Other names for this holiday are Walpurgisnacht, May Eve, May Day.
The Celts kindled fires on hilltops on Beltain eve, using some of last year's wood to start the blaze. In Scotland people drew pieces of oatcake from a bag. Whoever got the scorch-marked cake was chosen to run between the twin bonfires or jump over the fire three times, invoking a plentiful harvest. Ashes were carried home as a blessing for homes and barns.
On the European mainland, too, fires on the high places signalled the faeries / fatas, the "good women" who fared to mountain heights on Walpurgisnacht to dance in the company of the Old Goddess. May Day is sacred to growing things, beauty, love and pleasure. Garlands were hung on faery trees or Maypoles, as people danced, sang played music, or slipped off to make love in the woods.
Copyright 2000 Max Dashu
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