The High Rite
The Dagda was only meant to be the gatekeeper at Cedarlight Grove's celebration of Beltane, but he ended up dominating the event. From the rush of wind that came right as the gates were opened, to the fire batons that wouldn't go out easily, to the snapped strap of one woman's top as she danced in offering, he made his presence known.
The deities of the occasion were Dagda's son Aengus Mac Oc and Aine. The prayer was for the kindred to bless all our creative efforts in the coming year, and the omen suggested that we may encounter difficulties, but should remember that the gods are near. The gods enthusiastically accepted our offerings, according to the seer. (She used a crystal ball.)
At the end of the rite, we processed out between two fires, reflecting the ancient Irish Beltane tradition of driving the animals between two fires for purification.
The Irish deities felt warm, mischievous and friendly. This came at a good time for me, as I had been flagging in my studies and I left with new affirmation and determination.
Essay on the Meaning
Beltane celebrates the return of warm weather. Named for the Irish sun god Belinos, the name translates to “fire of Bel.” It is about fertility and abundance. Like its opposite high day Samhain, Beltane is a day when the veil between our world and the Otherworld is especially thin.
Celebration of the day, also called “May Day,” is centered around lighthearted revelry – dancing around a maypole, singing, sex and general merriment. Beltane expresses a sense of great relief that the fallow time of winter, the endurance of the cold and privation of living off of food stores is at an end. By May in most of Europe, as the traditional song “Hal An Tow” puts it, “Summer is a-comin' in and winter's gone away.”
In Ireland, the ancients celebrated Beltane with bonfires and dancing sunwise around the fires. It was customary to release the animals and drive them between two fires for purification.
In northern and central European cultures, the day was traditionally celebrated in similar ways to the Gaelic, with dancing, maypoles and a general celebration of warmth and fertility. The celebrations typically take place on the night of April 30 into the early morning hours of May 1. Today in those lands – and corresponding ADF hearth cultures – the high day is known as Walpurgisnacht. This name appears to have been derived from the name of an English missionary, St. Walpurga, who was canonized in AD 870, about a century after her death.