Bealtaine is one of eight solar Sabbats. It has long been celebrated with varied feasts and rituals and is one festival among many worldwide which recognizes this time of year. The name means "Fire of Bel". As spring turns into summer, and the plant and animal world blossom and reproduce, a hopeful feeling emerged among the ancients. In old Celtic traditions, it was a time of of unabashed sexual freedom. Handfastings of a year and a day could be undertaken at this time. Given knowledge of Celtic sexuality, it is speculated by some that erotic expression at Beltaine may also have included bondings not simply seen as "heterosexual" today.
Belenos (Bel, Belenus, Belinos) is one of the most ancient and widely worshiped of the Celtic deities and was generally associated with pastoralism, virilism and fertility. He is celebrated at the great fire festival, Beltaine (Beltane, Beltine) head on May 1 where his coronation is observed. He heralds the beginning of warmer weather, the blossoming of flora, birth of fauna, love and erotic expression and brings on an exuberant mood among his celebrants.
It was a festival involving fire and its associated puritive qualities seen in many aspects and elements of the observation often leading people of later times to identify Bel as a solar deity. In the past, young people would spend the entire night in the woods “A-Maying,” and then dance around the phallic Maypole the next morning. Older married couples were allowed to remove their wedding rings (and the restrictions they imply) for this one night. May morning is a magickal time for wild water - dew (from Hawthorn trees particularly), flowing streams and springs) may be collected and used to bathe in for beauty or to drink for health. The May pole was a focal point of the old village rituals. Many people would rise at the first light of dawn to go outdoors and gather flowers and branches to decorate their homes. People traditionally would braid flowers into their hair. Men and women alike would decorate their often scantily clad bodies.
Beltaine marks the return of vitality, virility, fertility and passion and in many ways is a time representative of the male aspect - the God. Pagan traditions say that Beltaine recognizes the emergence of the young God into manhood. Stirred by the energies at work in nature, he desires the Goddess. They fall in love, lie among the grasses and blossoms - and unite. The Goddess becomes pregnant of the God and to celebrate, a wedding feast was prepared. Modern interpretations may see it as a time for both the male and female aspect within each person to be celebrated and joined in unity…