Sunday 30th April is the Eve of Beltane; Pagan celebrations begin with people singing and dancing clockwise around the fire. The name 'Beltane' derives from the Celtic Deity 'Bel' (definition = 'the bright one') together with 'teine' – the Gaelic word for fire. The combined meaning is 'Goodly Fire' or 'Bright Fire', hence bonfires were lit to encourage the Sun to nurture the forthcoming harvest and to honour Bel ask for his protection of the local community. Bel seemingly required human effort before providing support so traditionally all community fires were extinguished and two Tein-eigen (translates as need-fire) bonfires were specially kindled for Beltane. Cattle were driven between the fires to purify them with the smoke and bring fertility. People jumped over the fire (not the huge ones I presume) to cleanse, purify and enhance fertility. Couples pledged themselves to each other by jumping the fires together and to bless their union. After the celebrations, which ran from sunset 30th April to sunset on 1st May, the villagers took a bit of the Teineigen to start fresh fires in their home.
Dew gathered at dawn from the grass is traditionally used in potions for luck and it is thought to be lucky to roll naked in the dew!!! On Beltane itself, it's traditional to drink from a well before sunrise, then wash in the morning dew, adorn yourself with greenery, watch the sun come up, dance round the Maypole and otherwise abandon yourself to the season! Round Full Moon Cakes are eaten together with blackberry, elderberry, dandelion wine (or cider) being drunk. Visits are made to sacred springs where healing water is drunk. The image on the left shows a Beltane Fire on Calton Hill in Edinburgh and is taken from the Wikipedia page on Beltane.
Thanks also to Glastonbury-based Goddessandgreenman.co.uk website who also credit Sacred Celebrations by Glennie Kindred as their information source. There are always amazing annual Beltane and May Day celebrations in Glastonbury.