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Celtic springtime festivalIn Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Beltane or Bealltaine is the traditional spring festival.

Traditionally, livestock was driven out to the summer pastures, and rituals were held to ask for protection and good growth of crops. Wikipedia says, “According to 17th-century historian Geoffrey Keating, there was a great gathering at the hill of Uisneach each Beltane in medieval Ireland, where a sacrifice was made to a god named Beil. Keating wrote that two bonfires would be lit in every district of Ireland, and cattle would be driven between them to protect them from disease.”

The spelling and pronunciation of “Beltane” vary. At the time that Joyce wrote, he favoured the spelling “Belltaine” and provided a pronunciation that approximated “Beltine”.

The original tune was noted down by Joyce in 1873. He says:

“Learned from my father. I heard it, also in 1853 among the miners at the head of Gllenmalure in the county Wicklow, where I found it was well known, and a favourite dancing tune.”

I took this happy tune, played with it and extended it, for the joy and happiness of modern audiences.

Illustration: Beltane fire on Carlton Hill, Edinburgh, from Wikipedia

The original tune as noted down by Joyce:

My variations on this tune, piano:

Harpsichord, 432 Hz tuning

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