Beltane – A Cross Quarter Day
Sunday, May 5, 2013
In Pagan times the Sabbats (from the Greek ‘sabatu’ meaning ‘to rest’.) were festivals honoring the growth cycle of crops – planting, tending, harvesting and allowing the land to rest. They celebrated the path of the Sun from high in the sky and warm to low in the sky and cool – the seasons. Many Pagans saw time as one eternal whole. The god is born of the eternal goddess, dies, and is reborn. A life well lived was lived in harmony and rhythm with these cycles.
It is thought the Sabbats have been celebrated in many places and in various forms for at least 12,000 years. Some estimate much, much longer. In modern times there are still those who follow the old Pagan ways.
With the advent of Christianity and the brutal persecution of any non-Christians, the pagans went into hiding which preserved the old ways. Even many Christian holy-days are based on these ancient pagan rites.
Beltane is the second cross quarter day of the year. It is the mid-point between the spring equinox (Ostara in the olden days) and the summer solstice (Litha in olden times).
At Beltane the Pleiades star cluster rises just before sunrise on the morning horizon. The Pleiades is a cluster of seven closely placed stars, the seven sisters, in the constellation of Taurus, near his shoulder.
Beltane marks the beginning of summer and was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. Special bonfires were kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers.
Modern holidays tied to these old customs are: May Day, May 1; Cinco de Mayo (Mexico), May 5; and, Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May.