12 Fertility Deities of Beltane

African woman with natural hair and wildflower crown
PeopleImages / Getty Images

Beltane is a time of great fertility—for the earth itself, for animals, and of course for people as well. This season has been celebrated by cultures going back thousands of years, in a variety of ways, but nearly all shared the fertility aspect. Typically, this is a Sabbat to celebrate gods of the hunt or of the forest, and goddesses of passion and motherhood, as well as agricultural deities. Here is a list of gods and goddesses that can be honored as part of your tradition's Beltane rituals.

Artemis (Greek)

The moon goddess Artemis was associated with the hunt and was seen as a goddess of forests and hillsides. This pastoral connection made her a part of spring celebrations in later periods. Although she hunts animals, she is also a protector of the forest and its young creatures. Artemis was known as a goddess who valued her chastity, and was fiercely protective of her status as divine virgin.

Bes (Egyptian)

Worshiped in later dynasties, Bes was a household protection god and watched over mothers and young children. He and his wife, Beset, were paired up in rituals to cure problems with infertility. According to Ancient Egypt Online, he was "a god of war, yet he was also a patron of childbirth and the home, and was associated with sexuality, humour, music and dancing." The cult of Bes reached its peak during the Ptolemaic Period, when he was often petitioned for help with fertility and sexual needs. He soon became popular with the Phoenicians and Romans as well; in artwork he is typically portrayed with an unusually large phallus.

Bacchus (Roman)

Considered the equivalent of the Greek god Dionysus, Bacchus was the party god—grapes, wine, and general debauchery were his domain. In March each year, Roman women could attend secret ceremonies on the Aventine Hill, called the bacchanalia, and he is associated with sexual free-for-alls and fertility. Bacchus has a divine mission, and that is his role of liberator. During his drunken frenzies, Bacchus loosens the tongues of those who partake of wine and other beverages, and allows people the freedom to say and do what they wish.

Cernunnos (Celtic)

Cernunnos is a horned god found in Celtic mythology. He is connected with male animals, particularly the stag in rut, and this has led him to be associated with fertility and vegetation. Depictions of Cernunnos are found in many parts of the British Isles and western Europe. He is often portrayed with a beard and wild, shaggy hair — he is, after all, the lord of the forest. Because of his horns (and the occasional depiction of a large, erect phallus), Cernunnos has often been misinterpreted by fundamentalists as a symbol of Satan.

Flora (Roman)

This goddess of spring and flowers had her own festival, Floralia, which was celebrated every year between April 28 to May 3. Romans dressed in bright robes and floral wreaths and attended theater performances and outdoor shows. Offerings of milk and honey were made to the goddess. Ancient History expert NS Gill says, "The Floralia festival began in Rome in 240 or 238 B.C., when the temple to Flora was dedicated, to please the goddess Flora into protecting the blossoms."

Hera (Greek)

Face of goddess Hera
Zwiebackesser / Getty Images

This goddess of marriage was the equivalent of the Roman Juno, and took it upon herself to bestow good tidings to new brides. In her earliest forms, she appears to have been a nature goddess, who presides over wildlife and nurses the young animals which she holds in her arms. Greek women who wished to conceive—particularly those who wanted a son—might make offerings to Hera in the form of votives, small statues and paintings, or apples and other fruits representing fertility. In some cities, Hera was honored with an event called the Heraia, which was an all-female athletic competition, beginning as early as the sixth century B.C.E.

Kokopelli (Hopi)

This flute-playing, dancing spring god carries unborn children upon his own back and then passes them out to fertile women. In the Hopi culture, he is part of rites that relate to marriage and childbearing, as well as the reproductive abilities of animals. Often portrayed with rams and stags, symbolic of his fertility, Kokopelli occasionally is seen with his consort, Kokopelmana. In one legend, Kokopelli was traveling through the land, turning winter into spring with the beautiful notes from his flute, and calling the rain to come so that there would be a successful harvest later in the year. The hunch on his back represents the bag of seeds and the songs he carries. As he played his flute, he melted the snow and brought the warmth of spring back to the land.

Mbaba Mwana Waresa (Zulu)

Mbaba Mwana Waresa is a Zulu goddess who is associated with both the harvest season, and the spring rains. According to legend, she is the one who taught women how to brew beer from grains; beer-making is traditionally women's work in South Africa. Thanks to her connection to the grain harvest, Mbaba Mwana Waresa is a goddess of fertility, and is also associated with the rainy season that falls in late May, as well as rainbows.

Pan (Greek)

Stone Statue Of Pan At The National Park, Athens, Greece
Czgur / Getty Images

This agricultural god watched over shepherds and their flocks. He was a rustic sort of god, spending lots of time roaming the woods and pastures, hunting and playing music on his flute. Pan is typically portrayed as having the hindquarters and horns of a goat, similar to a faun. Because of his connection to fields and the forest, he is often honored as a spring fertility god.

Priapus (Greek)

This fairly minor rural god has one giant claim to fame — his permanently erect and enormous phallus. The son of Aphrodite by Dionysus (or possibly Zeus, depending on the source), Priapus was mostly worshiped in homes rather than in an organized cult. Despite his constant lust, most stories portray him as sexually frustrated, or even impotent. However, in agricultural areas, he was still regarded as a god of fertility, and at one point he was considered a protective god, who threatened sexual violence against anyone -- male or female -- who transgressed the boundaries he guarded.

Sheela-na-Gig (Celtic)

Although the Sheela-na-Gig is technically the name applied to the carvings of women with exaggerated vulvae that have been found in Ireland and England, there's a theory that the carvings are representative of a lost pre-Christian goddess. Typically, the Sheela-na-Gig adorns buildings in areas of Ireland that were part of the Anglo-Norman conquests in the 12th century. She is shown as a homely woman with a giant yoni, which is spread wide to accept the seed of the male. Folkloric evidence indicates that the figures were part of a fertility rite, similar to "birthing stones," which were used to bring on conception.

Xochiquetzal (Aztec)

This fertility goddess was associated with spring and represented not only flowers but the fruits of life and abundance. She was also the patron goddess of prostitutes and craftsmen.