The festival of Beltaine is upon us, when we welcome the long summer days. The name derives from Bel, the Celtic sun deity Belenus and “teine” the Irish for fire. Beltaine was one of the four major festival in the ancient celtic calendar, the rituals surrounding the festival were thought to attract good fortune and continued fertility. The Hill of Uisneach was the location where the bel fire was lit during the Iron Age. From this vantage point located in Co. Westmeath the bel fire was ignited and other fires followed, fanning out across the island. The May Day traditions included driving livestock through the embers of two fires, this was thought to protect the beasts from disease. On the eve of the festival all fires were extinguished and the embers of the bel fire were taken into to home to light the family fire. A torch was made from this fire and brought to the four corners of the farmers fields, to bless the crops and to protect from disease and pestilence. A brush of whitethorn was placed outside the house and decorated for the May Queen, The whitethorn bush symbolized renewed fertility and was thought to distract the spirits of the dead from entering the house. May all the blessing of the season be on you are your family.