Aka: Beltane (Wiccan/Gaelic - various spellings), May Day/Novey Eve, Floralia (Roman)
Traditional Date: November 1 (NH: May 1)
2023 Astronomical Date: November 8 (NH: May 5)*
Themes: Creativity, pleasure, activity
Moon Phase: Waxing Gibbous
Colours: Yellow, purple
Botanicals: Jacaranda, jasmine, orange, rose, dandelion, dill
Incense: Orange, rose, vanilla
Crystals: Clear quartz, sunstone
Foods: Strawberry, orange, oats, honey, dairy, cakes, mead
At Beltane/Floralia in Australia, we’re balancing our Halloween celebrations with the tail end of spring. While the wildflower season is starting to peter off, most orchids are still flowering now, and the jasmine and jacarandas so popular for public plantings become hard to miss!
In Australia, in contrast with much of the Northern Hemisphere finishing up their harvest for the year, our grain harvest is just beginning! By this point most “pick your own” strawberry farms have often opened up to the public.
- Floralia (Pre-Christian Roman)
- May Day (European/Germanic)
- Lá Bealtaine/Cétshamhain (Irish Gaelic)
- Calan Mai (Welsh)
- Walpurgis Night (Christian/European)
Common Themes: Floralia, May Day, Bealtaine, and Calan Mai are all high spring festivals, involving flowers, dancing, celebrating fertility/sexuality. Bonfires are a central part of Bealtaine, Calan Mai and Walpurgis Night observances, with the primary purpose of protection, against supernatural figures (predominantly the aos sí and witches, but also other baneful spirits/magic, and bad luck/sorrow) as well as more practical threats (like pests and disease).
Modern celebrations of May Day, Beltane, Calan Mai, and Walpurgis night have all influenced each other to varying degrees over the past millennia or so, and some traditions associated with these are difficult to attribute to one source. A particular mystery is the May Pole, the first record of which is in 14th Century Britain, around which there are a number of theories about its original symbolism, but no particular evidence for any. Wiccans often claim that the May Pole began as a phallic symbol, although this is the most recent theory, and there has been no historical evidence found to support it.
How to belebrate Beltane/Floralia
While there are obviously a whole bunch of traditional activities associated with the various Northern Hemisphere Beltaine & May Day celebrations, what if you don’t really vibe with those? After all, they’re based on what’s going on in Europe (or sometimes the US) in 6 months time, and while it’s roughly the same point in the seasonal cycle, our landscape, lifestyle, and even seasons are still quite different.
- Braid your hair with brightly-coloured ribbons and/or flowers! Or make flower crowns/floral wreaths, and/or use braids, ribbons, and flowers for general decorations.
- May Poles:
- Some areas hold public celebrations including May Poles (especially in Europe);
- If you can find a (new or existing) group to celebrate with, a full-sized May Pole could be erected collectively, or improvised from a flagpole, hills-hoist clothesline, or similar;
- A small May Pole can also be crafted with narrower ribbons to fit on your altar!
- Beltane can tend a little hedonistic, so do something indulgent, particularly that you might normally stop yourself from! Particularly something that brings you into your body and makes you feel good. It can be a great excuse to pamper yourself or indulge in something sweet!
- Baked goods (especially sweets) are perfect for this! In addition to it being the grain harvest in Australia, wheat symbolism goes back to Roman Floralia celebrations. Include honey, flowers, or seasonal fruits for an added boost.
- Fertility and sexuality are strong themes of this event, so this can be harnessed through attending a burlesque show, or sexual activities (solo or not).
- If you’re underage, or if sexual themes aren’t your jam, I also interpret fertility in terms of creativity! This can be a great time to plan or work on creative projects.
- Traditionally, fertility also applied to agriculture: How is you garden going? Is any fertiliser or additional work required to increase the fertility of your garden?
- If you live somewhere where it’s safe to do so, you might consider lighting a bonfire! If your area is prone to bushfires, make sure to check when the fire bans are, as in many places they tend to kick in around this time of year. Your practice is never more important than fire safety!
- An alternative if a bonfire is unsafe/impractical would be to substitute it by lighting a candle indoors - A candle with a wooden wick could provide a satisfying crackling effect! If you have a small cauldron, you could light the candle (or a small ‘bonfire’ in your cauldron, or a similar fire-safe vessel).
- Fairy lights would also be a great way to celebrate light, fire, and warm weather, and they feel very thematically-appropriate! You could even decorate them with (real or fake) flowers/plants, or ribbons!
- Beltane is a popular time for weddings, probably in part due to the pleasant weather, and in part due to the strong fertility themes
I’ve written about some of my previous Beltane adventures in my blog:
*: Southern Hemisphere dates based on Perth, WA (GMT+8); Northern Hemisphere dates based on GMT. Find the date/time based on 15 different timezones at Archaeoastronomy (archived).