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  • AW King

Bealtaine

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

Bealtaine celebrated May 1st, marks the halfway point in the ancient Irish calendar

opposite Samhain, with the similarity that the barriers between this world (an saol seo) and the otherworld (an saol eile) are a thinned veil. The festival celebrates light, warmth, fertility, and growth. Agriculturally, Bealtaine is important, marking when livestock would be herded to their summer pastures and to mark the growth of crops. One of the Stone Age sacred sites of celebration was Thornborough (3,500-2,500 BC) in Britain. The site has three henges. They are believed to be a processional aligned to the winter and summer solstices and setting of Orion, explaining its design which emulates Orion’s Belt.


For this cross-quarter festival, a wicker man bonfire would be lit. Rituals to protect the livestock on this journey were traditionally observed with cattle would be driven between two Bealtaine bonfires (idir dhá thine Bhealtaine). Household fires would be lit from the Bealtaine fires as well.


Arrangements of flowers and plants were placed in windows and doorways. Traditionally the May bush (sceach gheal), hawthorn (sceach gheal), rowan ( caorthann), gorse (aiteann) and primrose (buíocán). To appease the faeries (na daoine maithe) offerings (ofrálacha) of food and drink were left for them. Young girls would wash their faces in the morning dew (drúcht na Bealtaine) to gain beauty (áilleacht) and youthfulness (óige).

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