Bealltain, Beltane, is the first day of May. On May Day all the fires of the district were extinguished and the 'tein eigin,' need-fire, produced on the knoll. This fire was divided in two, and people and cattle rushed through for the purification and safeguarding against 'ealtraigh agus dosgaidh,' mischance and murrain, during the year. The people obtained fires for their homes from this need-fire. The practice of producing the need-fire came down in the Highlands and Islands to the first quarter of this century [19th century]. The writer found traces of it in such distant places as Arran, Uist and Sutherland. In 1895 a woman in Arran said that in the time of her father the people made the need-fire on the knoll, and then rushed home and brought out their 'creatairean,' creatures, and put them round the fire to safeguard them, 'bho'n bhana bhuitsich mhoir Nic-creafain,' from the arch-witch Crawford.
The ordeal of passing through the fires gave rise to a proverb which I heard used by an old man in Lewis in 1873: - 'A Mhoire! mhicean, bu dora dhomhsa sin a dheanamh dhuit na dhol eadar dha theine mhoir Bheaill,' An Mary! sonnie, it were worse for me to do that for thee, than to pass between the two great fires of Beall.
BEANNAICH, a Thrianailt fhioir nach gann,
Mi fein, mo cheile agus mo chlann,
Mo chlann mhaoth ’s am mathair chaomh ’n an ceann,
Air chlar chubhr nan raon, air airidh chaon nam beann,
Air chlar chubhr nan raon, air airidh chaon nam beann.
Gach ni na m’ fhardaich, no to ’na m’ shealbh,
Gach buar is barr, gach tan is tealbh,
Bho Oidhche Shamhna chon Oidhche Bheallt,
Piseach maith, agus beannachd mallt,
Bho mhuir, gu muir, agus bun gach allt,
Bho thonn gu tonn, agus bonn gach steallt.
Tri Pears a gabhail sealbh anns gach ni ’na m’ stor,
An Trianailt dhearbha da m’ dhion le coir;
O m’ anam riaraich am briathra Phoil,
Is dion mo chiallain fo sgiath do ghloir,
Dion mo chiallain fo sgiath do ghloir.
Beannaich gach ni, agus gach aon,
Ta ’s an teaghlach bheag ri m’ thaobh;
Cuir Crois Chriosd oirnn le buaidh baigh,
Gun am faic sinn tir an aigh,
Gun am faic sinn tir an aigh.
Trath threigeas buar am buabhal bho,
Trath threigeas cuanal an cual chro,
Trath dh’ eireas ceigich ri beinn a cheo,
Treoir na Trianaid bhi triall ’n an coir,
O treoir na Trianaid bhi triall ’n an coir.
A Thi a chruthaich mi air tus,
Eisd is fritheil rium aig lubadh glun,
Moch is anamoch mar is iul,
A d’ lathair fein a Dhe nan dui,
A d’ lathair fein a Dhe nan dui.
BLESS, O Threefold true and bountiful,
self, my spouse, and my children,
My tender children and their beloved mother at their head.
On the fragrant plain, on the gay mountain sheiling,
On the fragrant plain, on the gay mountain sheiling.
Everything within my dwelling or in my possession,
All kine and crops, all flocks and corn,
From Hallow Eve to Beltane Eve,
With goodly progress and gentle blessing,
From sea to sea, and every river mouth,
From wave to wave, and base of waterfall.
Be the Three Persons taking possession of all to me belonging,
Be the sure Trinity protecting me in truth;
Oh! satisfy my soul in the words of Paul,
And shield my loved ones beneath the wing of Thy glory,
Shield my loved ones beneath the wing of Thy glory.
Bless everything and every one,
Of this little household by my side;
Place the cross of Christ on us with the power of love,
Till we see the land of joy,
Till we see the land of joy,
What time the kine shall forsake the stalls,
What time the sheep shall forsake the folds,
What time the goats shall ascend to the mount of mist,
May the tending of the Triune follow them,
May the tending of the Triune follow them.
Thou Being who didst create me at the beginning,
Listen and attend me as I bend the knee to Thee,
Morning and evening as is becoming in me,
In Thine own presence, O God of life,
In Thine own presence, O God of life.
References: Taken from Carmina Gadelica, vol i, pp 182-185. Collected from Donald Wilson, aged 101, crofter, Airdmhor, South Uist.Image: Image taken from http://foodmapper.wordpress.com/tag/local-food/