When the gates of Beltane swing open on May 1, sunlight and blossom welcome the procession of the year into the green halls of summer. At Imbolc we rejoiced at the return of light; now we celebrate life, growth, love and sexuality: "the force that drives the green fuse through the flower," in the words of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.While the second part of Irish Beltane and Scottish Bealtuinn clearly means "fire," from the old Celtic word tene, linguists are uncertain as to whether Bel refers to Belenos, the Gaulish Apollo, or is simply derived from bel, meaning "brilliant."It might even derive from bil tene, or "lucky fire," because to jump between two Beltainefires was sure to bring good fortune, health to your livestock, and prosperity.
Gods of the Celts: Belenos
Belenos (Beh-ley-noss) was
a sun god who may have been connected with the festival of Beltaine.
His name means "bright" or "brilliant." The Romans called him Apollo
Belenos, after their god of the sun, but he seems to have existed as a
Celtic god in his own right before this period.
His cult extended from
northern Italy and up through Austria and Gaul, where there were
sanctuaries dedicated to him at healing springs, for the sun was
believed to have marvelous curative properties when associated with
water. A shrine to Belenos may still stand at Paimpont in the old
forest of Broceliande in Brittany, Gaul. In the clearing, the sacred
well known as the Fountain of Barentonbubbles up near an ancient
dolmen stone. The old name of the sacred well was Belenton, probably a
contraction of Bel-Nementon, the sacred grove of Belenos.
The Blessing of Fire
I'll tell you of a special festival,
The glorious dues of May-day;
Ale, roots, sweet whey,
And fresh curds to the fire.
-- Early Irish Calendar Poem
On Beltane Eve the druids
and their successors assembled on high hills with a view of the rising
sun. They came to raise the great fires that would bring the power of
the sun to Earth and to sanctify and purify the whole community and
their livestock in readiness for the new cycle. Fire was an interface
between the human race......
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