April 30th is undoubtedly one of the oldest and most important spring holidays in Europe, and is known as Beltane or May Eve. The name itself is thought to have derived from a 1)Celtic word meaning “bright or sacred fire.” It is held to mark and celebrate the blossoming of spring.
It is a celebration of the fertility of the land and their animals. The main traditional element which was common to all Beltane festivals was the fire which gave it its name. All the fires of the community would be extinguished and a new, sacred fire was lit by either the village head or spiritual leader. From this source two bonfires were lit, and the animals of the community would be driven through or between them. It was believed that the smoke and flame of the fires would purify the herd, protecting them in the year to come and ensuring a good number of offspring. The inhabitants of the village would then take some of the fire to their homes and relight their 2)hearths, and dance 3)clockwise around the bonfires to ensure good 4)portents for them and their families.
Across England people would go May 5)Birching: getting 6)sprigs during 7)the dead of night and placing them on their doors. 8)Rowan sprigs were taken from the 9)Isle of Man to make the “crosh cuirn”, a cross made from twigs of rowan bound together with sheep’s wool. The rowan was a tree 10)imbued with magical powers since 11)pre-Christian times, and people would walk considerable distances to collect it. The twigs had always to be broken, and never cut with a knife. It was always placed above the door of the cottage, and no evil thing could pass in where the “crosh cuirn” was. In addition, the “crosh cuirn” would be tied to the tails of cows or placed in the cowshed, to protect the cattle from harm. Fishermen would also hide a “crosh cuirn” somewhere in their boat to protect them from ill-luck.
在英格兰全境，人们会在深夜采摘五月的桦枝，然后把小树枝挂在门上。人们会从马恩岛取来花楸枝做成“crosh cuirn”——一种用羊毛捆扎花楸枝而制成的十字架。从公元前开始，人们就相信花楸树有魔力，会走很远的路去采集它。它的小枝必须用手折断，而绝不能用刀砍。树枝会被放在屋门的上方，这样一来，在有crosh cuirn的地方，邪恶的东西就进不去。另外， crosh cuirn还会被绑在牛的尾巴上或者放在牛舍里，用来庇护牛群不受伤害。渔民也会把crosh cuirn藏在船的某个地方以确保他们一帆风顺。
One of the Beltane 12)rites, called “13)Hand Fasting,” is in fact the 14)pagan version of the modern marriage ceremony.
On Beltane Eve, a very long time ago, the young men of the village would go into the woods and 15)don 16)stag 17)horns and skins in a kind of “play fight” with the 18)rutting stags to see which was bravest. The man who got the better of the stags would take on the role of the Stag Lord for the Beltane 19)revels on May Day. This is still called the “Stag Night”.
The Goddess at this time of year is dressed in white. Her head is 20)wreathed with May blossoms and a veil hides her face. This aspect of the pagan Goddess represents the young 21)maiden who is about to become a mother. We often still see the 22)May Queen being paraded through village streets as the 23)Morris Dancers wear 24)antlers and dance around her with their bells ringing. And, of course, the white wedding dress 25)festooned with tiny flowers is still very special.
For the Beltane rite, these two young people are ceremonially bound together to represent the coming together of the male and female aspects of the divine. Ribbons of red, black and gold are wrapped about their hands and rings and fasten them together. This represents the eternal cycle where life, death and rebirth are exchanged. In this ceremony, performed when the May blossoms are falling and the first of the summer’s sun is shining again, the two people are bound together for a year and a day—or as long as love remains between them. The following year they give their blessings to the couple chosen for the rite and so the tradition continues from generation to generation.