Happy Beltane (May Day)
by Cynthia Gregory
Priestess and Witch,
Circle of Winged Toads and Compost Coven
"Summer is a-coming in."
This is a Scottish Beltane custom. A knobby cake made with oats or barley, milk and eggs is baked in a round shape. The group stands in a circle facing the Bel fire. As they pass the cake each breaks off a knob or piece and throws it over their shoulder saying "This I give to thee ______(naming an elemental spirit of preservation or destruction). Preserve my ______." An example from the old days is "This I give to thee O Fox Preserve my chickens." Today one might say, "This I give to you economy. Preserve my bank account."
Here are a couple of versions of Beltane cake, based on oats, milk and eggs. I have successfully substituted Rice Dream and soy margarine for a dairy-free version. Also since Beltane is a festival of Belenus a Sun God, and a celebration of the rites of love, I use cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
Cinnamon is associated with the Sun and has long been used in love spells. Cloves are also popular in love spells. Ginger is associated with the Moon and has been used to win the affection of women. Thus as the Goddess and God come together at Beltane, so the Sun and Moon are joined in the cake.
Beltane Cake I
In a saucepan, heat 1 1/2 cups of milk with 1-cup oats, 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 tsp. sea salt. Cook until thickened. Let stand until room temperature. Mix in 2 cups brown sugar, 2 eggs and 1 tsp. vanilla. Add 1 1/3 cup unbleached white flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, tsp. Cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. Ginger and 1/2 tsp. cloves. Bake in a well-greased 9X13 pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes up clean. Top of cake may be decorated with powdered sugar. This cake is even better if baked the day before it is eaten. After cooling to room temperature cover tightly until serving.
Beltane Cake II
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9" round skillet melt 1/2 cup butter. Mix in a bowl 2/3 cup oats, 1 cup flour, 1 tbs. sugar, 1/2 tsp. ginger, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. cloves, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. baking powder. Stir 2/3 cup molasses into the butter and add to the flour mixture alternately with 2/3 cup milk. Do not overmix. Bake for approximately 35 minutes until it pulls away from the edge of the pan.