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The Wheel of the Year consists of eight
Sabbats. Four are Solar in nature, and four are Lunar in nature; all mark the
passing of the year with natural milestones. All Sabbats are major or minor, the
major Sabbats being Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh. The minor Sabbats are Yule
(Winter Solstice), Ostara (Spring Equinox), Litha (Summer Solstice) and Mabon (Autumn
Equinox). It is through these Sabbats that witches through out the world mark the
passing of the year with celebration and reverence for the deities and events that each
represents. The above named holidays are marked by witches in the Northern
Hemisphere. The witches in the Southern Hemisphere reverse the Sabbats due to the opposite
The Beltaine season of April 30-May 1 is
unique. It includes:
A Pagan Sabbat: Beltaine, usually celebrated on or near
the evening of April 30. Mainly celebrated by
Two Christian holy days:
A secular celebration, May Day.
A Welsh festival: Nos Galon Mai, The Eastwind Sabbat which
Begins Sundown, April 30. This is the Festival of the beginning of Summer. Our
Georgia Pagans -Witches & Druids celebrate Beltaine in different ways.
There is a great deal of misinformation
circulated about this festival; almost as much as with Halloween. Read the following
information and then go to the links to arm yourself with true information.
There are four great festivals of the Witch's calendar.
The two greatest of these are Nos Galon Gaeof (Halloween - the beginning of winter)
and Nos Galon Mai (May Day - the beginning of summer). These two festivals are
opposite each other on the wheel of the year, and divide the year into halves.
Halloween (also called Samhain) is the Celtic New Year and is generally considered the
more important of the two, though May Day runs a close second. Indeed, in some areas
-- notably Wales -- it is considered the great holiday.
Nos Galon Mai, also called May Day, Beltainne:
(pronounced Bel-tinna, also known as Beltain, Beltane, May Day etc.), is a Sabbat celebrating fertility and the union of the
young God and the Goddess. This is a wonderful celebration of the love between
the God and Goddess. It is their sacred marriage. (This is where the God and Goddess
concieve the spring for the following year born at Imbolc.) Celebrated with your loved
one, now is the time to lay in the fertile soil and germinate those seeds you planted. In
Celtic mythology this is the beginning of summer, or the growing time. Colours for
this sabbat: Red and White (red for Her womb and white for His semen. It's a fertility
thing), and green for the background.
At this time, life is renewing itself. Birds and
animals are mating. In the fields, newly planted seeds are beginning to grow.
Great fires are lit honoring the fertility God Belenos. Some leap the fires to show
the exuberance of the season. Maypoles are erected and bright ribbons are entwined
around it. The Maypole, a phallic symbol, represents the masculine. The soft,
colorful ribbons represent the feminine. The union of the two symbolizes the union
of the God and Goddess. This is the time to fertilize your dreams with
action. It is legend that children conceived at Beltane were gifted by the gods.
Nos Galon Mai ushers in the fifth month
of the modern calendar year, the month of May. This month is named in honor of the goddess
Maia, originally a Greek mountain nymph, later identified as the most beautiful of the
Seven Sisters, the Pleiades. By Zeus, she is also the mother of Hermes, god of magic.
Maia's parents were Atlas and Pleione, a sea nymph.
The old Celtic name for May Day is Beltane (in its most popular Anglicized form), which is
derived from the Irish Gaelic 'Bealtaine' or the Scottish Gaelic 'Bealtuinn', meaning
'Bel-fire', the fire of the Celtic god of light (Bel, Beli or Belinus). He, in turn, may
be traced to the Middle Eastern god Baal.
Other names for May Day include: Cetsamhain ('opposite Samhain'), Walpurgisnacht (in
Germany), and Roodmas (the medieval Church's name). This last came from Church Fathers who
were hoping to shift the common people's allegiance from the Maypole (Pagan lingham -
symbol of life) to the Holy Rood (the Cross - Roman instrument of death).
Incidentally, there is no historical justification for calling May 1st 'Lady Day'. For
hundreds of years, that title has been proper to the Vernal Equinox (approx. March 21st),
another holiday sacred to the Great Goddess. The nontraditional use of 'Lady Day'
for May 1st is quite recent (within the last 15 years), and seems to be confined to
America, where it has gained widespread acceptance among certain segments of the Craft
population. This rather startling departure from tradition would seem to indicate an
unfamiliarity with European calendar customs, as well as a lax attitude toward scholarship
among too many Pagans. A simple glance at a dictionary ('Webster's 3rd' or O.E.D.),
encyclopedia ('Benet's'), or standard mythology reference (Jobe's 'Dictionary of
Mythology, Folklore & Symbols') would confirm the correct date for Lady Day as the
By Celtic reckoning, the actual Beltane celebration begins on sundown of the preceding
day, April 30, because the Celts always figured their days from sundown to sundown. And
sundown was the proper time for Druids to kindle the great Bel-fires on the tops of the
nearest beacon hill (such as Tara Hill, Co. Meath, in Ireland). These 'need-fires' had
healing properties, and sky-clad Witches would jump through the flames to ensure
protection.Frequently, cattle would also be driven
between two such bon-fires (oak wood was the favorite fuel for them) and, on the morrow,
they would be taken to their summer pastures.
Other May Day customs include: walking the circuit of one's property ('beating the
bounds'), repairing fences and boundary markers, processions of chimney-sweeps and milk
maids, archery tournaments, morris dances, sword dances, feasting, music, drinking, and
maidens bathing their faces in the dew of May morning to retain their youthful beauty.
In the words of Witchcraft writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, the Beltane celebration was
principly a time of '...unashamed human sexuality and fertility.' Such associations
include the obvious phallic symbolism of the Maypole and riding the hobby horse. Even a
seemingly innocent children's nursery rhyme, 'Ride a cock horse to Banburry Cross...'
retains such memories. And the next line '...to see a fine Lady on a white horse' is
a reference to the annual ride of 'Lady Godiva' though Coventry. Every year for
nearly three centuries, a sky-clad village maiden (elected Queen of the May) enacted this
Pagan rite, until the Puritans put an end to the custom.
The Puritans, in fact, reacted with pious horror to most of the May Day rites, even making
Maypoles illegal in 1644. They especially attempted to suppress the 'greenwood marriages'
of young men and women who spent the entire night in the forest, staying out to greet the
May sunrise, and bringing back boughs of flowers and garlands to decorate the village the
One angry Puritan wrote that men 'doe use commonly to
runne into woodes in the night time, amongst maidens, to set bowes, in so muche, as I have
hearde of tenne maidens whiche went to set May, and nine of them came home with childe.'
And another Puritan complained that, of the girls who go into the woods, 'not the least
one of them comes home again a virgin.'
Long after the Christian form of marriage (with its insistence on sexual monogamy) had
replaced the older Pagan handfasting, the rules of strict fidelity were always relaxed for
the May Eve rites. Names such as Robin Hood, Maid Marian, and Little John played an
important par in May Day folklore, often used as titles for the dramatis personae of the
celebrations. And modern surnames such as Robinson, Hodson, Johnson, and Godkin may attest
to some distant May Eve spent in the woods.
These wildwood antics have inspired writers such as
Oh, do not tell the Priest our plight, Or he would call it a sin; But we have been out in the woods all night, A-conjuring Summer in!
And Lerner and Lowe:
It's May! It's May! The lusty month of May!... Those dreary vows that ev'ryone takes, Ev'ryone breaks. Ev'ryone makes divine mistakes! The lusty month of May!
It is certainly no accident that Queen Guinevere's
'abduction' by Meliagrance occurs on May 1st when she and the court have gone a-Maying, or
that the usually efficient Queen's Guard, on this occasion, rode unarmed.
Some of these customs seem virtually identical to the old Roman feast of flowers, the
Floriala, three days of unrestrained sexuality which began at sundown April 28th and
reached a crescendo on May 1st.
There are other, even older, associations with May 1st in Celtic mythology. According to
the ancient Irish 'Book of Invasions', the first settler of Ireland, Partholan, arrived on
May 1st; and it was on May 1st that the plague came which destroyed his people. Years
later, the Tuatha De Danann were conquered by the Milesians on May Day. In Welsh myth, the
perennial battle between Gwythur and Gwyn for the love of Creudylad took place each May
Day; and it was on May Eve that Teirnyon lost his colts and found Pryderi. May Eve was
also the occasion of a fearful scream that was heard each year throughout Wales, one of
the three curses of the Coranians lifted by the skill of Lludd and Llevelys.
By the way, due to various calendrical changes down through the centuries, the traditional
date of Beltane is not the same as its astrological date. This date, like all
astronomically determined dates, may vary by a day or two depending on the year.
However, it may be calculated easily enough by determining the date on which the sun is at
15 degrees Taurus (usually around May 5th). British Witches often refer to this date as
Old Beltane, and folklorists call it Beltane O.S. ('Old Style'). Some Covens prefer to
celebrate on the old date and, at the very least, it gives one options. If a Coven is
operating on 'Pagan Standard Time' and misses May 1st altogether, it can still throw a
viable Beltane bash as long as it's before May 5th. This may also be a consideration for
Covens that need to organize activities around the week-end.
This date has long been considered a 'power point' of the Zodiac, and is symbolized by the
Bull, one of the 'tetramorph' figures featured on the Tarot cards, the World and the Wheel
of Fortune. (The other three symbols are the Lion, the Eagle, and the Spirit.) Astrologers
know these four figures as the symbols of the four 'fixed' signs of the Zodiac (Taurus,
Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius), and these naturally align with the four Great Sabbats of
Witchcraft. Christians have adopted the same iconograp-writers.
But for most, it is May 1st that is the great holiday of flowers, Maypoles, and greenwood
frivolity. It is no wonder that, as recently as 1977, Ian Anderson could pen the following
lyrics for Jethro Tull:
For the May Day is the great day, Sung along the old straight track. And those who ancient lines did ley Will heed this song that calls them back.
The High Priest and High
Priestess or Maiden set up the altar in the North of the Circle. The
Cauldron is in the center of the Circle. The entrance to the circle will
be in the Northeast. None will enter or leave the circle except by the
northeast gateway. The four watchtower candles will be placed at the
perimeter of the Circle, E, S, W, N.
During the Spring and Summer the High Priestess will cast the circle;
during the Autumn and Winter the High Priest. Both are Inside the Circle
as they cast it. The High Priest/ess casts the circle with the Rod,
beginning in the East and proceeding Deosil thrice around the Circle.
The High Priest/ess then places the Rod at the foot of the Altar and The
Circle is then consecrated (purified).
The High Priest/ess takes the salt from the Altar and proceeds Deosil
three times around the Circle saying: "Creature of Salt where thou art cast, no spell or adverse purpose last. not in complete accord with me, as I do will, so mote it be."
The High Priest/ess takes the south candle from the Altar and proceeds
Deosil three times around the Circle saying: "Creature of Fire this charge I lay, no evil in thy presence stay, Not in complete accord with me, as I do will, so mote it be."
The High Priest/ess takes the water from the Altar and proceeds Deosil
three times around the Circle saying: "Creature of Water where thou art cast, no spell or adverse purpose last, not in complete accord with me, as I do will, so mote it be."
The High Priest/ess takes the incense from the Altar and proceeds Deosil
three times around the Circle saying: "Creature of Air this charge I lay, no evil in thy presence stay, not in complete accord with me, as I do will so mote it be."
The High Priest/ess then lights the God and Goddess candles, Left to
Right, saying: "Oh gracious Cerridwen, goddess of all things, provider of Love and
Happiness, be with us here as we celebrate your season.
Oh great Cernunnos, god of nature and the hunt, powerful god of Light,
be with us here as we celebrate your season."
and then the maiden candle is lit.
The High Priest and High Priestess walk to the northeastern gateway and
welcome the Maiden and Candlebearer into the circle, Challenging them
with: H.P./s: "Halt, who goes there?" Seeker: "It is I, (Name), a seeker." H.P./s: "What are the passwords, (Name)?" Seeker: Gives Passwords (If second Level or higher, the seeker whispers
The High Priest/ess then makes the sign of admittance on the forehead of
the seeker and says: "I have a third password for you" (whispers reply) The seeker is then kissed on each cheek or the mouth if appropriate. All
others are then admitted in like manner. The members assemble, facing
East, with the High Priest and High Priestess standing in the East of
the Circle. The Maiden then rings the Bell three times. The High Priest
hits the ground three times with the Rod.
The High Priest raises his arms toward the Eastern Watchtower, makes the
sign of the invoking Pentagram with his Athame and says: "All hail to thee, Amaetheon! O Great guardian who stands at the East of
the world. Thou art lord within the realm of Lugh..Golden bright and
wise as the Owl. We, the children of light, bid thee come forth to join
us at this holy Sabbat in the sacred grove of the wise."
The High Priest lights the East watchtower candle and then hits the
ground three times with the Rod. All say:"So mote it be!" The High Priest walks to the South watchtower. He makes the sign of the
invoking Pentagram with his Athame and says: "All hail to thee Govannon! O great guardian who stands at the South of
the World. Thou art lord within the realm of the serpent, fiery bright
and quick as the cat. We, the children of light bid thee come forth to
join us at this holy Sabbat in the sacred grove of the wise."
The High Priest lights the South watchtower candle and then hits the
ground three times with the Rod. All say:"So mote it be!"
The High Priest walks to the West watchtower. He makes the sign of the
invoking Pentagram with his Athame and says: "All hail to thee Dylan! O Great guardian who stands at the West of the
world. Thou art lord within the realm of the Lady, silvery bright and
triple starred. We, the children of light, bid thee come forth to join
us at this holy Sabbat in the sacred grove of the wise."
The High Priest lights the West watchtower candle and then hits the
ground three times with the Rod. All say:"So mote it be!"
The High Priest walks to the North watchtower. He makes the sign of the
invoking Pentagram with his Athame and says: "All hail to thee HU! O Great Guardian who stands at the North of the
world. Thou art lord within the realm of the Horned One, shining bright
and swift as the wind. We, the children of light, bid thee come forth to
join us at this holy Sabbat in the sacred grove of the wise."
The High Priest lights the North watchtower candle and then hits the
ground three times with the Rod. All say:"So mote it be!"
The Rod is then laid to the front of the Altar with the silver tip
The Maiden then hands the elf fire to the High Priest who lights the
Balefire which is laid under the cauldron if outdoors and in the
cauldron if indoors. The maiden then replaces the elf fire upon the
Altar and resumes her place. As the Balefire flares up, all face toward
it in a Circle.
Their hands shall be outstretched with palms down over the fire. The
High Priest leads the intonation: (H.P.): "I O Evo He!" (All): "I O Evo He!" (H.P.): "I O Evo He!" (All): "I O Evo He!" (H.P.): "I O Evo He!" (All): "I O Evo He!"
All now face to the West, raise their Thames in the Goddess salute and
say: "Cerridwen - Cerridwen - Cerridwen! Hail Danu queen of light! Cerridwen - Cerridwen - Cerridwen! Hail Danu queen of Night!"
The High Priest and High Priestess will now proceed to the front of the
Altar. High Priestess to the West of the High Priest...Both place their
Athame blades together on the Pentacle of the Moon. The maiden stands to
the East of the High Priest, holding her candle aloft, the Candlebearer
stands to the west of the High Priestess holding his candle aloft. The
High Priest and High Priestess intone the Moon Invocation: "Ma-Aum-Ma-Aum-Ma-Aum" The High Priest then says: "By the holy Guardians Malcha, Muriel, Barcheil, Hamael, Advechiel, and
Zuriel, I do conjure thee O Cain! Thou art imprisoned within the hollow
of the moon as was decreed by those mighty ones. Do not detain our lady
from us, or seek to imprison her with thy self. Release the spirit of
Diana that she may be free to join her daughter and High Priestess,
"Within this sacred grove will our goddess dance with among us. Only
when, at last, the spirit of Diana is with her children shall thou be
All Say:"So Mote it Be!"
If the Moon Crown is to be worn, it is now consecrated and placed on the
head of the High Priestess. The maiden takes the wand and kneels in
front of the High Priestess, holding the Wand upright. The High Priest
holds the moon crown over the wand and says: "Lady with the moon upon thy brow, quicken the moon that I wear now." The High Priest takes the moon crown and places it upon the head of the
High Priestess. The maiden arises and touches the moon symbol with the
tip of the wand. She then replaces the wand upon the altar.
All assume their former position. The High Priestess faces west (as do
all others.) All give the Salute. The High Priestess stands in the
pentacle position and gives the charge of the Goddess: "Cerridwen-Cerridwen-Cerridwen!"
H.P: "Listen to the words of the great mother, who was of old also known
among humankind as Diana, Artemis, Astarte, Brigid, Dione, Melusine,
Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Arianrod, Bride and by many other names."
H.Ps: "At mine Altar, the youths of Lacedemon in Sparta made due
sacrifice. Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and
better it be when the moon is full, then gather ye in some secret place
and there adore the spirit of me, who am Queen of all the Witcheries.
"There shall Ye assemble, who are feign to learn all sorceries who have
not as yet won my deepest secrets. To these will I teach that which is
as yet unknown. And ye shall be free from all slavery and as a sign that
ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites and ye shall sing,
feast, make music and love, all in my presence. "For mine is the ecstasy of the Spirit and mine is also joy on earth.
For my law is love unto all beings. Keep pure your highest ideals,
strive ever toward them. Let none stop you or turn you aside. For mine
is the secret that opens upon the door of youth and mine is the Cup of
the Wine of Life and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail
of Immortality. I am the Gracious Goddess who gives the gift of joy unto
the heart of man upon the earth.
"I give the knowledge of the Spirit Eternal, and beyond death I give
peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before. Nor do I
demand aught or sacrifice, for behold I am the Mother of all things, and
my love is poured out upon the earth."
H.P: "Hear the words of the Star Goddess. She, in the dust of whose feet
are the Hosts of Heaven, whose body encircleth the universe."
H.Ps: "I who am the beauty of the Green Earth, and the White Moon
amongst the stars and the mystery of the Waters, and the desire of the
heart of man, I call unto thy soul to arise and come to me. For I am the
Soul of Nature who giveth life to the Universe; from me all things
proceed and unto me all things must return.
"Beloved of the Gods and men, whose innermost divine self shall be
enfolded in the raptures of the Infinite, let my worship be in your
heart. Rejoiceth, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my
rituals; therefore, let there be beauty and strength - power and
compassion - honor and humility, mirth and reverence - within you. And
thou who thinkest to seek me, know that thy seeking and yearning avail
thee not unless thou knowest the mystery, that if that which thou
seekest thou findeth not within thyself, thou wilt never find it without
For behold - I have been with thee from the beginning, and I have been
with thee from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end
All say: "I O Evo He! Blessed Be! I O Evo He!" All now face the cauldron as the High Priest will now kneel before the
cauldron facing north on his left knee. His arms are crossed upon his
chest, left arm over right arm. The High Priestess will stand behind the
High Priest, holding the horn helmet to his head, and he will cast
glowing charcoal into the cauldron, the handful of magical catalyst. The
High Priestess will say: "Out of the north wind, oh mighty of days, kneel in front of the
cauldron blaze, Join the goddess, thy lady above, join the children of
laughter and love."
The High Priestess places the helmet upon his head. He crosses his hands
in the god position, holding the Athame in one hand and the wand in the
The grove says: "I O Evo He! I O Evo He! I O Evo He!"
He now stands, faces north and says: "Answer us, oh ancient horned one, provender and power are thine. Hear and answer gracious goddess, grant us laughter, wit and wine. Descend on us, oh thou, of blessings, come among us, make us glad. Thou are chief of all creation, why, oh why should we be sad? Beam on us, on joyous Bacchus, banish heavy-hearted hate. Accept our craft, oh Greatest Mother, let cheerful brightness be our fate. So mote it be."
The High Priest/ess steps in front of the altar and raises the water and
wine, facing north. All say: "Here we bring new water, here we bring old wine, For to worship great Cerridwen, as the moon doth shine. Sing reign of a fair maid with gold upon her toe, Open ye the moon gate and let the west wind blow. Sing reign of a fair maid with gold upon her chin, Open ye the north gate and let Cerridwen in. Sing levez dew, levez dew, ye water and ye wine, Hail to fair Cerridwen, whose crescent moon doth shine." The High Priest/ess raises the Meal and Salt. All say: "Here the dish of meal we bring, here the salt of earth, Blessed meal of laboring, Blessed salt of worth. Fairy queen steals through the night, silver wings aglow with dew, Dance ye wee folk, in delight drwy y nos canu, drwy y nos canu."
Following the consecration of salt and meal offer a few grains of each
to the four watchtowers. The High Priest/ess raises the plate of cakes
and all say: "Here the Sabbat cakes of corn baked upon the hearth blessed be Cerridwen's feast Dance in joy and mirth."
The High Priest/ess raises the bowl of honey, and all say: "Here we bring honey sweet, gathered from the sacred grove. Dawnsio, Dawnsio little bees! Keep to your hive and do not roam."
Following consecration of the honey, the High Priest will perform the
blessings of the four watchtowers. All will stand and face East at a
signal from the High Priest/ess. The Watchtower Guardians are now
released. The maiden will extinguish each watchtower candle as the
release is given by the High Priest/ess. Facing East, the High Priest/ess
will make the sign of the banishing Pentagram in the air with the Athame
and say: "We thank thee O Guardian of the watchtower of the East. Thou hast blest
the Sabbat of Cerridwen/ Cernunnos (depending on the season) May we
depart in peace, love and harmony until we meet again."
Grove says:"So mote it be!"
This is repeated South, West and North. All will then leave the circle
by the northeast gateway and wait respectfully outside while the High
Priest/ess proceeds to close the circle. The altar candles will be
extinguished left to right. Take the maiden candle and walk deosil once
around the circle saying: "By the holy flame, this circle disappears and can be found no more. All things are as they were from the beginning of time, except the Magick worked herein by ritual and rhyme."
Following the circle, some members of the Grove should immediately
scatter the meal and salt and crumble any remaining cakes for the birds.
Water from the circle is poured out upon the earth in the East. Food or
drink may now be served as a coven/grove feast or Magick may now be
worked. All must help in the cleaning up of the circle in the name of
the lord and lady.
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