Belt One Out for Beltaine
Celebrate our second cross-quarter day
After the late frost of a few weeks ago, springtime blossoms are in full bloom. Seeds planted according to lore at full moon nearest vernal equinox are now seedlings arching skyward as we near the midpoint to summer.
Each day the sun climbs higher, showering us with more sunlight than the day before. Since last week alone we’ve gained 16 minutes of sunlight; between now and next week another 15 minutes of the bright stuff. But already the pace is slowing, and so it goes until summer solstice, when the process reverses.
But that is still a half season away, as Tuesday, May Day, marks the midpoint between spring and summer. On that day, the second of the year’s cross-quarter days, we are halfway between spring equinox and summer solstice.
Beltaine, as the ancient Celts called this day, means brilliant fire. Juxtaposed to Sahmhain, Halloween, the fourth cross-quarter day, the eve prior to Beltaine was another supernatural night when ghosts and spirits returned from the netherworld to torment the living. To ward off these creatures, the people lit huge bonfires and kept them burning through the night, dancing clockwise around them, following the sun’s motion around the earth.
As time passed, the ritual evolved from fear of the dark to celebration of the light. Ghosts and spirits fell by the wayside, as did the bonfires to brighten them away. Instead, people set up Maypoles, flower bouquets and baskets, in traditions that live on today.
Should you venture out after dark this Beltaine eve, pay special note of the haunting sight of the full moon hovering just a few degrees below Spica.
Illustration: © Copyright 1925 M.C. Escher/Cordon Art-Baarn-Holland; Graphics: © Copyright 2007 Pacific Publishers. Reprinted by permission from the Tidelog graphic almanac. Bound copies of the annual Tidelog for Chesapeake Bay are $14.95 ppd. from Pacific Publishers, Box 480, Bolinas, CA 94924. Phone 415-868-2909. Weather affects tides. This information is believed to be reliable but no guarantee of accuracy is made by Bay Weekly or Pacific Publishers. The actual layout of Tidelog differs from that used in Bay Weekly. Tidelog graphics are repositioned to reflect Bay Weekly’s distribution cycle.Tides are based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and are positioned to coincide with high and low tides of Tidelog.