Written by Michael Halloran:

I'm from Ireland, and I recently got together with some other Irish pagans online to talk about the word Beltane. I only came across this word when I moved to America. It's an anglicization of the native Irish word Bealtaine.

The most accepted etymology is that beal means "bright" (in modern Irish, "geal") and taine (in modern Irish, "tine") meaning "fire". Although "beal" is also the word for mouth in Irish so I've recently heard one Irish journalist translate it as "the mouth of fire", but I've only come across that version that one time.

Bealtaine is also the Irish word for May, and May 1st in Irish is "Lá Bealtaine" which literally translates then as "May Day".

So, based on my conversations with other Irish pagans (and my own gut reaction when I heard the term), and the general trend within Ireland to reclaim things like this, I think you will find most Irish people would prefer you do not use Beltane. In fact, I was asked by the Irish pagans I spoke with to do the legwork of actually spreading this information to Americans. And if there is anyone else here from Ireland who would like to chime in, I would love to hear how you feel about this.

As you may know, there is a long history of colonization and oppression when it comes to Ireland's relationship with England. And one of the effects of this was the suppression of the native Irish language, and the forced adoption of English and the appropriation of Irish terms.

Wicca was created by Gerald Gardner, an English man who chose Irish words, I believe, because they sounded mystical, rather than for honoring Irish Culture. May Day would have worked fine, as Maia is the Goddess of Growth. Even in Welsh they use the word May: Calan Mai — The First of May

So, I know that Atheopaganism does not use the word Beltane, but I've noticed many people here do, so I invite you to refraine using it and instead just say May Day or if you like, the actual word Bealtaine.

If you would like help with pronunciation, you can visit here and listen: https://www.teanglann.ie/en/fuaim/bealtaine

The Munster dialect pronunciation is the one I'm most comfortable with, but Connacht and Ulster are completely fine.

Now, if you feel strongly that you would like to continue using Beltane, or if you know of a good reason why we should continue to use it, I would definitely be interested to know why. I think there's an argument to be made for a Scottish use of Beltane, but there's also an argument that the Lowlands use of Beltane is an appropriation of Highlands Gaelic culture. So, if you do want to come at it from the other angle, I think that would be a great conversation.