Beltane, Baltan, Bealtine, Beltein (from Celtic Real, the name of a deity, and tin or teine, fire), a Celtic fire festival, formerly celebrated about May 1st and November 1st, and having much in common with the bonfire rites of other branches of the Aryan race. Many writers have attempted to identify the Celtic Beal with the Bel or Baal of the Semites - an attempt which Trior considers on a level with Sir William Jones's identification of Woden with Buddha.
The Beltane festival is first mentioned in a manuscript of the tenth century by Cormac, Archbishop of Cashel, though it must have originated at a far earlier date. At first it was undoubtedly sacrificial, and it seems to have retained something of its original character down to the eighteenth and probably to the nineteenth century. Scott, who uses the word in the "Boat Song" in the Lady of the Lake as synonymous with Spring, in his Demonology attributes the Beltane and similar rites "to a natural tendency to the worship of the evil principle." It is more in accordance with the anthropological teaching of the present day to ascribe them to nature-worship (q.v.).
In Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland it is said that "on May 1st all the boys (i.e. unmarried men) in a township or hamlet meet on the moors, where they dig a trench in which they kindle a fire and bake a cake, which is afterwards divided into portions. One of these pieces is blackened and they are then put in a bonnet, and all draw lots. Whoever draws the black bit is to be sacrificed to Baal, whose favour they mean to implore in rendering the year productive of sustenance to man and beast. . . They now omit the act of sacrifice, and only compel the devoted person to leap three times through the flames." The same authority says that on All Saints' eve bonfires were set up in every village, and when the fires were extinguished the ashes were raked into a circle. Then a stone was put in the ashes for every person belonging to the families who made the bonfire, and the person whose stone was displaced or injured before the morning was supposed to be destined not to live twelve months from that day.