Join us today at 11am as we celebrate Bealtaine live in Nashville! Celtic Kirtan with Eileen Bray & Friends takes place this morning at Mindful Nashville!
Là Bealtaine (pronounced law bee-yowl-tin-eh) or “Beltane" in English is generally celebrated on May 1st. This ancient and legendary festival has come to be known over the years as the festival of bright fires and new beginnings. It is sometimes called May Day. It takes place at the midway point on the Celtic calendar wheel between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. Historically this festival has been celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and The Isle of Man. The Celts honored the year in two halves: dark and light. The dark half began at Samhain (pronounced sow-on) traditionally the end of October or first week of November. The light half began with Bealtaine at the beginning of May. This was a time ripe with new birth and ripe possibilities.
The name Bealtaine or Beal-tine means “bright fire” and is also sometimes referred to as the Celtic Fire Festival. Understandably then, most of the rituals around Bealtaine involve FIRE. The largest gathering historically and in present times happens in Ireland every Bealtaine at the Sacred site and Heart Centre of Ireland, Uisneach (pronounced Ish-noch). The sights and sounds at this gathering are incredible to behold as folks come from all over the world to dance, sing, celebrate and revel in the potent fire energy signified by the huge bonfire on the center of the hill. (You can see some of these moments here www.uishneach.ie.) Back in olden days households would quench their fires in the hearth and relight them from the sacred ashes and embers of the ritualistic fire. The belief was that this would bring good fortune and abundance in the days and months ahead.
This time of year also signified a lot of work for our Celtic ancestors as crops needed to be sown and the animals had to be moved upland to make room. Often families split temporarily as the men stayed to plant the crops and the women and children moved the animals. The animals were traditionally moved between two fires to ensure they were protected from harm. This was a time of intense activity and anticipation for the bright and fertile months ahead. This was also a time for courtship as the long winter ended and men started to think about the following Winter marriage season.
From a mystical standpoint Bealtaine also signified a time in the unseen where the supernatural beings, the ‘Sidhe” ( pronounced shee) Faires, Elves and Pixies were particularly active. Of course the elementals love parties and they were honored with rituals as an integral part of the celebrations.
Other rituals involved decorating doors, windows and even livestock in white and yellow flowers symbolizing fire. In Ireland folks would create a “ May Bush “ which was a thorn branch or bushel decorated with flowers, ribbons, bright shells or lights. Scenes like this exist today around our Holy wells as people leave their prayer offerings on the Holy tree nearby. The Beltaine dew was also thought to have rejuvenative healing powers and maintain youthfulness.Thus women used to bathe their faces in the first dew on Bealtaine morning. Today it is heartwarming to see the revival in this ancient Celtic festival of optimism, merriment and fertility. The crowds at Uishneach get larger and larger every year as we once more embrace our ancient ways.
I am very grateful for my own journey Home through my Celtic Shamanic studies which have deepened my connection to my Celtic Soul and Heart and also to the "Hearth", the fire in each Irish household which is the "Heart" center of our homes. This evening at our Celtic Kirtan performance we will bring this Hearth to Nashville as we celebrate together nestled in the Fire and the energy of this powerful day of the bright fire “Beal-Tine".
The following is an ancient Bealtaine Blessing in Gaelic and English gathered in the mid 19th Century by folklorist Alexander Carmichael.
An Beannachadh Bealtaine (The Beltane Blessing)
Beannaich, a Thrianailt fhioir nach gann,
Be-an-ach a-hreailt ear noch gown
(Bless, O Threefold true and bountiful)
Mi fein, mo cheile agus mo chlann,
Me fane mo khayla ogus mo khlan
(Myself, my spouse and my children,)
Mo chlann mhaoth's am mathair chaomh 'n an ceann,
Mo khlan way’s om mawhar kay-ov on kee-ann
(My tender children and their beloved mother at their head,)
Air chlar chubhr nan raon, air airidh chaon nam beann,
Ayre khlawr kuv-r non ray-on ,ayre ayre-igh kay-on nom ban
(On the fragrant plain, at the gay mountain sheiling,)
Air chlar chubhr nan raon, air airidh chaon nam beam.
Ayre khlawr kuv-r non ray-on ,ayre i-righ khay-on non be-om
(On the fragrant plain, at the gay mountain sheiling.)
Gach ni na m' fhardaich, no ta 'na m' shealbh,
Goch nee na m’ordee-och no taw na mee-al-av
(Everything within my dwelling or in my possession,)
Gach buar is barr, gach tan is tealbh,
Goch bu-or is bar,goch ton is tal-av
(All kine and crops, all flocks and corn,)
Bho Oidhche Shamhna chon Oidhche Bheallt,
Vo eeh-ha how-na hon eeh-ha vee-owlt
(From Hallow Eve to Beltane Eve,)
Piseach maith, agus beannachd mallt,
Pish-och mah ogus bee-an ocht mau-ilt
(With goodly progress and gentle blessing,)
Bho mhuir, gu muir, agus bun gach allt,
Vo wee-ar go mee-ar ogus bon gakh aw-ilt
(From sea to sea, and every river mouth,)
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