Working with the Wheel: May Day, or Beltane

A cluster of fully open pink and white crab apple blossom caught in a sun beam, surrounded by new leaves and with blue sky and many more blossoms behind them.

This is the point of the year where it seems like every part of nature is focused on reproduction. As I sit here typing this I can see, from my window, three different pairs of wood pigeons attempting, with various degrees of success, to start the process of creating more wood pigeons. The newest robin fledgling to appear in the garden is looking suspiciously at the clean water in the bird bath and I can hear, in no uncertain terms, the nest of sparrows in the corner of the roof shouting for their food. I’ve made the effort to get myself up and out into the pre-dawn several times in the last week and have had the joy of seeing both fox cubs and rabbit kits (not in the same place, thankfully for the rabbits) and I’m fully aware of the plants and trees begining their attempts at reproduction, thanks to the stuffiness of my poor nose. 

May Day, or Beltane as it is often called on the wheel of the year, is the fire festival of fertility. Since I have absolutely no desire to reproduce myself, nor any interest in a heterosexual romantic relationship, the older and often more quoted craft books about how to celebrate this spoke on the wheel often left me cold and feeling utterly divorced from the celebration in a personal way. That’s not to say I haven’t had fun at May Day festivities in the past – maypole dancing is excellent and I love a good bonfire – but other than light a couple of candles and fill the house with flowers, it didn’t really feature in my personal practice until a few years ago.

The connection for me came after I spent some time really working with my Wildwood tarot deck and found myself repeatedly pulling The Forest Lovers, a card specifially tied to Beltane, and realising that for me it was pointing out that in doing that work I was creating a fertile space in my own consciousness from which to birth not only a greater understanding of my spirituality but a deeper conection with my creativity and writing. 

So now I use May Day (or the day closest to it that I can keep free) to spend time doing the specific things that I chose back at Midwinter to work on this year. Most of them are already blooming, thanks to the work already laid down, but this is about nurturing and focus and making the time to light a little fire under myself so that I don’t forget about anything that I want to flourish and grow over the summer.

I’m very grateful that May 1st has fallen on a Monday this year as I can claim “bank holiday” as a reason to sequester myself away and focus on what is important to me. 

To that end I’ve already taken myself for a dawn walk and then sat down to finish and post this. I’ll be making fresh, wholesome food for lunch and dinner, and over the rest of the day I will spend at least an hour gardening, an hour working out what is needed next in the clearing of the houses, an hour working on my Arthurian novel, and an hour finishing one of my larger crochet projects*. I shall also spend some time making music and intend to end the day by candlelight, reading and journalling as the mood takes me. 

 I set up and blessed my Beltane altar last night, as when I was first involved in marking this spoke of the wheel the rituals always began on May Day eve. It is, I think, simple but effective:

Altar space dressed for Beltane. Three tulips (one yellow, one red, one purple) sit in a vase to the left and behind three glass votive candle holders containing lit tea lights. Behind them but to the right is an oracle card with a woman wearing the may landscape as a dress. In front of the candles are, from left to right, an oracle card titled the potent moon (depicting a green animal filled forest), a hearth stone with various stones and plant cuttings covering it, and an oracle card depicting a wren on a bow of hawthorn.

As the sun warms the earth and new life greets us at every turn, may we open ourselves to the world and welcome in all that this season has to offer.

*Yes, I did purposefully arange things so the project could be finished today and in a reasonable timeframe. No, it’s not cheating, it’s being deliberate about things, which is its own kind of magic.

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