Yesterday we discussed a (very!) brief history of Beltane, but what’s some history without a little folklore? The gods, goddesses, and other symbols of Beltane are what really bring this Sabbat to life!
The Green Man
Imagine being in the British Isles, where forests can stretch for miles and miles, and how terrifying it must be to enter that great expanse of woods with nothing but a few hunting tools and some satchels to carry your finds. Pretty intimidating! Of course, you would have had to enter such a place in the spring months for the meat the animals provided, the edible plants in abundance, and the wood for your fires (sacred and otherwise). It only seems logical that people would attribute such a place with earthy spirituality and as representative of the cycle of life.
|The Green Man|
A very recognizable god of spring, the Green Man represents vegetation and plant life, symbolizing the life that is found in the earth and in the plant world. He is typically portrayed as dense foliage that creates a human face — and if you’re wandering around the woods as in the example above, you’re likely to come across his face more than once. In some Wiccan traditions, he is an aspect of the Horned God Cernunnos, a Celtic god connected with male animals (particularly the stag), fertility, forest protection, and the hunt, of which he is surely a master.
The May Queen
Each spring, as the sun finally begins to peek above the horizon and animals emerge from their slumbers for a good post-hibernation stretch, the May Queen, the Maiden herself, stirs from sleep, awakening to do battle with the Queen of Winter, the Crone. This battle is not for naught — if it weren’t for this fight, we wouldn’t enjoy the six months of abundance and warmth that spring brings! Finally the Crone is sent away until it is her time to return in the fall.
|The May Queen, or the Goddess Flora|
In some Wiccan traditions, this story is told year after year as the wheel turns. Her name is Flora, and she is goddess of the flowers, the young blushing bride, the princess of the Fae. She has several archetypes, from Lady Marian in the Robin Hood tales to Guinevere in the Arthurian cycle. In Roman times, she was so well-revered as a goddess of fertility that she was often the patron goddess of prostitutes, and libations of milk and honey were paid in her honor.
Just like the seasons, the May Queen is ever changing; as spring rolls into summer, she becomes the Mother, nurturing the earth to help it bring forth flowers and trees, to watch them blossom and bloom in abundance. Then summer turns to fall, and she becomes the Crone, who brings dark skies and winter storms. You might remember the Crone that the May Queen battles after a long winter? They’re one and the same, and the wheel of life, death, and rebirth turns on.
Just like Samhain, which falls on 31 October, Beltane is a time when the veil between the worlds are at its thinnest, and the Fae come out to play — sometimes, if a human is a bit too daring with them, with very negative consequences! Leave a gift or offering for them, though, and you’re sure to be in good graces with them… and they may leave a little something in return. Look for a sprig of rowan twisted into a ring, as this is where they will likely hide, and scope it at dusk to get a better chance of sneaking a peek. Just be careful, as I said earlier about being daring, especially with their privacy…!
It is said that the Queen of the Faeries rides out of her white horse at Beltane, enticing people away to Faeryland. If you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you may see her or hear the sound of her horse’s bells as she rides through the night. Hide your face, and she’ll merely pass you by; look her in the face, though, and she may choose you for Faeryland.
Later today, we will go into detail about the Faery Courts, the Seelies and the Unseelies, which rule at different times of the year and which bring very different Fae attitudes.
I’ll be entirely straightforward and admit that, like most people, Matt and I are terrified of bees. (It may have something to do with Matt’s allergic reactions to their stings, but even that aside, we prefer if they leave us… erm, “bee”!) Bees, however, are a very magical part of spring — in addition to the earth suddenly returning to full bloom, a change in local wildlife occurs, as squirrels and chipmunks coming out to play and birds twitter as they flit from tree to tree. Take a peek at some herbs or a flowering bush or tree, and you’ll also see bees buzzing from flower to flower, partaking of the rich pollens they offer and carrying them from one blossom to the next.
- Bees that fly into your house are said to bring guests, and if you kill the bee, they’ll come bearing bad news. (Note to self: Buy a net and just let them free!)
- Several deities that are associated with bees, including Aphrodite, Vishnu, and Pan.
- In some areas of New England and Appalachia, if someone dies, it is believed that the family must “go to the bees” to tell them of the death. Whoever kept the bees for the family would make sure the bees got the news so they could spread it.
- If a bee lands on your hand, you will fall into a financial windfall.
- Are you a Harry Potter fan? You’ll appreciate this one: Albus Dumbledore was named in honor of bees, as “Albus” is a runner plant that produces pure-white flowers and edible snap beans, and “Dumbledore” comes from the early modern English word meaning “bumblebee.” J.K. Rowling says he was named such as she could imagine him “walking around humming to himself.”
- In some cultures, because worker bees that produce honey never mate, bees are associated with purity. In others, they are associated with wisdom.
- In Celtic mythology, bees are messengers between our world and the spirit realm.
Here at TCC for our first [Insert Pagan Holiday] In A Week? Be sure to grab our button and share this Beltane with your friends!