s the stark harshness of winter gives way to the gentle unfurling of spring our minds and activities turn toward spending time out of doors. Spring and Fall are two seasons I love in equal measure due to all of the changes big and small that can be both seen and felt. It is a time when the explosion of green buds, grasses and plant life in every direction hails the quickening of the earths energy towards growth, attraction and communion.
The energy of Beltane is abundant in activity, with birds singing, bees drunkenly overwhelmed in pollen and bunnies mad with the chase, while shyer plants and animals take their time. The sun and warm moisture have returned along with a bit of food~browse and nectar aplenty for the animals, whilst we are busy harvesting fall sown carrots, kale and salad greens. During this season we’ve been busy planting seed flats full of herbs, vegetables and flowers. There is nothing more rewarding than heading out to the greenhouse to take in the smell of damp soil and checking out all the little emerging seedlings-there is something new to appreciate every single day.
The returning light at Candlemas started slowly bringing our awareness from within, whereas the verdant lushness of Beltane slowly awakens our bodies and seduces our senses with the softness of new leaves and the intense sweetness of spring blossoms. There is nothing like the fresh life-giving breath of spring to fill our lungs with the fragrant air and bathe our bodies in the brilliant greens surrounding us to heal and engage our heart chakras on a whole new level. It is truly a season of growth and renewal as the burgeoning energy tangibly builds to a climactic burst of life.
During the Rites of Spring, we celebrate fecundity while also giving offerings to our ancestors, land spirits, fey and kin. We decorate our altars to welcome the energy of the season and prepare for the coming celebration by creating our Beltane Bundles of sacred woods, baking bread, infusing May wine with Sweet Woodruff and preparing a feast of seasonal foods.
It is also traditional to collect the first dew of the Bel morning, considered sacred, it is believed to bring healing and physical beauty.
I collect the dew in two different ways. The night before I like to lay out a clean tea towel in a bowl on the grass. When I collect the towel the next morning I will run my hands over the cool dew-soaked grass and pat my neck and face. The towel will be rung out into a small vial so that I can add it to the sacred waters for our rite. I also like to collect dew into a little egg cup off of the lady’s mantle leaves. I will use this on my skin or add to a spell working.
Two favorite feast recipes are the May Wine and Beehive Bread with rosehip honey butter. Traditionally May Wine was used to celebrate the sabbat and call in the old gods being symbolic of the union of the God and Goddess.
It is best to plan ahead as this recipe takes about 24 hours to steep so that the herb imparts the essence of the woodruff. My favorite wine to use for this recipe is a homemade apple wine we make in the fall. If you do not have that tasty brew available then my next favorites would be a light Riesling or a Gewurztraminer. You can use dried woodruff for a more vanilla-like flavor, however, I try to use the freshest and newest grown of all I can on my Bel altar. While sweet woodruff is safe to use in small quantities such as in wine or altar cakes, this is not something you are going to want to add to everything as it has been known to cause dizziness and vomiting in large quantities. It also contains small amounts of coumarin and was used to thin the blood.
1 bottle of apple or white wine (representative of the maiden goddess and everlasting life)
20 or so springs of Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) leaves and blossoms (is said to bring about protection and enliven male sexuality)
1 Tb local honey (amazing immune booster and sacred to the Goddess, powerful spellbinding ingredient)
10 Strawberries (adds a maiden’s blush)
Add clean organic blossoms and leaves of Sweet Woodruff to a bottle of wine. Let steep 24 hours. Strain and decant in a bowl, add a few fresh Woodruff flowers and some sliced strawberries.
Bee Hive Bread
6 c flour
4 1/2 tsp or 2 pkts yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 c warm water
1/2 c honey
1/2 c cold butter grated
2 large eggs
Mix warm water a bit of the honey and yeast, letting stand for 15 minutes or so. Add beaten eggs, remaining honey and salt to water mixture. Add flour and mix then cut in butter. Knead until elastic and let rest until doubled in bulk.
Preheat oven. Push down and turn over a couple times in the bowl until a ball forms. Cover large ovenproof glass bowl with a sheet of foil. Make ropes and coil starting at the bottom and work your way to the top in the shape of a beehive. Brush with egg white for a glossy crust.
Bake @ 375 for 30 minutes.
While bread is baking mix 1 c softened butter, 1/3 c honey and a few drops of vanilla together. Butter is best when whipped with immersion or hand blender.
When bread is done remove from oven and let cool before peeling away foil. Serve with honey butter.
This Beltane season gives us much to be thankful for. Regardless of what is taking place in the world at large-we have our faith, our beautiful practice, each other and another turn on the wheel. From our Homestead Coven at Rosethornmanor to our pagan brethren wherever you are lighting your Balefires-we wish for you an abundance of opportunity and prosperity in these trying times.
Happy Bel and Blessed Be!