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May 1st 1769

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The Beltane Ceremony

The Beltane Ceremony as observed in the Highlands.

“On the first day of May, the herdsmen of every village hold their Bel-tein, a rural sacrifice. They cut a square trench on the ground, leaving the turf in the middle; on that they make a fire of wood, on which they dress a large caudle of eggs, butter oatmeal and milk; and bring, besides the ingredients of the caudle, plenty of beer and whisky; for each of the company must contribute something. The rites begin by spilling some of the caudle upon the ground by way of libation; on that, everyone takes a cake of outmeal, on which are raised some nine square knobs, each dedicated to some particular being, the supposed preserver of their flocks and herds; and to some particular animal the supposed destroyer of them; each person then turns his face to the fire, breaks off a knob and flinging it over his shoulder says, ‘This I give to thee, preserve thou my horses; this to thee preserve thou my sheep’ and so on. After that they use the same ceremony to the noxious animals; ‘This I give to thee o fox, spare thou my lambs; this to thee o hooded crow; to thee o eagle.’

When the ceremony is over, they dine on the caudle; and after the feast is finished, what is left is hid by two persons deputed for that purpose; but on the next Sunday they re-assemble and finish the reliques of the first entertainment.” 
Travels in Scotland. Thomas Pennant

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