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Notes from the Apothecary

Notes from the Apothecary Special: Flowers for Bealtaine


Bealtaine is an Irish festival traditionally celebrated on May Eve (April 30th), with many modern celebrations taking place on May 1st. The word is pronounced Bee-ell-tun-uh approximately – at least that’s my best attempt with my very basic Irish! I think it’s important to embrace the correct pronunciation (or as close as you can get) because Irish is a living language and thriving culture, so anglicising Irish words is needless. I pronounced it Bell-tane for many years – now I know better, I try to do better. I’m an English person whose Pagan path is heavily influenced by Irish Paganism, history, and mythology, so being respectful to the source culture is vital.

Bealtaine means many things to me – it’s the first breath of summer, a “more or less” midpoint between spring equinox and summer solstice. Bealtaine speaks to me of bonfires, beacons, and camping out with friends. It’s also about flowers – all the new blooms bursting from hedgerows at the side of the road in a late spring symphony of smell and colour. Roses, not just red but flame orange and yellow and white. Buddleia tempting the bees and butterflies with its fragrant, sticky spears. And hawthorn, may blossom, sweet and sensual, even dangerous if many stories are to be believed. Here are my favourite Bealtaine flowers and some of their spiritual and magical correspondences.




There’s a place where I go camping, and at the entrance to the camping field, is the most enormous buddleia bush. Once the vibrant purple blossoms appear, so do the peacock butterflies – sometimes so many you can barely see the flowers! This is one of my favourite flowers of summer. We’re lucky enough to have a white variety growing wild near us in a run-down car park, and the fragrance from these paler blossoms is truly heavenly and a striking contrast to the urban grit of its surroundings.

Buddleia Correspondences

    • Surviving hardship – buddleia will often grow in places dismissed as “wasteland” or destroyed by construction or conflict – another name is the “Bombsite Flower”
    • Urban magic and mystery
    • Connection between city and nature
    • Recognising that humans are also a part of nature
    • Liminality, the edges of realities
    • Summer
    • Bees
    • Butterflies





Bluebells are an English treasure – a part of the land that’s looked after and honoured by just about everyone. In late spring and early summer, these striking blue blossoms blanket areas of woodland, completely transforming the area for a few days. Bluebells and other ground cover plants like wild garlic are often an indicator of ancient woodland, especially in places where they are widespread. There’s a wooded area near where I live that runs down to the canal. In March, the whole place smells like a pizzeria as the newly sprouted of the wild garlic releases its savoury aroma. But it’s late April and early May when the place really bursts into bloom, with bluebells as far as the eye can see

Bluebell Correspondences

    • Tradition and history
    • Respecting the land
    • Eradicating poison, both literally and metaphysically
    • Gratitude
    • Humility
    • Consistency

Learn more about the magic of the bluebell here.





The Snake’s Head Fritillary is an unusual wildflower with dark purplish, drooping, blossoms, adorned with a strange, chequered pattern that creates the appearance of snakeskin. Nothing else looks quite like it! Snake’s Head Fritillary is a flower that’s sadly in decline, and more often seen in gardens and nurseries than out in the wild. Look for it around streams and other fresh water sources.

Fritillary Correspondences

    • Outcasts
    • Different but proud
    • Appreciating the details
    • Invisibility
    • Looking at things from a different point of view
    • Thriving despite difficult circumstances


Hawthorn Blossom



Bealtaine, for me, has always revolved in some way around the May Blossom; the pungent, heady smell of Hawthorn flowers; even stronger on a sunny day. The sweet smell is one of those “love it or hate it” aromas. Some think it too sweet, sickly, or even reminiscent of rot. I’ve never found it so. The tree itself also has an odd duality. It protects and guards the boundaries of things – of fields, farms, and, perhaps, realities. Yet succumb to the sweet-smelling blossom and fall asleep beneath a Hawthorn tree at your peril. You may be taken by the Good Neighbours, away to a land where a mere day to you lasts a hundred years in our world. I was brought up to bring May Blossom into the house as a symbol of the season. I have now stopped doing this, never harming a Hawthorn tree for the wrath it may bring from the Fair Folk.

Hawthorn Correspondences

    • A mercurial nature
    • Dualities
    • The multiple facets of divinity and otherworldly beings
    • Protection
    • Boundaries
    • The Otherworld
    • The opening of doors, opportunities
    • Discovering truths

We have more in-depth info about the Hawthorn tree here.


What flowers grow in your local area in May? Which remind you of this month or season, and of the magic of Bealtaine? Come share your thoughts with us on Twitter or Facebook!


*Image credits

Buddleia with Peacock Butterfly: Photo by Stephan H. on Unsplash

Bluebells: Photo by Gabriel McCallin on Unsplash

Fritillary: Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash

Hawthorn: Photo by Timo C. Dinger on Unsplash



About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors & Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.