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For the early Celts, Beltane was signaled by the blossoming of the

hawthorn tree at the beginning of May, therefore known as the "May Tree."

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Beltane, traditionally celebrated on the eve of May 1st (“Fixed Date” ), is one of the four “cross-quarter” festivals on the Celtic Wheel of the Year. The word “Beltane” probably originates from the Celtic God “Bel,” meaning “the bright one” and the Gaelic word “teine” meaning fire. Thus, Beltane (or Beltaine) is a “fire festival” celebrating the coming of summer ("Here Comes The Sun"). "Beltane" is the Anglicized form of Irish Gaelic name for either the month of May or the festival that takes place on (or about) the first day of May. In some places, Beltane was referred to as “The May.” Called the “Day of Bealtaine,” it was historically a Gaelic festival celebrated in medieval Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Beltane also marks a midpoint between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice (“Astrological Date”), technically a mid-Spring festival. Thus, Beltane is about rebirth after the cold and dark of winter and the sprouting season of early spring. For the Celts, it signified the beginning of the pastoral summer season when the herds of livestock were driven out to the summer pastures and mountain grazing lands. Before there were calendars, many Celtic peoples celebrated Beltane with the first pinky-white blossoms of the sacred hawthorn tree, also known as “the May tree.” 

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May, and among the miles of leafing,
blossoms storm out of the darkness —
windflowers and moccasin flowers. The bees
dive into them and I too, to gather
their spiritual honey. Mute and meek, yet theirs
is the deepest certainty that this existence too —
this sense of well-being, the flourishing
of the physical body — rides
near the hub of the miracle that everything
is a part of, is as good
as a poem or a prayer, can also make
luminous any dark place on earth.

-Mary Oliver


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Thematic Images for the

Orphic Essay-with-Soundtrack

Beltane / May Day:

A Holiday for Pagans & Workers

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Prologue to Beltane / May Day Musical Essays: Troubadour Spring Poetry/Song "Nature Introductions"


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Troubadour serenading his lady amongst the hawthorn trees (also known as "May trees" and "Fairy trees") in May. Hawthorn tapestries left and right (William Morris).


The "Nature Introductions": Exordium & Reverdie

In connecting a previous musical essay series, "The Troubadours & The Beloved" to the present "Beltane/May Day" series, GS had discussed poet Ezra Pound's assertion that behind the troubadours was a secret, erato-mystic love cult based upon an ancient pagan fertility religion and quoted Pound: "... the birth of  Provençal song hovers about the Pagan rites of May Day.”


Therefore, the GS would connect his current Beltane/May Day musical essay series back thematically to the troubadours, who celebrated in poetry/song the twin joys (joi) of spring and love for the months of April and May.

Concerning the troubadour love poems/songs with the theme of the Spring season, there are "nature introductions" known as exordium in the genre of reverdie ("re-greening") in troubadour poetry/song (usually only first stanza) linking of spring and love. The troubadours often used the exordium when springtime weather inspires and bird songs “teach” the poet to sing. The bird in many troubadour cansos serves as the poet’s “messenger,” who will carry his message to his beloved. Technically speaking, the reverdie specifies time of composition at the end of March and early April. Spring inspires love and song, and the poem’s position is a love plea. As one literary historian tells us: “The reverdie properly belongs to May-Day festivities." (There are some 35 examples of "nature introductions" one can find.)

The earliest extant example of the musical form of the alba (dawn song) is the song "Kalenda Maya" (or "Kalenda Maia:" "The Calends of May") written by the troubadour Raimbaut de Vaqueiras (c.1150–1207) to the melody of an estampida, a dance form played by French jongleurs. (The Romans called the first day of every month the calends, signifying the start of a new lunar phase.)


“On the first of May, gay the plumage of birds,
Song the day, loud the cuckoos.”

(From a 6th-century Celtic Welsh poem, "The Calends of May")

When the days are long in May,
I like a sweet song of birds from afar …
And neither song nor hawthorn flower,
Can please me more than winter’s ice....

~Jaufre Rudel (12th century)


It’s sweet when the breeze blows softly,
As April turns into May ….

Whiter she is than Helen was,
The loveliest flower of May ….

~Arnaut de Mareuil (12th century)

Through her who holds my heart in play;
So I prize not April or May,
For she blithely turns away ….

~Peire Vidal (12th century)

This love of ours it seems to be
Like a twig on a hawthorn tree
That on the tree trembles there ….

~Guillaume de Poitiers (12th century)

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Thematic Images for Blessed & Happy Beltane / May Day


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Thematic Images for Origins of Beltane / May Day:

Pagan Gods & Festivals


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