NEW PALTZ – The Center for Symbolic Studies will host the 29th annual Beltane Festival on April 27. The festival celebrates the beginning of spring and includes a variety of entertainment. Musicians, dancers, and puppeteers with their fantastical creations will be reveling in the warmth (weather permitting; the rain date is April 28) of newly thawed greenery. Food and apparel vendors will also be there, sharing their wares with prospective patrons. This year’s theme is “Italian Beltane.”
The festival will run from noon to 7 p.m. Music starts at 1 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children and seniors, with an additional $15 for parking. However, the CSS offers discounts for volunteers and members. The CSS was founded by Stephen and Robin Larsen who also hold the festival on their property at 475 River Road Ext. in New Paltz, just off the Rail Trail.
What Is Beltane?
Beltane is reportedly a Celtic word meaning “fires of Bel,” in reference to the Celtic deity Belenus, who was associated with the raising of livestock. Belenus has been worshiped in parts of northern Italy, France, Belgium, Germany and Britain.
There are a variety of versions of the Beltane Festival, which generally celebrates the start of a new season of growth and agriculture. Areas of Ireland and Scotland typically celebrate Beltane on the first day of May, which was considered the beginning of summer and open pasturing, according to Britannica. Cattle were driven between two bonfires as a way to protect them from disease before being led into the pastures. Other rituals include dancing around a “maypole” and crafting bouquets of flowers.