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Beltane Bonfire on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland

Beltane , also Beltene , Beltaine ( Old Irish ), neuirische form: Bhealltainn or Bealtaine [ bɑ: l̪ˠt̪ˠənʲə ] is, in the Irish calendar of summertime. The festival is also called Cétsamuin ( "the first Summer" welsh Cyntefin ), the name referred to the beginning of the summer. Beltane is celebrated starting the night before and on May 1st . Another Cymric name is nos Calan Mei or nos Calan Haf .

Beltane, along with Imbolc (February 1st), Lughnasadh (August 1st) and Samhain (November 1st), is one of the four great Irish festivals created through certain agricultural work.

Bealtaine is the name of the month of May in today's Irish .


The etymology of the word Beltane is not clear, it could be derived from bel ("bright fire"). A connection with the deities Beli Mawr and Belenus , or with Bile , Miled's father , is assumed. On this day, as well as on the other three important festivals Imbolc , Lugnasad and Samhain , the inhabitants of the Elven Hills ( Sídhe ) can be seen by the people of the upper world. Originally, Beltaine was not only the summer festival, but also the beginning of the Celtic year.

The Beltane celebrations at the beginning of summer show some analogies to today's traditions such as the “ dance in May ” or the Easter fire . The traditional maypole probably also originated here, as the Celts decorated the houses and stables in Beltane with fresh greenery and celebrated with maypoles, May fiefs and May queens . This can be seen in Tralee until recently, for example . The choice of the May Queen, which is still practiced today, may be a last reminder of the worship of a goddess who gave fertility to the land. Great importance is attached to these celebrations in the Arthurian tradition .


At Beltane, all hearth fires were extinguished until the last century and then re-lit with the help of a flint ( Scottish Gaelic tein eigin , "emergency fire"). This is supposed to remind of the landing of the Túatha Dé Danann in Ireland and the burning of their ships. Likewise, the Partholon and later the Milesians are said to have landed on May 1st. In the glossary Sanas Cormaic ("Cormacs Whisper") of Bishop Cormac it is reported that in Beltane the cattle were driven between two fires under the supervision of druids in order to prevent diseases. The most important fire was lit in central Ireland at the Oenach Festival in Uisnech and is reminiscent of Partholon's first fireplace on the island. Driving between fires was still practiced in Ireland and parts of Scotland until the 19th century.


Beltane Festival Fire in Edinburgh 2012
Procession during the Beltane Festival Fire in Edinburgh 2012

In neo-paganism , the name Beltane or Beltaine is used for one of the eight annual festivals. Although the holiday makes use of some features (such as the bonfires) of the Gaelic Beltane, it is more closely related to the May celebrations (e.g. dance around the maypole) in terms of both meaning (emphasis on fertility) and rituals. Some pagans celebrate Beltane by performing the act between the Lord and Lady of May. Gerald Gardner , one of the most important initiators of Wicca , refers to Beltane as "May Eve".

The festival was revived and reinterpreted in later times by neo- Pagans, u. a. as a mystical union of “god” and “goddess”, the beginning of growth in nature , increase in the power of fairies and elves , time of chaos , “wild energy ”, love and union .

Beltane has been celebrated on Calton Hill in Edinburgh in the old Celtic tradition since 1988. It is hosted by the Beltane Fire Society and is visited by up to 15,000 people annually. Beltane is also used by neo-pagan groups in Germany, e.g. B. celebrated at the Externsteine .

Many neo-Pagans celebrate Beltane (together with the festivals Imbolc (full moon of the 2nd moon), Lughnasadh ( black moon of the 8th moon) and Samhain (black moon of the 11th moon)) not according to the solar calendar , but the lunar calendar . According to this, Beltane does not fall on May 1st, but on the full moon of the 5th moon (5th full moon after Yule ).

Musical implementation

In music, including in the metal scene (especially in pagan metal , folk metal and black metal ) as well as in Celtic folk and pagan folk, the Celtic annual cycle plays a special role. Bands from the black metal scene sing about this in part in their song lyrics. A successful Czech black metal band is called Beltaine. The pagan folk group Omnia deals with this topic in their song "Tine Bealtaine". The Middle Franconian pagan metal band "Thy Wicked", which mainly specializes in texts from Nordic mythology, also released a song called "Beltane" on their debut album. The Canadian singer of Celtic origin Loreena McKennitt contributes to the background with the song "Huron Beltane Firedance", published in 1989 on Parallel Dreams . Ian Anderson, the lyrical and musical head of the band Jethro Tull , also describes the "Beltane", released in 2003 as a bonus track in the remastered version of the 1977 album "Songs From The Wood". The song “A Good Beltane Fire” by the US singer Alexander James Adams is also dedicated to the festival.


See also

Web links

Commons : Beltane  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Bernhard Maier: Lexicon of the Celtic religion and culture . -km, p. 42.
  2. Helmut Birkhan: Celts. Attempt at a complete representation of their culture. P. 790 f.
  3. ^ Ingeborg Clarus: Celtic myths. Man and his otherworld. P. 92.
  4. Helmut Birkhan: Celts. Attempt at a complete representation of their culture. P. 792 f.
  5. ^ Ronald Hutton, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford University Press, 1996. pp. 218-225
  6. accessed May 24, 2014