The Holy Day of Beltane– called Calan Haf or Calan Mai in Welsh — was revered by the ancient Celts as a sacred bridge between the hardship of winter and the abundance of summer. Thought to exist outside of time, it is said that the veils between the worlds are thinnest at the liminal periods of Beltane and Samhain, complementary Holy Days standing opposite each other on the Wheel of the Year. For the ancient Celts, there were originally only two seasons – Winter and Summer – and the transition points between each season were times of great power. Marking the boundaries between the Dark and Light Halves of the Year, these Holy Days truly straddled the worlds.
These in-between periods were of great importance to the Celtic peoples, whose entire social, economic and religious lives centered around – and were dependent upon — the rhythms of the pastoral and agricultural cycles. Beltane marked the beginning of Summer, and it was a time of purification, increased activity, and abundant fertility. The livestock that had been boarded up during the long winter months were passed between two bonfires both to bless and purify them as they were set out to pasture once more. Ritual lovemaking in the fields was thought to encourage a successful growing cycle and an abundant harvest. Social and economic intercourse during the great gatherings at clan central places were marked by religious observances overseen by Druids, all of which mirrored the lush return to life literally bursting forth in the natural world all around them.