In our Celtic neopagan celebration, the young maidens are always given one of the highest honors for their youth, beauty and fertility, for without them, we would not exist as a species. This is why we crown the Beltaine Maidens, in honor of Mother Earth’s warmth and fertility coming into all her glory. 🌹
Beltaine is an agrarian celebration of old Europe, and the half way point between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice, with the Sun at 15 degrees Taurus. Astronomically, it is the first day of summer.
It’s element is Fire, and the warming of the Earth in the northern hemisphere.
About 11,650 years Before Present, the Earth’s ice sheets began to melt, elevating sea levels and, eventually, warm, moist soil and the advent of agrarian culture from 9000 to 4000 BP, known as the Holocene period, when climate conditions were very much like the present, as evidenced by the 2015 Greenland Ice Project.
Anthropologists and Archaeologists infer that it is likely agriculture began about 9000 BP with the development of polished stone tools.
Our ancient Bronze Age and Neolithic ancestors studied the patterns of Earth and Sun, settled into the Land in groups and cultivated crops of wild grain and plants.
The groundbreaking work of the anthropologist, Maria Gimbutas in Catal Huyuk at the Tigres River reveals the new neolithic revolution, the post-ice age agrarian culture that opened the gateway to the development of civilization as we know it today. During excavations, Gimbutas studied this unearthed city in Anatolia dating to 6300-5400BP and community of burial sites that revealed paintings in ochre of funerary rites of females adorned with animal tusks and detailed stone pottery and artwork, symbols of power and leadership in an ancient culture. Stone houses with kitchens and sacred rooms with altars of ancient grain were excavated initially, with wall art, reliefs and frescoes of stone and clay depicting young nude females reclined and standing, and more mature females, both with and without children and animals. (1). Continued evidential research at the Catal Huyuk Project is ongoing, with the consensus of the following: Women developed a spirituality of nature awareness, intuition and female leadership in the neolithic religions, and created a spiritual, peaceful community, led by the concept of female deity. Women, as givers of life, and the responsibilities of child rearing and their survival developed agriculture, stonework, pottery, basket weaving, figure sculptures to stand in the community center, and in their homes. Women were in charge of the development of seeding, tilling, hydration, planting and harvesting, which gave way to the development of herbs and their medicinal properties for healing and vitality of their people.
Celebration of celestial patterns, according to the planting, growth and harvesting of crops evolved in the new neolithic revolution across continents that are at, just above, or below the equator, that have been discovered in Europe, Asia, and Central and South America. Goddess paintings, drawings and figure sculptures, and cave paintings of women and children dominate neolithic agrarian community throughout the ancient world, with ongoing evidence of the worship of female deity.
An awareness that coincided with their efforts to secure their vitality and survival of the species. The higher cognitive concepts of objective reasoning, problem solving and creativity in human development and community building that we know as ratiocination, or inductive and deductive reasoning, were initiated in the neolithic communities, opening the gateway to higher learning as we know it today. (2).
Multiple Goddess Temples in Old Europe, dating to the 5th millennium, were discovered in Malta.
“Malta, with its numerous temples, was probably a holy island (isola sacra ) to which believers came from all parts of the world to be initiated into the mysteries of the Great Goddess, whose colossal fragmented statue has been discovered under one of the temples. Each Maltese temple has a ground plan in the form of a uterus or the silhouette of the Great Goddess. Figurines with deformed bodies and representations of the so-called sleeping ladies found in these temples suggest that they were also healing places and oracles where believers could, through a period of sojourn (incubation), obtain cures for the body or soul. The very act of walking through these uterus-shaped temples, between alignments, or through the circles of cromlechs had the significance of an initiation.” (3).
The ancient Celtic social structure descended through the mother: “women…were highly honoured, female symbolism formed the most sacred images in the religious cosmos, and the relationship with the motherhood was the central element of the social fabric, the society was held together by common allegiance to the customs of the tribe loosely organised around the traditions of goddess” (4).
By 6400BP, Agrarian neolithic life, spirituality and nature celebrations in ancient Celtic culture extended throughout old Europe from Catak Huyuk, Anatolia and the Fertile Crescent through ancient Turkey and Greece, into the Alpine regions and north to Denmark, west to France, Spain and Portugal, northwest to insular Britain; south to Iberia, Italy and Sicily.
By the 3rd century Roman writings, we know the Gallo-Roman Goddess Belesama, translated from the Indo-European root *b h elH “The Very Bright” and the Sanscript Belesah “The Strongest” was worshipped in the east and west Alpine regions, northern Italy and insular Britain.
Belisama is the correspondent to Minerva, goddess of Light and Fire, Forging and Craft. It is thought by some scholars that her consort was the Gallo-Roman god, Belenus, associated with Apollo, and the most widely worshipped Celtic male god. The Beltaine Fire celebration takes it’s name from this goddess and god.
The La Tene Celtic towns, lakes and rivers carry her name, or the root of her name: Beil/Bienne, a town in the Neuchatel region of Switzerland at the French-Germanic border. Two neolithic settlements have been found at Lake Beil in Neuchatel and Bern that lay just south of the lake.
A Gaulish inscription found at Vaison-la-Romaine, Provence, shows that a nemeton, a sacred space of ancient Celtic religion, was dedicated to her. Inscribed by Saint Lazier in latin: “Segomarus Uilloneos, citizen [toutius] of Namausus, dedicated this sanctuary to Belesama”
William Camden, the Elizabethan Antiquarian, identified the River Ribble as the Belesama estuary in Roman times, his work, Britannia.
The documentation of William Herdman (1843). Pictorial Relics of Ancient Liverpool. Oxford, identifies the River Mersey as Belisama.
178 Belisama, a minor planet, is named after the Celtic goddess in 1877 by the Austrian astronomer Johann Palisa.
Now, the Wheel brings us to Beltaine 2021.
The warming of the Earth brings bountiful beauty all around us with growth of crops and fertility. An earthy sensuality and sexuality are felt in our blood and bones, as our ancestors of old.
The ancient reliefs and frescoes of yesterdays’ Catal Huyuk have given way to our present day Beltaine Maidens. In our Celtic neopagan celebration, the young maidens are always given one of the highest honors for their youth, beauty and fertility, for without them, we would not exist as a species.
This is why we crown the Beltaine Maidens, in honor of Mother Earth’s warmth and fertility coming into all her glory. 🌹
Blessed be. 🕊
1, Gimbutas, Marija. The Civilization of the Goddess, ed. Joan Marler. San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco, 1991.
2. Sjöö, Monica and Mor, Barbara. The Great Cosmic Mother. San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1987.
4. Condran, Mary. The Serpent and the Goddess. New Island 2002.
Imbolc has a special meaning for me. It’s a time of joyful initiations and collaborating and guiding our student’s personal spiritual paths to magical intuitive experiences of renewal, self care and healing. The removal of blockages, negative thought patterns and false beliefs that would keep one from their personal goals and dreams. Imbolc reminds us that we must never forget our dreams, for these very dreams are our inspirations for the seeds of our magic. At Imbolc, we shine warmth and love onto the seeds of our soul, feed them daily and watch them grow and never lose sight of them, as this is the true magic of life. The magic which keeps us forever eternal, youthful and filled with the joy and motivation for living in fullness.
This is a time to introduce the element of Fire into personalized curriculums. Not the blazing fire of Beltane and Summer Solstice just yet, but rather the intimate, creative and healing Hearthfire within the soul and the discovery of it. It is a time to get in touch with one’s inner child and explore one’s intuition and fantasies, to fulfill dreams left in childhood or young adulthood that were dearly cherished, stir them in the cauldron of the soul and manifest them with the awakening energies of Mother Earth.
As modern practitioners, we joyfully celebrate Imbolc in our homes with the lighting of candles to celebrate the illumination of the sun warming our lands, with the promise of abundance in our lives. Of flowers, herbs, food and grain for the thriving of our people and our animals. On Imbolc, we build sacred hearth fires sprinkled with a bit of the dried flowers and herbs from the last harvest that lovingly decorate our rooms during winter’s icy winds. Dried bunches of calendula with flowers of orange and golden sun hang in our kitchens, sprinkled in soups to warm our bellies and mixed in salves with mint to soothe our bodies from the frigid winds. We cook special foods of bannock cakes and scones smothered in fresh warm butter, in honour of the coming growth of grain and milking ewes. We make dolls and inbue them with our dreams and goals for the coming seasons. We fashion Brighid crosses to post over our doorways for protection. We bless our homes and hearths with the water from streams, wells and melted snow and smudge our homes with curling spirals of burning incense made of hawthorne. We bless the breasts and bellies of pregnant women to ease the pangs of childbirth when the time comes. At Imbolc, we may self-initiate, and initiate one another into sacred circles, welcoming novices, new priestesses and priests and their children and familiars into the fold of the magical community.
Imbolc celebrates the awakening of Mother Earth and a coming of the end of hibernation. This is a time to prepare and make plans for the future, create beauty and fertile soil to plant the seeds of the harvest once more. The birthing of lambs welcomes Her.
Intuitive practitioners now sense a stirring of new vitality in their inner being as the Wheel turns again, this time, towards Spring Equinox, and the birthing of newness in the Earth and Sky.
Companion pets become more playful now, demanding more interaction and outdoor moments, as Earth takes on new tastes and smells that arouse their senses.
Wild forest creatures show their faces more frequently now.
Children sense the vibrational change, experience growth spurts and high energy, and want for exploration and adventures.
Young adults develop a fresh awareness of their emotions and sexuality, seeking love and mating experiences.
Adults are energized with new personal and career goals with a heightened stirring creativity and plans for action begin to form in their psyche.
Seniors awaken to a deeper, stronger, more powerful wisdom to share with the world.
The Ancient Celts called upon Fire Goddesses to heal them from the hardships of winter and bring the promise of rebirth, beauty, fertility, robust health and the awakening of the land.
Imbolc was observed in Ireland and Scotland with reverence to Brighid or Brihde of the Tuatha de Dannan of Ireland by the insular Celts. Proto Neolithic pagans honoured Holde of the ancient Germanic pantheon, and Beiwe of the Saami greens the land for the reindeer to feed.
Imbolc, the astro half-way point between winter solstice and spring equinox, is a proto-Celtic celebration of agrarian peoples.
Archeologically noted in the illumination of the Neolithic inner chambers of a megalithic monument which is perfectly aligned with the rising sun of Imbolc, Dumha na nGiall,a neolithic structure, c. 3350 and 2800 BCE located in the Tara Skryne valley of County Meath, Ireland, is an ancient passage tomb. The passage and back wall is illuminated on the morning of Imbolc, as well as Samhuinn. It is considered a sacred proto-Celtic site. The 13 spiral carvings on the back wall of the cavern are thought to be the 13 phases of the moon.
Globally, Imbolc 2021 ushers in the gentle hearthfires of hope for our future with the opportunity to put a devastating pandemic behind us after a quarantine that, to many of us, felt like one long winter hibernation. We may now embrace the discovery of a vaccine with the imperative understanding of its potential: the vaccination of only 80% of the world population will completely eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
Blessed be ✨🕊🌀
Marija Gimbutas names Hulda (or Holda, Holla, Holle) as having originally been an ancient Celtic Germanic supreme goddess who predates most of the Germanic pantheon, including deities such as Odin, Thor, Freya and Loki, continuing traditions of pre-indo European Neolithic Europe.
Reference: Gimbutas, Marija. The Living Goddesses. Berkeley; University of California Press 2001.
Holde, the good protectress. 1842. Friedrich Wilhelm Heine.
Dumha na nGiall photo credit: Knowth .com
Brigid’s Cross credit: Ballyrogan, Whitlow, Ireland (Etsy)