May Day is a holiday familiar to many. But Beltane? Not so much.
Traditionally observed on May 1, the latter is the Gaelic May Day festival, held about halfway between the spring and summer equinoxes. Historically, it was celebrated in Ireland and Scotland to welcome summer and the fertility of the land. Today many people, including pagans and Wiccans, those who worship nature or the Earth, observe it as a religious holiday.
The eighth annual family- friendly Beltania: Pagan Celebration and Music Fest runs Thursday through Sunday at La Foret Conference and Retreat Center in Black Forest.
"If someone is open to new experiences and wants to revel in the joyousness of springtime, connect with nature and meet new people and explore spirituality, this is a great experience for that," says Joy Burton, founder of the festival.
The event started when Burton invited her friends to meet in a park and celebrate Beltane, and 250 people showed up. She expects 400 to 750 people to show up this year.
A Beltane party wouldn't be complete without a Maypole Dance. On Saturday, a May Queen and Green Man (much like the prom king and queen) are crowned and participate in the celebration, as participants wind more than 100 ribbons around a sky-high pole.
The event also serves as an all-genre music festival, Burton says. Denver's Lunar Fire, a multimedia trans-cultural musical performance group, headlines on Saturday night, while Skean Dubh, SJ Tucker, Peak Drum and Rhythm, Oak, Ash and Thorn and others perform Friday and Saturday.
Attendees can take part in a wide variety of ceremonies, workshops and classes, use the outdoor meditation and temple spaces, walk the labyrinth, shop at vendor booths and stay up all night for the trance drumming and dancing.
"People of all ages and interests would find something at Beltania," Burton says. "We do have a lot of younger single people, and a phenomenon is quite a few people wind up meeting and getting married. Love is in the air."