8. Beltane – A Celtic Legacy
The ancient Celts hand many celebrations, among which was the Beltane. The word comes from the Gaelic “Bealtaine” – “Fire of Bel” – the Celtic god of light. This festivity survived in many parts of the European continent, mainly in France, Germany and England. It is believed that this ritual was introduced to the Celts by the Romans who conquered Gaul and Britain. The Roman festival was dedicated to their spring goddess Flora, which took place at the end of April.
With the start of spring on May 1st, people would gather and dance around a pole decorated with flowers and garlands which were erected in the middle of the village. It symbolized fertility through the union between the god Bel and Mother Earth. Fires were lit through which the villagers would drive their livestock in order to protect them from harm. Next, they would go into the freshly plowed fields and would make love for a better harvest.
This pagan ritual has survived to this day, but without its sexual practices. The Maypole celebrations were banned by the Puritans in 1644. They were only reintroduced with the restoration of the monarchy in Britain.