Beltane, traditionally celebrated around the world during the first week of May, is one of the holidays of the ancient Pagan calendar. The Pagan calendar follows the pre-Christian cycle of the seasons that is based on what some call the Natural Religion or Earth-based practice. Also known as the Midspring holiday, Beltane has influenced Christian tradition and shows up as Holy Cross Day May 3. In political tradition it’s a holiday about labor and productivity; May Day, rather than of creation. There is a relationship, of course, but it’s abstracted.
The simplest meaning of Beltane is each spring, the Earth’s life is renewed, and we are given a fresh chance to live. While some people may view this metaphorically today, in earlier times there were no guarantees of surviving winter. Harsh climates throughout Europe and elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, and many unchecked diseases, compounded by lack of supplies and medicine, provided long and challenging months. Emerging with one’s life intact in the warmth and renewal of spring was something to celebrate.
That concept is not necessarily purely metaphorical in the Adirondacks. Winters are long here in the North Country. This past winter was especially so: there was snow on the ground here at HQ until the torrential rain hit last week. The Adirondack wildflowers are a few weeks behind last year’s bloom and the maple buds are just forming. In Adirondack lifestyle form, we celebrated Beltane and the coming season last night with a bonfire, wrapped in wool blankets, talking of warm sunny days.