Ceilidh – The Dance
Excerpt by Jen Delyth from the Celtic Mandala 2017 wall calendar — Within ancient and modern spiritual traditions, dance is a metaphor for life, an ancient choreography moving with the rhythm of the earth to the music of the cosmos. Within Celtic tradition, the Ceilidh is a gathering to celebrate music, storytelling, and dance. The long winter nights are passed to the music of the fiddle, the whistle, and the beat of the bodhran drum. Traditional Celtic dances weave intricate patterns of circles, spirals, and squares in arrangements of threes and fours – a dynamic expression of the eternal knot. In ritual dances such as the annual Beltane Maypole dance, men and women weave ribbons in ancient spiral patterns around the sacred tree to raise and manifest the fertile earth energies. Morris dancers continue the tradition of shaman dances. They wear antler headdresses and costumes of red and white representing the colors of the Otherworld. Their clogs, sticks, and bells stamp out rhythms in circular and square patterns in celebration of the ancient Horned God of fertility and strength. The Lord of the Dance is one of the oldest gods of the natural world. Within the Christian religion, he is still honored as the force at the center of our spiritual and metaphysical lives.
Jen Delyth is a Welsh artist whose work is founded in her deep connection to her Celtic heritage. She creates intricate paintings and illustrations using traditional egg tempera and contemporary digital techniques. Her original, iconographic style is inspired by the Spirit in Nature and expresses our mythic connection to the natural world. For more information, please visit her website.
Beltane (also spelled Beltine or Beltein) is the Celtic name for the first day of May, which divided the ancient Celtic year in half. It was believed that each day began with the setting of the sun the night before, so Beltane was celebrated by lighting bonfires to honor the sun god. Cattle were driven through the “Beltane fire”—or between two fires—to protect them from disease before putting them out to pasture for the new season. Sometimes people followed the same ritual to forestall bad luck and to cure barrenness. Contact with the fire was symbolic of contact with the life-giving sun.
Along with Lammas (August 1), Hallowmas (All Saint’s Day, November 1), and Candlemas (February 2), Beltane was one of the British Quarter Days, or term days, when rents were due and debts were settled. The day is still observed in parts of Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, Wales, Brittany, and the Isle of Man, with most of the celebrations revolving around fire and reflecting ancient fertility rites.
Additional source: Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, 5th Ed., published by Omnigraphics