Spring is here in the Northern Hemisphere! As the mercury rises, nature’s beauty is on display; flowers unfurl in vibrant shades, greenery becomes full and lush, and wildlife emerges from their wintertime hibernation. While these things are cause for celebration in and of themselves, it is also the time of year for my personal favorite sabbat: Beltane.
Beltane holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first sabbat I ever formally celebrated. On this day, nature is bursting forth with life as the spring season is in full swing. The day is centered around fertility, manifestation, and union. It is a traditional day for handfasting ceremonies, and of course for celebrations spent dancing around the maypole. It is a wonderful time to commune with the natural world, nurture your creativity, and make plans to manifest any intentions you’ve set that might require a longer timeline.
As of this writing, many places around the world are in some level of ‘lockdown,’ due to the ongoing coronavirus global health crisis. Parks, trails, beaches, and other outdoor areas are closed, and “stay-at-home” orders are in place, directing everyone to only leave their homes for essential activities such as grocery shopping. Unless you are fortunate enough to live in a home that is situated on a rather large amount of property, reside near a forest or other natural area that is still open, or live in a sparsely populated area that has not implemented any of these measures, it can be awfully difficult to find a way to spend a long amount of time in a natural setting. Combine this with the high number of bans on gatherings of any size by governments around the world, and Beltane might be shaping up to look quite different for many in the magical community this year. After all, the holiday often conjures mental images of a jubilant group dancing around a bonfire and / or maypole while sharing food and drink.
How, then, might we celebrate this day in a manner that is safe, yet still honors the essence of the sabbat? It will certainly require us as witches to be both resourceful and creative – qualities that I truly feel witches embody! I am delighted to share with you three solitary celebration ideas to help spark your creativity as you make your Beltane preparations this year. Of course, these can be done with other members of your household if they so choose, but are primarily geared towards solitary practitioners.
Make a Mini Maypole
Just because we may not be able to dance around the real thing with our magical family this year, it doesn’t mean that we have to completely forgo incorporating the maypole into our Beltane celebrations! This small craft can be done on your own, but is a fantastic way to involve any little witchlings you may have in your household as well. The instructions shared below can serve as inspiration or a starting point, but know that there are lots of ways to personalize this and make it your own – let your creativity shine!
- A jar or other small container in which to “plant” your mini maypole
- Rocks, soil, or any other material to fill the container
- A wooden dowel or naturally collected stick or branch
- Flexible wire
- Ribbon in various colors and styles
- Naturally collected flower blooms – the more color, the better!
- Fill your container with the rocks, soil, or any other material you have on hand.
- “Plant” your wooden dowel, stick, or branch in the container. If needed, adjust your filler material to ensure that the dowel is able to stand upright on its own.
- With your flexible wire, form a circle that is 2-3 times larger in diameter than the maypole. You’ll want to ensure that there is plenty of room between the wire ring and the center pole itself.
- Attach your ribbons to the wire ring. The more colors, textures, and widths of ribbon you have, the better! If you don’t have a lot of ribbon laying around, see what other materials might be suitable – broken jewelry chains, twine, gift wrapping bows, old shoelaces, or even strips of old clothing can all work well.
- Attach three pieces of flexible wire to your wire ring, spaced evenly apart. These pieces will be used to attach the ring to the maypole.
- Wrap a rubber band around your maypole, an inch or so from the top. This will create a ridge that keeps your wire ring from sliding down.
- Place the wire ring over the top of the maypole, and hold it about half an inch from the rubber band ridge you’ve created as you wrap your three loose wire pieces around the maypole, above the rubber band ridge. Be sure to wrap it tightly!
- Once your wire ring is secure, use any remaining wire to attach flowers to the top of your maypole. Simply hold the stems against the maypole and wrap the wire around to hold it in place.
- If you have any leftover blooms, use them to decorate the base of your maypole, perhaps forming a floral border around the edge of the container.
- That’s it! You now have a mini maypole!
Refresh Your Altar
Beltane is an ideal time to do some magical spring cleaning and give your altar a little refresh. If you don’t have a permanent working altar, you might consider creating a small, seasonally-inspired one for a shorter period of time. In either case, the following may provide some inspiration:
- Do you have a scarf or altar cloth with a springtime color or print? Such a piece could serve as the foundation for your space!
- When was the last time you dusted off your magical tools and gave them a thorough cleaning? Beltane is the perfect time to do so, in both the magical and mundane senses.
- Do you have fresh flowers or greenery near you? While access to these might be a little tricky if your local parks and trails are closed, see if there is anything closer to home – you might be able to collect something in your own yard, or even on a quick walk around the block. Remember to follow ethical harvesting guidelines and not collect so much that it will cause unnecessary harm to the plant from which you collect! I am always a proponent of leaving an offering in thanks as well.
- If fresh flowers and greenery are simply not an option, dried will work just as well. You may even use artificial ones (silk, fabric, etc.) or create paper representations of the real thing if needed!
Perform an Intention-Setting Ceremony
Given Spring’s associations with planting seeds, fertility, and new life, Beltane can be a wonderful time to perform a formalized intention-setting ceremony. Do you have a project that’s been on the back burner, but would now like to make it a priority and breathe life into it? Or, perhaps you have some new long-term goals you’d like to set, which you plan to evaluate or complete by Samhain. Create your own ceremony to be performed on Beltane to help these things come to fruition! I truly believe that the most powerful ceremonies are those that we design for ourselves (instead of pulling them from another source), but some elements you might consider incorporating are:
- Ritual bathing
- Candle magic (burning petitions, etc.)
- Sigil creation
- Earth magic (burying petitions, etc. – be sure to use earth-friendly materials!)
While we may not be able to mark the day by gathering in person this year, there are still plenty of ways to celebrate the sabbat that are safe, creative, and festive. Wishing all of you a beautiful Beltane!
About Briony: Briony Silver is an eclectic witch based in the Pacific Northwest, and the host of the Eclectic Witchery podcast. A proud Cancerian, water and the moon heavily influence her individual Craft – so you can almost always find her wearing something lunar-inspired, while toting a variety of jars, bottles, and vials in her bag. With a background teaching yoga and mindfulness, she enjoys weaving those two practices into her magic, and vice versa. You can connect with her on Instagram at @eclectic_witchery to talk water magic, crystals, moon magic, divination tools, and witchy books galore!