for the Sabbats
Beltane is one of the four "fire festivals" or "greater sabbats".
Although the holiday may use features of the Gaelic Bealtaine, such as the
bonfire, it bears more relation to the Germanic May Day festival, both in its
significance (focusing on fertility) and its rituals (such as maypole dancing).
Some Wiccans celebrate 'High Beltaine' by enacting a ritual union of the May
Lord and Lady
Beltane or Beltaine (origin Old Irish) is the anglicised spelling of Bealtaine
or Bealltainn the Gaelic names for either the month of May or the festival that
takes place on the first day of May.
In Irish Gaelic, the month of May is known as Mí Bhealtaine or Bealtaine, and
the festival as Lá Bealtaine ('day of Bealtaine' or, 'May Day'). In Scottish
Gaelic, the month is known as either (An) Cèitean or a' Mhàigh, and the festival
is known as Latha Bealltainn or simply Bealltainn. The feast was also known as
Céad Shamhain or Cétshamhainin from which the word Céitean derives.
As an ancient Gaelic festival, Bealtaine was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and
the Isle of Man, though there were similar festivals held at the same time in
the other Celtic countries of Wales, Brittany and Cornwall. Bealtaine and
Samhain were the leading terminal dates of the civil year in Ireland though the
latter festival was the more important. The festival survives in folkloric
practices in the Celtic Nations and the Irish diaspora, and has experienced a
degree of revival in recent decades.
The word Beltane derives directly from the Old Irish Beltain, which later
evolved into the Modern Irish Bealtaine. In Scottish Gaelic it is spelled
Bealltainn. Both are from Old Irish Beltene ('bright fire') from belo-te(p)niâ.
Beltane was formerly spelled 'Bealtuinn' in Scottish Gaelic; in Manx it is spelt
'Boaltinn' or 'Boaldyn'.
In Modern Irish, Oidhche Bealtaine or Oíche Bealtaine is May Eve, and Lá
Bealtaine is May Day. Mí na Bealtaine, or simply Bealtaine is the name of the
month of May.