May 1st marks Beltane, when Summer begins and Spring is at its most prevalent. Nature's energy is on high alert, and new life is beginning. It is a fire festival and an important time for fertility rituals.
The word Beltane comes from the Gaelic god 'Bel' meaning 'the bright one' and also 'teine' meaning fire. Traditionally, bonfires are lit to honour Bel. People jumped the fires to cleanse and purify, and it was especially important for couples to jump together.
Beltane is a popular time for pagan handfasting ceremonies, and I've been very lucky two attend two at this time of the year. During the ceremony many traditions are observed, and the couple's hands are tied ('tying the knot'), mead is shared and they may also jump the broomstick. This involves laying the broomstick on the floor and jumping over it together, it represents moving from your old life into a new one, and was for people who couldn't afford or didn't want a ceremony. Communities would accept them as a married couple after this.
Another Beltane tradition was to go A-Maying. This involves going into the woods to spend the night and make love, the first May or Hawthorn Blossoms would be collected to decorate their homes.
Many school children still observe another tradition, without perhaps knowing what it really is about. May Poles are erected (apt) all over the world at the time of year, it is phallic symbol which represents the potency of god and fertility of the Goddess. The ribbon dance around the pole represents the union between the God and the Goddess.
I could talk all day about Beltane, it is one of my favourite times of year, and in my previous band I wrote a tribute to it called 'Fire of Thorborough Henge', enjoy.