Beltane or Beltain[ (/ˈbɛl.teɪn/) is the Gaelic May Day festival. Most commonly it is held on 1 May, or about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. In Irish it is Bealtaine ([ˈbʲal̪ˠt̪ˠənʲə]), in Scottish Gaelic Bealltainn ([ˈpjaul̪ˠt̪ˠɪɲ]) and in Manx Gaelic Boaltinn or Boaldyn. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—along with Samhain, Imbolc and Lughnasadh—and is similar to the Welsh Calan Mai.
Beltane is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and it is associated with important events in Irish mythology. It marked the beginning of summer and was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. Special bonfires were kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. The people and their cattle would walk around the bonfire, or between two bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bonfire. These gatherings would be accompanied by a feast, and some of the food and drink would be offered to the aos sí. Doors, windows, byres and the cattle themselves would be decorated with yellow May flowers, perhaps because they evoked fire. In parts of Ireland, people would make a May Bush; a thorn bush decorated with flowers, ribbons and bright shells. Holy wells were also visited, while Beltane dew was thought to bring beauty and maintain youthfulness. Many of these customs were part of May Day or Midsummer festivals in other parts of Great Britain and Europe.
Beltane celebrations had largely died-out by the mid-20th century, although some of its customs continued and in some places it has been revived as a cultural event. Since the latter 20th century, Celtic neopagans and Wiccans have observed Beltane, or something based on it, as a religious holiday. Neopagans in the Southern Hemisphere often celebrate Beltane at the other end of the year (~1 November).
President: Michael D. Higgins (2011)
Taoiseach (Prime Minister): Enda Kenny (2011)
Land area: 26,598 sq mi (68,889 sq km); total area: 27,135 sq mi (70,280 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 4,832,765 (growth rate: 1.2%); birth rate: 15.18/1000; infant mortality rate: 3.74/1000; life expectancy: 80.56
Capital (2011 est.): Dublin, 1.121 million
Monetary unit: Euro (formerly Irish pound [punt])
National name: Éire
Current government officials
Languages: English, Irish (Gaelic) (both official)
Ethnicity/race: Irish 84.5%, other white 9.8%, Asian 1.9%, black 1.4%, mixed and other 0.9%, unspecified 1.6% (2011 est.)
Religions: Roman Catholic 84.7%, Church of Ireland 2.7%, other Christian 2.7%, Muslim 1.1%, other 1.7%, unspecified 1.5%, none 5.7% (2011 est.)
National Holiday: Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17
Literacy rate: 99% (2003 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2013 est.): $190.4 billion; per capita $41,300. Real growth rate: 0.6%. Inflation: 0.6%. Unemployment: 13.5%. Arable land: 15.11%. Agriculture: turnips, barley, potatoes, sugar beets, wheat; beef, dairy products. Labor force: 2.161 million (2011 est.); agriculture 5%, industry 19%, services 76% (2011 est.). Industries: steel, lead, zinc, silver, aluminum, barite, and gypsum mining processing; food products, brewing, textiles, clothing; chemicals, pharmaceuticals; machinery, rail transportation equipment, passenger and commercial vehicles, ship construction and refurbishment; glass and crystal; software, tourism. Natural resources: zinc, lead, natural gas, barite, copper, gypsum, limestone, dolomite, peat, silver. Exports: $113.6 billion (2013 est.): machinery and equipment, computers, chemicals, pharmaceuticals; live animals, animal products. Imports: $61.51 billion (2013 est.): data processing equipment, other machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum and petroleum products, textiles, clothing. Major trading partners: U.S., UK, Belgium, Germany, France, Netherlands, Switzerland (2012).
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 2.007 million (2012); mobile cellular: 4.906 million (2012). Broadcast media: publicly owned broadcaster Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE) operates 2 TV stations; commercial TV stations are available; about 75% of households utilize multi-channel satellite and TV services that provide access to a wide range of stations; RTE operates 4 national radio stations and has launched digital audio broadcasts on several stations; a number of commercial broadcast stations operate at the national, regional, and local levels (2014). Internet hosts: 1.387 million (2010). Internet users: 3.042 million (2009).
Transportation: Railways: total: 3,237 km (2008). Roadways: total: 96,036 km; paved: 96,036 km (including 1,224 km of expressways) (2014). Waterways: 956 km (pleasure craft only) (2010). Ports and harbors: Cork, Dublin, Shannon Foynes, Waterford. Airports: 40 (2013).
International disputes: Ireland, Iceland, and the UK dispute Denmark’s claim that the Faroe Islands’ continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm.
Happy St.Patrick’s Day!!
Croagh Patrick (Irish: Cruach Phádraig, meaning “(Saint) Patrick’s Stack”),nicknamed the Reek, is a 764 metres (2,507 ft) mountain and an important site of pilgrimage in County Mayo in Ireland. It is 8 kilometres (5 mi) from Westport, above the villages of Murrisk and Lecanvey. It is the third highest mountain in County Mayo after Mweelrea and Nephin. It is climbed by pilgrims on Reek Sunday every year, which is the last Sunday in July. It forms the southern part of a U-shaped valley created by a glacier flowing into Clew Bay in the last Ice Age. Croagh Patrick is part of a longer east-west ridge; the westernmost peak is called Ben Gorm.
Croagh Patrick comes from the Irish Cruach Phádraig meaning “(Saint) Patrick’s stack”. It is known locally as “the Reek”, a Hiberno-English word for a “rick” or “stack”.In pagan times it was known as Cruachán Aigle, being mentioned by that name in sources such as Cath Maige Tuired,Buile Shuibhne, The Metrical Dindshenchas,and the Annals of Ulster entry for the year 1113.Cruachán is simply a diminutive of cruach “stack”, but it is not certain what Aigle means. It is either from the Latin loan aquila “eagle” (more usually aicile or acaile)or a person’s name. In addition to its literal meaning, cruach in the pagan name may also have some connection with Crom Cruach.
The Marquess of Sligo, whose seat is nearby Westport House, bears the titles Baron Mount Eagle and Earl of Altamont, both deriving from alternative names (Cruachán Aigle; high mount) for Croagh Patrick.
Croagh Patrick has been a site of pagan pilgrimage, especially for the summer solstice, since 3,000 B.C. It is now a site of Christian pilgrimage associated with Saint Patrick who reputedly fasted on the summit for forty days in the fifth century A.D.Thousands of people climb the mountain every Reek Sunday, which is the last Sunday in July. The climb is led by Archbishop of Tuam every year.
Whether you believe in superstitions or not almost everyone you know takes note when it’s Friday the 13th and is more careful crossing the road, pouring hot coffee, or walking down the stairs.
Silly or not it is all in the name of warding off what bad luck might come their way. The Irish are big believers in this kind of caution.
On Friday the 13th some people even take to their beds or refuse to leave the house. Believe it or believe it not this behavior is actually a diagnosed phobia of Friday the 13th called “Paraskevidekatriaphobia.”
It’s not certain where the superstition about Friday the 13th comes from but one of the most common theories is that there were 13 people at the Last Supper and Christ died on Good Friday, hence Friday the 13th. There are also Spanish, Norse and Old English theories but this is one of the most quoted.
There’s not much you can do about Friday the 13th but there are some old Irish superstitions you can take note of to avoid some bad luck. You never know when they might come in handy to spare yourself a little extra bad luck.
Superstitions on Death
– If you trip and fall in a graveyard you will most likely die by the end of the year.
– If you meet a funeral on the road you must turn and walk with the funeral party for at least four steps to warn off bad luck.
– If you open your front door and are greeted by a magpie and it looks at you. Then there is absolutely not thing you can do. This is a sure sign of death.
– A black cat crossing your path is very bad luck. To counteract this make a triangle shape using your thumbs and forefingers and spit at the cat through the hold. This method will also work when you accidentally walk under a ladder.
– If a rooster comes to the threshold of your house and crows then you can expect visitors.
– If you see three magpies on the road it is very unlucky but if you see two of them on your right-hand side then that it’s good luck.
– If you kill a robin redbreast you will never have any good luck ever again.
– If the first lamb of the year is black then someone in the family will die within a year.
– If you meet a magpie, a cat or a woman with a limp while you’re on a trip it is bad luck.
– Never ask a man going fishing where he is going.
– If you find a horse shoe and nail it to the door it will bring good luck. This will not work if the shoe is bought or given as a gift by someone else.
– It is not safe to pick up an unbaptized child unless you make the sign of the cross.
– If you stand up and your chair falls over you’re in for bad luck.
– If you own a four-leafed clover you will have good luck in racing, and witchcraft will have no power over you. However the rules are that you must always have it with you, you cannot pass it on to another owner and under no circumstances should you show it to anyone.
– If the palm of your hand itches you’re going to come into some money. If it’s your elbow you will be changing beds. If your ear feels hot someone is talking about you. If it’s your nose that itchy you are going to have a fight with the person nearest to you. To remedy this punch them in the arm and shake them by the hand. Fight over!
– Handing someone a knife is bad luck. Always put it on the table in front of them never in their hand.
– If you get your shirt wet while you’re washing the dishes you will marry a drunk.
Source: Irish Central
It is still impossible to find a recipe for a Veda loaf, over a hundred years after it was invented. However, devotees have had good results by following the instructions for a malted fruit loaf but without the fruit or alcohol.
Although a sweet bread, Veda is often eaten toasted with butter and cheese, although many prefer to add jam or marmalade. It is usually eaten as a snack.
Veda Bakeries hold all the original recipes for Veda bread. Veda Bakeries is a company registered by law. The company is based East Lothian, and is owned by Jim Kerr of forthestuary cereals.
The formula for Veda was allegedly stumbled upon by luck when a Dundee farmer’s house-keeper accidentally used damp wheat which had sprouted to produce malted wheat. When she used the malted wheat for the farmer’s bread it produced a sweet-malted flavoured bread – and Veda bread was born.
Veda bread is a malted bread sold in Northern Ireland. It is a small, caramel-coloured loaf with a very soft consistency when fresh. Since it is only available in Northern Ireland, many people rely on their relatives to send them veda to other parts of the UK.
In the North West of England, however, veda bread is something quite different: a sweet, sticky loaf made with black treacle. It is eaten sliced, dry, or with butter or margarine. The molasses in the treacle help to preserve the mixture, and veda bread connoisseurs will leave a freshly baked loaf for several weeks in a closed cake tin to allow the flavours to mature before they eat it.
The following is of course not the real recipe for Veda bread but about as close as I could find:
1 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp malt extract
2 tbsp black treacle
25g/1oz butter, plus extra for greasing
350g/12oz strong white bread flour, plus extra for flouring
100g/3½oz strong wholemeal flour
14g/½oz fast action yeast
250ml/9fl oz warm water
1 tbsp warm honey, to glaze
Place the sugar, malt extract, treacle and butter in a pan and heat gently until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool.
Mix the flours, salt, yeast and sultanas in a mixing bowl.
Pour in the cooled malt syrup mixture and the warm water. Mix thoroughly; the mixture will be soft and sticky.
Turn the mixture onto a floured surface and knead gently for a few minutes to bring the mixture together.
Grease two 450g/1lb loaf tins and divide the mixture among them. Smooth the mixture with the back of a spoon so that the top is smooth and level. Cover each tin with a plastic bag so that it is loose and not touching the top of the tin. Leave for a couple of hours, or until the dough has risen to the top of the tins.
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Remove the plastic bags and bake for 30-40 minutes. If the top of the loaf starts to brown too quickly, cover with a sheet of foil and continue baking.
Remove from the oven and brush the top with warm honey to glaze. Cool on a wire rack.
Slice and eat with butter.
I intend to make this one day, hope you do too!!
Sources: WIKI and http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes