May 1st is Beltaine, one of the four Celtic fire festivals of the calendar year (along with Imbolc, Lughnasadh, and Samhain). In Irish folk tradition Beltaine marks the coming of summer and the annual return of the aos sí, supernatural beings who are ambiguously ancient Celtic deities, nature spirits, and ancestors of modern Irish and Irish diaspora. Beltaine is a time to petition the spirits for blessings of a bountiful harvest. But metaphorically, it serves as a reminder for us to return to the intentions we set at the beginning year and actively tend to them. In doing so, we can reap their future benefits in autumn – just like we would a garden.
In my own life, 2020 began with a personal intention to explore forms of forgiveness in relation to wounds that take lifetimes and generations to heal. Ancestral and cultural trauma that is greater than a single individual alone. The intention that began with addressing a family history of alcoholism ended up including healing deeply ingrained wounds around familial homophobia (I recently came out as bisexual). And where I landed in my exploration of forgiveness is studying the art of the blessing, which, like most Irish folk magic, is at the heart of Beltaine.
A blessing is anything that restores someone or something to a state of wholeness, wellbeing, and emotional security regardless of the circumstances that may surround them. They can come in the form of prayers, talismans, songs, solvents (like oil or water), burnt offerings, even actions, such as making the sign of the cross.
The good news is that anyone can perform a blessing. The trick, however, is learning how to bypass the petty fancies of the ego. Blessings are created in the quiet intelligence of the heart. I like to think of them as emotional portals that quicken the time it takes us to heal. Beginning from a space of intuitively knowing what is needed and allowing the heart to guide us forward, a blessing helps us move through challenges with more ease and lucidity.
But blessings don’t always look the way we’d like them to appear, and they require a bit of sacrifice from the ego. In my personal work around forgiveness, this has meant setting aside my lifelong fears of abandonment and instead asserting myself more than I have in the past. Forgiveness in the sense is less about yielding to unhealthy family dynamics, and more about forgiving myself for internalized shame. My safety was threatened. I was right to be scared. And a blessing of empowerment is found in the challenge of reaffirming my boundaries. The beauty of blessings lies in their ability to open worlds of potential and hope that cannot be perceived prior to their arrival.
Beltaine 2020 feels like an especially appropriate time to work with blessings. Humans collectively live in a different reality now, and we’re all being challenged to rapidly adjust with it. Our social, economic, and political systems that were already broken are crumbling further. And I sincerely believe the best thing we all can do in this time is to have the courage to dream big about cultivating that which will bring us sustainable joy into the future. And that’s the exact spirit of Beltaine: to laugh, dance, dream, and welcome the blessings of abundant nourishment. Below is a simple spell for inner abundance, in honor of the Beltaine season.
Bonfires are traditionally lit at Beltaine to bring protection and fortune. Cattle would be driven around the fire, and people would jump over the flames. This spell reimagines the magic of the bonfire with the use of a single candle.
Supplies you’ll need:
- A biodegradable offering, like honey
- A prayer
- Music that elevates the emotions with singing and dancing
- Olive oil or sunflower oil
- 1 unscented candle.
- Begin by taking ten minutes to quietly journal about what has come up for you during the first quarter of the year. Are there new insights that are troubling you? Any redefined hopes? Where is your intuition pointing you to apply yourself at this time?
- Leave some honey or other biodegradable offering outside to feed the spirits of Beltaine. Beltaine is about sweetening our enjoyment of life with the help of nature spirits. Therefore, it’s common courtesy to sweeten theirs as well. The aos sí, who return at this time of year, are understood to like honey, cream, and butter.
- Say a prayer to whatever spirits or deities you work with, petitioning them to bless whatever was clarified in the journaling exercise.
- Consecrate yourself by singing and dancing to music that invokes feelings of joy and festivity, which, again, is the essence of Beltaine. Emotional clarity plays a big part in manifesting intentions. If you honestly feel happy and ecstatic, it will show in the magic. “Big Time Sensuality” by Björk is a track that lifts me up during this pandemic. Sing and dance for however long it takes you to feel excited about the future.
- Anoint the candle with the oil and light it as you repeat the intended blessing. Depending on the size of the candle, it can be burned in one sitting or it can be lit every day until the wick runs out.
Remember, blessings don’t always appear the way we expect them to look. But if we discern the opportunities for growth they provide, we learn to recognize our value and inner wealth. And from this space of wholeness, we’re better prepared to navigate external challenges with more grace and ease.
We owe it to ourselves to enjoy life fully.