Bealtaine/Beltane marks the beginning of summer in the ancient Celtic calendar. It is halfway between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. While the Bealtaine Festival is celebrated on May 1st, the astronomical date is actually closer to May 5th or 7th. Bealtaine was one of the four major seasonal festivals in the Celtic calendar, along with Samhain (November 1st), Imbolc (February 1st), and Lughnasa (August 1st). It was during these transitional periods when it was believed that the veil between the worlds of the living and dead was thinnest. Being spring, new spirit energy is entering our realm. Seeds are sprouting, animals are bringing in new life and the planet has awakened, making it ideal for connecting with ancestors and partaking in rituals and magic. Each year, tribal leaders would send a representative to the hill of Uisneach, the sacred center of Ireland. From the top of the hill, 20 counties can be seen on a clear day. Uisneach was said to be the burial place of the mythical Tuatha De Danann, the supernatural ancestors of the Irish. Historically and mythologically, it was regarded as the center point, or 'naval' of Ireland, symbolized by the presence of a great stone called the Ail na Mirean, or Stone of Divisions (pictured above). This limestone boulder stands close to 20 feet tall and is estimated to weigh thirty tons. It is said that the Danann Goddess Eriu (Erin), who gave her name to Ireland, is buried beneath it. It is also the point where all five provinces of Ireland met. Uisneach was a place of assembly for the Druids as well as the site for the festival of Bealtaine. On the eve of Bealtaine, a great bonfire was lit on this sacred site. Representatives from the various tribes would travel to Uisneach, light a torch from the bonfire and carry it back to their home villages. Once the fire reached the village, everyone would light a torch to take into their houses and use it to light their hearths. This way, the fire of Ireland was spread from one central source throughout the entire country. This dissemination of fire symbolizes communal unity with the ancestors and the divine. Locally on the eve of Bealtaine rituals were performed to protect livestock, people, and crops, and to encourage growth. Druids would kindle bonfires, whose flames, smoke, and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. Fragrant pine or juniper wood would be used to fill the air with their intoxicating scent. The sacred smoke symbolized the purification of the herd as well as a blessing of abundance and a bountiful harvest ahead. People and their livestock would walk around or between bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. In the Celtic tradition, the observance of festivals began the evening before the festival day. But don't worry, you will still have time to contemplate your own fire ceremony. Consider partaking in this tradition on the astronomical day of Bealtaine, somewhere between the eve of the 5th or 7th. Utilize this time of transition to delve deeper into your own ancestral traditions, burning fragrant plants such as cedar, pine, rose, mugwort, sage, or palo santo to emulate smoke from the sacred bonfires. These traditions give you the ability to tap into the ancient wisdom of the old ways. Seasonal transitions symbolize the cyclical nature of existence and remind us that life is constantly in flux. Give yourself the gift of slowing down, reflection, and a ritual of gratitude to help you ride out the lows and revel in the highs. As a spring festival, Bealtaine is a time for birthing intentions from the metaphysical into the physical realm and for gathering creative/life energy that will sustain you throughout the year. The Spiral is also a symbol of cyclical patterns. Found on Irish portal tombs that date back 5000 years, Donna chose this symbol as her logo. If you haven't already visited Spiral Herbal Remedies at 810 Washington Avenue in Brooklyn, stop in. You can also visit spiralherbalremedies.com . Donna trained as an Herbalist for 3 years after working as Registered Nurse at a Harvard teaching Hospital for 13 years. Ancestors on both sides of her family are descendants of Hereditary Herbalism Families in Ireland, a tradition of healing dating back thousands of years. If you've already tried Donna's herbal remedies, she would be extremely grateful if you shared your feedback at this link. As a small, female-owned business, reviews are game changers.
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