Eve of Bealtaine/Beltane

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

The Celtic Festival of Bealtaine/Beltane which marks the beginning of summer in the ancient Celtic calendar is a Cross Quarter Day, half way between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. While the Bealtaine Festival is now associated with 1st May, the actual astronomical date is a number of days later. The festival was marked with the lighting of great bonfires that would mark a time of purification and transition, heralding in the season in the hope of a good harvest later in the year, and were accompanied with rituals to protect the people from any harm by otherworldly spirits, as well as, the movement of animals to summer pastures.

The earliest mention of Bealtaine is in Old Irish literature from Gaelic Ireland. According to the early medieval texts Sanas Cormaic and Tochmarc Emire, Bealtaine was held on 1st May and marked the beginning of summer. The texts say that…

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