During the Beltane celebration, special bonfires were kindled and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers for animals.

May 1 was the traditional observance of Beltane in Ireland and Scotland. This festival was the beginning of summer, when animals were put to pasture.

The day celebrated the joining of the goddess with the energy of the god in sacred marriage, which the pre-Christian Celts thought the basis of all creation.

Because couples did not want to compete with the deities, they postponed their weddings until June, hence June became the month for weddings. June's first full moon was considered the time to harvest honey, so we got the "honey moon." Newlyweds were fed dishes and drinks made with honey. And, while much has changed, the name honeymoon remains.

Some scholars say the word Beltane is from Bel or Belenos, a god in Celtic or Gaulish cultures and from the Old Irish word tene, “fire.”

And fire was a major part of the celebration. The oldest mention of Beltane was from around 900 and described cattle being driven between two bonfires. This was done to protect the animals from disease. It was observed in Ireland through the 19th century.

Beltane festivities included Maypole dances and decorating with greenery and flowers.

Many folk tales and traditions in Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man were based in Beltane or its fall harvest counterpart Samhain on Nov. 1. Samhain was a celebration of endings and beginnings and of remembering the dead.

These days were believed to be a time with the human and supernatural worlds were able to visit each other. Witches and fairies were able to roam the human world freely, and the traditions provided ways to avoid their enchantments.

Coming up

Other holy days coming up include Easter on April 28 for Orthodox Christians.

Ramadan begins at sundown on May 5 for Muslims around the world.

Many Buddhists mark Visakha Puja or Buddha Day on May 18.

SOURCES: beliefne­t.com; inter­faithcalendar.org; religioustoleranc­e.org; Webster's New World Dictionary; britannica.com/topic/Beltane

Facets of Faith runs every other Saturday in EatPrayLive. Reach Leila Pitchford-English at lenglish@theadvocate.com.