Music for Beltane — and more!

Today we present a pro­gramme of a wide vari­ety of music inspired by, but not lim­it­ed to, Beltane.

Beltane or Beltain is the Gael­ic May Day fes­ti­val. Most com­mon­ly it is held on 1 May, or about halfway between the spring equinox and sum­mer sol­stice. His­tor­i­cal­ly, it was wide­ly observed through­out Ire­land, Scot­land, and the Isle of Man. In Irish the name for the fes­ti­val day is Lá Beal­taine, in Scot­tish Gael­ic Là Beall­tainn and in Manx Gael­ic Laa Boaltinn/Boaldyn. It is one of the four Gael­ic sea­son­al fes­ti­vals — along with Samhain, Imbolc and Lugh­nasadh — and is sim­i­lar to the Welsh Calan Mai.

And tune in at noon or 4pm Pacif­ic Time / 8pm or mid­night in the UK — for the lat­est edi­tion of our Sec­ond Life trav­el show, Where Have You Been? — where we vis­it the pre­served region of Svar­ga and dis­cuss SLRPS. Details here.

Beltane is men­tioned in some of the ear­li­est Irish lit­er­a­ture and is asso­ci­at­ed with impor­tant events in Irish mythol­o­gy. Also known as Cét­shamhain (“first of sum­mer”), it marked the begin­ning of sum­mer and it was when cat­tle were dri­ven out to the sum­mer pas­tures. Rit­u­als were per­formed to pro­tect the cat­tle, crops and peo­ple, and to encour­age growth. Spe­cial bon­fires were kin­dled, and their flames, smoke and ash­es were deemed to have pro­tec­tive pow­ers. The peo­ple and their cat­tle would walk around or between bon­fires, and some­times leap over the flames or embers. All house­hold fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bon­fire. These gath­er­ings would be accom­pa­nied by a feast, and some of the food and drink would be offered to the aos sí (Sid­he). Doors, win­dows, byres and live­stock would be dec­o­rat­ed with yel­low May flow­ers, per­haps because they evoked fire. In parts of Ire­land, peo­ple would make a May Bush: typ­i­cal­ly a thorn bush or branch dec­o­rat­ed with flow­ers, rib­bons, bright shells and rush­lights. Holy wells were also vis­it­ed, while Beltane dew was thought to bring beau­ty and main­tain youth­ful­ness. Many of these cus­toms were part of May Day or Mid­sum­mer fes­ti­vals in oth­er parts of Great Britain and Europe.

Beltane cel­e­bra­tions had large­ly died out by the mid-20th cen­tu­ry, although some of its cus­toms con­tin­ued and in some places it has been revived as a cul­tur­al event. Since the late 20th cen­tu­ry, Celtic neo­pa­gans and Wic­cans have observed Beltane or a relat­ed fes­ti­val as a reli­gious hol­i­day. Neo­pa­gans in the South­ern Hemi­sphere cel­e­brate Beltane on or around 1 November.

“Beltaine” by sıɐԀ ɹǝıʌɐſ is licensed under CC BY 2.0