Beltaine is the anglicised name for the Gaelic May Day festival. Most commonly it is held on 1 May, or about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Beltaine signifies the beginning of summer.
1. Its name appears to derive from the Old Irish words Bel taine meaning ‘bright fire’. Bonfires played an important part in the activities and were often lit on prominent local landmarks.
Read a book with a character with fire magic, or with fire/red/orange on the cover, or where there is a fire.
2. Witches and the fairies were also believed to be unusually active during this period and a number of actions could be taken to protect your home and especially your livestock. Milk could be poured across the threshold of the house or byre to prevent entry by the ‘wee folk’ or more gruesomely the cattle could be driven to the nearest ringfort or “fairyfort” and some of their blood spilt on the ground to appease the spirits.
Read a book with a witch/wizard, or a book with fae characters, or where a character preforms a ritual of some form (ritaul is open to your own interpretation).
3. May flowers, such as primrose, gorse or hawthorn blossoms, were gathered before dawn and placed in bundles on door posts to ward off evil. Similarly sprigs of rowan or hawthorn could be placed over the byre door or even across the horns of the cows to prevent ‘milk thieves’, the prevalent belief being that someone could steal your summer’s milk supplies through the incantation of specific curses.
Read a book with flowers on the cover, or a cover you think is pretty, or where a character casts a curse.
4.‘May bushes’were also erected in farm yards and around villages. These normally consisted of hawthorn branches that had been driven into the ground and then decorated with rags and other items.
Read a book where someone decorates, or where the characters live in or visit a village, or with trees or foliage on the cover.
5. Some traditions also surrounded human fertility, such as the creation of May babies. In this curious custom a figure of a female (the May baby) was placed on a pole and then covered in flowers, ribbons and straw. A man and a woman, also dressed up in costume, would then dance around the figure and make vulgar displays to the on watching crowd. It was believed that attending this spectacle would help people trying to conceive.
Read a book where someone gets laid, or has kids/is pregnant, or where characters attend an event.
6. Beltane celebrations had largely died out by the mid-20th century, although some of its customs continued and in some places it has been revived as a cultural event. Since the late 20th century, Celtic neopagans and Wiccans have observed Beltane, or something based on it, as a religious holiday. Neopagans in the Southern Hemisphere often celebrate Beltane at the other end of the year (around 1 November).
Read a book set in summer or winter, or set/published in the 20th century, or with a title/character name that begins with any letter in BELTAINE.
Read a book where there is a fire. Unmasqued 1/5/17
Read a book with a witch/wizard. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 10/5/17
Read a book with a cover you think is pretty. Hard Bitten 11/5/17
Read a book with trees or foliage on the cover. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children 15/5/17
Read a book where someone gets laid. Master of Seduction 4/5/17
Read a book set in summer or winter, or set/published in the 20th century. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency 9/5/17