May Day (May 1st) was known since the times of Ancient Rome. On this day the ancient Romans poured water on each other and bathed in the Tiber. At the same time the vestals, the priestesses of the goddess of the family home Vesta, who observed a vow of celibacy, were throwing into the river the reed effigies of Saturn, the god of agriculture. Different European nations celebrated May Day as a day of blooming nature, flowers, and joy.
The Gaelic name of this day is Beltane, the festival of fires. At the first light, the huge bonfires were lit on the hilltops. It was a festival of Sun and light. The sacred fire of Beltane was used to light torches that were carried around the houses and cattle pens, and then it was used to light a new sacred fire in the hearth of the house. This fire purified the house and filled it with the life-giving power of the Sun God, and gave it fertility.
The maypole dance was an essential part of the May Day celebration. A pole was made of birch or pine with a crossbar on top. Garlands of fresh plants, flowers, and ribbons were hung from the ends of such a pole. Red, blue, white, green, and yellow ribbons were symbolizing fire, water, air, and earth. They intertwined during the maypole dance, which was a symbol of the life-giving and fertile powers of nature.
As darkness fell, young men and women made love in the woods and in the fields so that the earth itself would be fertile and filled with the love of God and the Goddess, who also became lovers on the eve of May. On this night, the flowers of the magical hawthorn bush were gathered to decorate homes. They were put into May baskets with other flowers and left as gifts on the doorsteps.
Another traditional symbol of May Day was the Green Man - the impersonation of the vitality of nature. People dressed up in the costumes of Jack in the Green or were just wearing the green clothes.
Witches traditionally celebrate Beltane as one of the eight Great Sabbaths as the festival of the sacred wedding of the Horned God of the Wildwood and the Goddess of the Blooming Earth. It is an important turn of the Wheel of the Year as the Earth finally awakens and banishes the cold and the darkness of the Winter. On the eve of May Day the witches celebrate life in its diversity. They were creating earth spells and brought gifts to the forces and spirits of nature.
Now the power of the Sun and the light grows to reach its peak on the Midsommer or the Summer Solstice, also referred to as Lita. Beltane is a magical time when divinations will be most accurate and all prayers will be answered.
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