Happy Bealtaine!

Liath Luachra & Bodhmall from the FIONN graphic novel are herding their cow between two bonfires while festooned in sunny yellow flowers to mark the 1st of May.

Bealtaine card with Liath Luachra and Bodhmall from the Fionn Mac Cumhaill graphic novel.

The May-Day celebrations stem from Bealtaine – one of the four major Celtic festivals of the year – when sprigs & branches in bloom were gathered. In Ireland, Gorse, Rowan, Primrose, Hazel catkins and Marsh Marigold flowers were all plucked and cattle were (and are) herded between two bonfires before they’re turned out to pasture for spring. Fires are extinguished, set alight again (maybe even by a passing,officiating Druid) and may even burn all the way through the night.

Roughly, ’beal-’ means ‘shining’, ‘-taine’ means fire and the whole affair is lit by bright fire and the beaming of golden sunshine.

It’s also linked with Benelus (or Benelos), a (mostly) continental Celtic god of the sun, who received widespread worship, back in the day.

In the UK, the May Pole associated with May Day started out as the most handsome straight branch or tree trunk anyone could find, which was then decorated with flowers. All this ‘pagan’ stuff is still all around us.

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