the evening. These rituals would often lead to matches and marriages, either immediately in the coming summer or autumn.  Other festivities involved fire which was thought to cleanse, purify and increase fertility. Cattle were often passed between two fires and the properties of the flame and the smoke were seen to ensure the fertility of the herd.

Many Pagans believe that at Beltane the God (to whom the Goddess gave birth at the Winter Solstice) achieves the strength and maturity to court and become lover to the Goddess. So although what happens in the fields has lost its significance for most Pagans today, the creation of fertility is still an important issue.  Emma Restall Orr, a modern day Druid, speaks of the 'fertility of our personal creativity'. (Spirits of the Sacred Grove, pub. Thorsons, 1998, pg.110). She is referring to the need for active and creative lives. We need fertile minds for our work, our families and our interests.  Fire is still the most important element of most Beltane celebrations and there are many traditions associated with it. It is seen to have purifying qualities which cleanse and revitalize. People leap over the Beltane fire to bring good fortune, fertility (of mind, body and spirit) and happiness through the coming year.

While Beltane is a celebration of fertility, and despite that it's a perfectly natural aspect of the human existence, let's face it -- some parents may not always be comfortable discussing the erect phallus of the god or the open womb of the goddess with their young children. The Beltane sabbat is also about abundance, in many forms. Don't just focus on material gains, it's about the growth of the earth and its bounty, and it's about increasing your own spiritual and emotional wealth.

What You Need

  • An altar decorated with symbols of the season
  • A small pot for each person
  • A bowl of dirt or potting soil
  • Seeds for your favorite flowers or herbs
  • A cup of water
  • Paper and something to write with
  • A fire

Here's an Example of How To Hold a Family Friendly Beltane Ritual

  1. This family ritual is one that you can easily include children in. Hold it at night, if possible. Before beginning, prepare your family's evening meal. Include spring foods, such as a light salad, fresh fruit, or breads. Set the table as you normally would, and go outside. For this ritual, you'll need the following:

    • A small flower pot for each person in the family
    • A bowl of dirt or potting soil
    • Seeds for your favorite herbs or flowers
    • A cup of water
    • A small fire
    • A piece of paper for each person in the family
  2. Go out in your yard with the entire family -- be sure you have a small table or other flat surface you can use as an altar. For the fire, you can either build a large one in your yard, or if space is an issue, use a table-top brazier. A small cast iron pot is perfect for this purpose. You may want to decorate your altar space beforehand with symbols of the season. If your tradition requires you to cast a circle, do so now.

  3. The oldest person in the family should lead the ritual. Begin by saying:

    Welcome, spring! 
    The light has returned, and life has come back to the earth.
    The soil is dark and full of energy, 
    so this evening we plant our seeds.
    They will lie in the soil, taking root and growing,
    until the time has come for them to meet the sun.
    As we plant these seeds, we give thanks to the earth
    for its strength and life-bringing gifts.
  4. Each person fills their pot with soil. You can either pass the bowl of dirt around, or if you have small children, just let each approach the altar or table. If there are a number of people participating, you may want to sing a chant as everyone fills their pot. A good chant for this is:

    Earth my body, water my blood,
    air my breath and fire my spirit…

    repeated multiple times, or sung as a round-robin.

  5. Once everyone has filled their pot with soil, pass out the seeds. Say:

    Tiny seeds, containing life!
    They travel upon the wind and bring to us abundance.
    Flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruit… 
    all the bounty of the earth. 
    We give thanks to the seeds,
    for the gifts that are to come in the harvest season.
  6. Each person should push their seeds down into the soil. Older participants can help smaller children with this. Finally, pass around the cup of water. Say:

    Water, cool and life-giving!
    Bringing power to these seeds,
    and moistening this fertile soil.
    We give thanks to the water,
    for allowing life to bloom once more.
  7. When each person has finished potting their seeds, set the flower pots on the altar or table. Give each participant a small piece of paper and something to write with. Say:

    Tonight we plant seeds in the earth,
    but Beltane is a time in which many things can grow.
    Tonight we plant seeds in our hearts and souls,
    for other things we wish to see blossom.
    We plant the seeds of love, of wisdom, of happiness.
    We dig deep, and begin a crop of harmony, balance, and joy.
    We add water to bring life and abundance of all kinds into our homes.
    We offer our wishes into the fire, to carry them out to the Universe.
  8. Each person should write on their paper something they wish to see blooming in their own life -- harmony, happiness, financial security, strong relationships, healing, etc. For small children, it may be something very simple -- even if your first-grader writes down that he wants a pony, don't discourage anyone's wishes. After each person has written their wish down, they approach the fire one at a time and cast the paper into the flames (help little ones with this part, just in the interest of safety).

  9. When everyone has placed their wishes into the fire, take a few moments and think about the meaning of Beltane. Think about the things you want to see bloom and grow in your own life, in both the material and the non-physical realm. When everyone is ready, end the ritual. You may wish to follow the ceremony with another Beltane festivity, such as a Maypole Dance, or the traditional cakes and ale.

What are some of the things to you and your loved ones do to celebrate Beltane?   Post your idea's and suggestions into the comments below.  This will allow us to include the many ways that we come together to celebrate this amazing time of year!  Brightest blessings and a very happy Beltane to you all.

☆~☽✪☾~☆  Happy Beltane from Project Fey  ☆~☽✪☾~☆

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This is lovely and I will be so happy to use these ideas for next year. My Universalist Unitarian church is always looking for group events to add new spark to these holidays

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