Even though your May Day might look different from others’ depending on where you are in the world, everyone’s May Day is connected at the ritualistic pagan root. The holiday was originally celebrated by the ancient Celts in the British Isles, according to History.com, and was called Beltane. It is believed that the Celts honored their sun god Belenus on this day, thanking him for bringing the world out of the darkness of winter and into the light of summer.
Beltane, now colloquially called May Day, never truly transformed out of its pagan roots. Many cultures still gather and take part in group rituals and festivities similar to what their ancestors would have done. The maypole ritual, a medieval addition, is often incorporated into annual European May Day celebrations, as are bonfires, another pagan Beltane ritual.
If you’re looking to work a bit of ancient nature magic into your May Day this year, read on. There’s certainly enough Beltane to go around.
Dance around the maypole.
Perhaps one of the most recognizable fertility rituals you could partake in is dancing around the maypole. Historians believe that the physical maypole represents male fertility, and the wreath at the top represents female fertility. According to Judy Ann Nock’s book, The Provenance Press Guide to the Wiccan Year, the maypole originally came from medieval India and was a symbol of renewed life and the return of warmth.
Here’s a fun tutorial on how to create your own maypole:
Perform a love spell.
Because Beltane revolves around fertility, sexual passion, and rebirth, May Day is the perfect opportunity to perform love-related rituals and spells. Nock writes of a simple yet powerful charm that will invoke love.
You’ll need two pieces of red felt (about 4-inch squares), two pieces of paper measuring 4″ x 6″, a pen with red ink, a copper coin, a small seashell, and a needle and thread.
Fold the first piece of paper in half lengthwise and cut it into a heart shape. Use this as a template to cut two hearts from the red felt pieces — focus on one representing you, and the other, your intended love.
Write your potential love’s name on both sides of the second piece of paper, as many times as it will fit. Fold the paper around the coin until small. Place the shell on top of the coin and sandwich all of your tools in between the two felt hearts. Sew the hearts together and sleep with the charm under your pillow until your love manifests.
If you want to celebrate with friends, draw inspiration from your ancient ancestors and host a bonfire get-together to honor the arrival of the sun and warmth.
Often, according to Nock, Beltane celebrants would tie petitions on trees with colored ribbon. Have your guests write goals, wishes, or desires for the season on small bits of paper and tie them to trees with twine. Like a wish bracelet, once the twine breaks, the wish will come true or the goal will be achieved.
May Day is yet another holiday to be grateful for the nature that surrounds us. Admire the flowers beginning to pop out from the ground. Craft a flower crown from those already in bloom. Breathe in a gulp of fresh spring air.
As long as you’re appreciating what Mother Nature is dishing out, you’re celebrating May Day to the fullest.