Reblogged from Losing the Plot:
Beltane is the second of four quarter days celebrated in the old pagan calendar and marked the beginning of summer, in particular turning cattle out into the fields, after overwintering in the barn. Beltane, better known now as Mayday, is celebrated on May 01, and there are certain associated traditions that differ a little throughout the Celtic Nations. Ireland, famed for green grass perfect for raising cattle, has its own traditions that have a background in dairy (specifically butter) production.
In times past, not so much was known about the effect that a change in diet or medical conditions could have on cattle, so any reduction in milk production, or butter failing to churn, was treated with great suspicion.
To protect cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth special rituals were performed. Beltane is particularly associated with fire, and special fires that were lit at midnight on the 30th April, these were thought to have special protective powers, including the flames the smoke and the ash. People and their cattle would walk around fires or between two bonfires, and sometimes leaping over the flames or embers.
Continue reading at Losing the Plot