A Beltainne Playlette
Performed before the Main Ritual
April 25, 2004
Beltainne Program (Read by Spelcastor)
When the gates of Beltainne swing open May 1,
sunlight and blossom welcome
the procession of the year
into the green halls of summer.
At Imbolc we rejoiced at the return of light, now we celebrate life,
growth, love and sensuality.
While the second part of the Irish word Beltainne clearly meant fire,
the “Bel” part might stand for our god Belenos, the sun god, or,
as I prefer, Bil Tene, which means “Lucky Fire”, because to jump between
two Beltainne fires was sure to bring good fortune, health to your
livestock and prosperity.
On Beltainne Eve the Druids and their successors gathered on high hills
with a view of the rising sun. They came to raise great fires that would
bring Power of the sun to earth. To sanctify and purify the whole
community and their livestock in readiness for the new cycle. Fire was
an interface between the human race and the Divine. Sacrificial offerings
were cast into the fire to gain their goodwill, borne skyward on flames
like hands uplifted in prayer.
When the fire was HOT and fast, young men would leap over the flames
to protect themselves and their flocks. Dancers spun in a ring around
the roaring fire. A man about to embark on a long or dangerous journey
(like getting married) leaped backwards and forwards three times for luck.
In some places two fires were lit and people and their livestock went
between the two fires to purify themselves from disease after a long winter
Later, when the fire sunk low, girls jumped across it to procure good
husbands, pregnant women stepped through it to ensure an easy birth,
and mothers carried their children across the smoldering ashes.
All celebrated the power if the sacred fire. When the fire died down,
the embers were thrown among the sprouting crops for good luck, and
each household carried some back to kindle a new fire in the hearth.
When the sun rose, those who had stayed up to watch it might see it
dance for joy three times upon the horizon before leaping up in all
its summer glory!
Little Play: Tristan and Iseult
King March- Ken
High King – Kevin (Both have crowns, swords, etc)
Tristan - Jeff (has a cape or a “jerkin-type shirt)
Iseult – Jessi (looking maidenly and sultry)
(T & I can be same as MayQueen and Angus in ritual.)
Blanket, bell, banner
May has always been a merry month for Lovers, when the swift current
of Life pulses through vein and leaf. The love story of Tristan and
Iseult is one of the world’s best romances. In the British version,
it ends tragically. There is however a much happier Welsh version
that we will retell now.
Iseult had run away from her old graybeard husband, King March, to be
with her young lover Tristan.
(Direction: Iseult seen at first with March: she leaves his side to
The lovers wandered together as outlaws in the woods all summer long.
By day they learned the song of the blackbird, and at night they slept
upon a mossy bed in a house made of leaves, their arms and legs intertwined
like the branches of the white birch trees. They were sweetly in love and
passed the months in a golden haze of romance.
(Direction: Wandering around romantically linked, tickling and being
sickeningly vapid, finally they lay down and sleep)
Meanwhile, old King March was furious by Iseult’s betrayal and had gone
to the High King with his vengeance. The High King agreed to help him
regain his wife.
(Direction: March stomping around and trouncing off to stand before the
High King who is seated on the stage. They talk briefly, March is
They found the wood where the lovers lay and surrounded them,
weapons at the ready.
(Direction: as narrated)
Iseult heard them and trembled in Tristan’s arms till her lover awoke.
Tristan: “You are trembling like a small frightened bird! What is wrong,
Iseult: “I hear the sound of my husband’s voice and I see the flash of
sword and steel. I fear it will be the end for you!”
Tristan arose, threw on his cloak (or jerkin) and went to meet March
and the High King. They spoke for hours, to no resolution.
(Direction: The 3 guys huddle and gesticulate and rant, Iseult is
huddling on the blanket)
March: “I am in the right, as Iseult is MY lawfully wedded wife!”
Tristan: “True Love always prevails over arranged marriages, and
Iseult should be MINE!
The High King then declared; “One of you shall have her while the leaves
are on the trees, but when the leaves fall, she must go to the other.
And because you are her lawful husband, March, you will have the choice.”
March scratched his beard a moment and thought. His eyes gleamed
March: “Then I shall have her when the leaves have fallen, for it is
then the nights are longest!”
(Direction: Iseult leaps up from her blanket with a triumphant grin and says:)
“There are three fine trees in the forest,
The Holly and Ivy and Yew;
They put forth leaves every season
So Tristan shall have me
the WHOLE YEAR THROUGH!”
So King March lost Iseult for good, and the lovers fled back to the woods.
(Direction: Lovers go one way, 2 Kings go the other. The end.)
Narrator: We will line up for our Beltainne Ritual out on porch.
Please fall in line after the person with the Banner. Quarter teams
and acolytes go before the banner please?
When all have pretty much lined up outside:
A bell is rung three times to signal the beginning of the ritual.
Starwind sings sweetly the “”Tis time …”song. She sings 3 times
When she finishes, she asks everyone to line up to process over
to the circle singing the song..
We start on the porch and go out the back through the “memorial garden”.
We sing as we go. The MayQueen who won the Sadie Hawk game and
her consort (who she chooses) lead. Followed by the Ritual Maiden and
her consort,(Jessi and Jeff) Starwind, Valan, Mr Y., Spel with
Moonpath banner, Fire Starter, Sophia drumming, quarter teams, then
everyone else lines up.
(Note: Maiden is cloaked and must go to the North. Jeff goes with her)
Participants proceed to the eastern gate. The MayQueen and her man light
sage and stand facing each other. The quarters stand facing each other,
with their palm fronds raised to form a corridor. We proceed through and get
smudged before entering circle. Principals lead, circling around deosil.
(Note: NO fire is lit at this time.)