Sunday, 1 May 2011

My Annual Beltane Snit


Every year at the beginning of May, I go into my annual Beltane snit. This is why.

The pronunciation of Celtic words is impossible to figure out just by looking at them. They are never pronounced the way they look. That's why you need to put a bit of effort into determining how to pronounce them correctly.

But it's a losing battle here in North America (and maybe even in Britain, for that matter). Every pagan I know pronounces Beltane exactly the way it looks (BEL-tane) instead of its correct pronunciation (BOWL-tan-a), which I learned years ago from The Magickal Year's pronunciation guide to Gaelic/Welsh mythological and pagan words.

But this will be my last Beltane snit. After many fruitless years of attempting to lead by example, I now concede that it is impossible to stand against this tide of popular mispronunciation. So I hereby throw in the towel and from now on I will celebrate BEL-tane like everyone else. It's just easier to go with the flow.

*heavy martyred sigh*

37 comments:

Ambermoggie, a fragrant soul said...

Snit away my dear:)
Happy Beltaine to you and your loved one. May it bring you much joy and inspiration

Francie said...

O Debra, I hope you reconsider. The true sound of the word is beautiful. I certainly didn't know about it.

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Coming from a long line of Irish, I know I would not even begin to be able to take a stab at the pronunciation of most of the words....oh my. It is interesting to learn how Beltane is properly pronounced, and I would guess TV and Movies have not helped the situation.
On the other hand, I hear people murder Latin which stands me on my tin ear.....
Good to read the *real* pronunciation~~am I a geek for liking to know how to say things???

XXOO~~
Anne

Lois said...

Bowl-tana sounds better though, doesn't it? I must admit I'm a Beltane lady, although often I just wish people a happy May Day.

:) Have a good one! Lois

mxtodis123 said...

I know exactly what you mean about those Gaelic/Welsh words. The correct pronunciation is so far off from the spelling. I gave up years ago. Happy Beltane to you and yours.
Mary

Mother's Moon's Message said...

ah dear, I say stand up against the majority and do what you know to be right. In fact to show that you efforts were not in vain, I hearby agree that hence forth I will not pronounce it BEL-tane but instead use its correct pronunciation of BOWL-tan-a

Suzie said...

Please don't give up the effort! Like Samhain,it sounds SO much prettier pronounced the way that it is supposed to be said. And every year, you will open a few more pairs of eyes, who will thank you for enlightening them! Don't give up! The survival of the Gaelic language is dependent upon you to keep the flame alive!

Just A Gal said...

I would say bowl-tan-a, but I would get soooo sick of snooty pagans I know saying, "Um, excuse me, it's Bel-tane. Dumbass." Then I would have to explain, and then a snooty little pissing contest would develop. Not cool. So, just like you I will go with the flow. Blessed Beltane!

"Winter Slytherin" said...

LOL... I actually feel like this about my own last name. It has a correct German pronunciation which no American would ever attempt. But if it were said this way I would actually enjoy the name much more. The American pronunciation is just... blah. I considered pronouncing it the un-Americanized way when I first got married but my husband nor his family has never even thought of pronouncing it that way and like you said it is almost impossible to stand against the tide. Anyhow Happy Beltane! I for one actually had never heard anything other than BELT-tane and I've been into Paganism a long time. So I learned something new today. :-)

Linda in New Mexico said...

Thanks for the correct pronunciation. I have trivial pursuit brain and this is a wonderful gift today. Thank you. Beltane (bowl tan a) Blessings, The Olde Bagg

Aunt Amelia's Attic said...

Ahhhhh yes, the true pronunciation of Celtic words. Same with other Festival names. -sigh-

You put up a good fight, though! And now, it's alright to throw in the towel. Well....... It just has to be! 'Cause "having one's knickers in a twist" is no way to celebrate Beltane. :-))))

Hope your Beltane Eve was lovely!

~♥~

Blueberry said...

Happy Beltane! Summer is here, and it feels like it! Last night at an outdoor concert with the Decemberists, lead singer Colin Meloy wished us all a Happy Beltane (which he pronounced in the Americanized way) and wondered if there was, perhaps, a smattering of Pagans in the audience. They followed with a song about summer. It was all very appropriate as it was a very hot and sweaty night.

I think my snit is about the Summer Solstice being called the first day of summer. To me that should be Midsummer, it just makes sense. Yes, I have a matching snit for Winter Solstice.

Lynette Killam said...

I could definitely hear that heavy sigh, Debra, and I sympathize with your complaint. For anyone who loves language, the spelling and pronunciation of words matters, as it does not seem to for those who answer, "Whatever!" when one attempts an explanation.

I'd stick to the correct pronunciation on principal, and to hell with detractors...:)

DEZMOND said...

ah, I so love me some Celtic magic and folklore and their history too!
Celts lived in my country too back in ancient history so we have a lot of things similar in our traditions.

Wendy said...

Snit away all you want, Debra...Very feline like of you ;) I can't believe I got upset once at this poor woman in a woman's spirituality circle when she pronounced Samhain wrong . What ego I had, lol...Now, I just smile politely to their faces and then turn away and snit. Wishing you, your rare one and of COURSE HRH blessings of beauty, magick and a few treats..

Kal said...

Gaelic/Welsh is an insane language to read or understand. Nothing relates to the phonetic spelling. I think it's their joke on the world. The longest town name in the world is actually in Whales. Beautiful country but they don't want anyone to understand what the hell they are talking about.

clairedulalune said...

Oh dear Debra, you are right, but if you cant beat im, join im eh? Its quite funny when you get some of my Irish friends names, write it down and ask someone to pronouce it, I end up forgetting myself! Happy Beltine....beltane... how do you say it again?? LOL!

Holly Ruggiero said...

I'm sure you have one more good snit in you!

Happy BOWL-tan-a!

It's this a good day to see fairies? I forget the lore.

Rose - The Center of My Self said...

Right is right. Thanks for letting us know the correct way to pronounce it. That's teaching, not snitting, to me anyway. Would a teacher give up teaching 2+2=4 just because the students kept getting it wrong? Teach us; I wanna know. BOWL-tan-a it is!

Thalia said...

The one that bugs me is deosil. No, it's not 'dee-OH-sill' it's JAY-shill, or maybe, maybe, JAY-sheel.

And okay, I've only had a night course of (Scottish) Gaelic, but I'm not sure about BOWL being right, honestly. Definitely the E on the end is pronounced, probably as a schwaish 'uh', since there aren't any silent E's in Gaelic or Irish as far as I know, but I was under the impression that an E like the first one in 'Beltaine' would after all be short, like in the word 'end.' (At least that goes with what I learned in that class, as well as what my Dictionary of Celtic Mythology says in its intro. Of course there are about a gazillion exceptions, so.)

My Grama's Soul said...

Well....you've done it again.....taught me something new!!

xo

Jo

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

happy fucking spring.

Sarita Rucker said...

I hadn't known how it's supposed to be pronounced! Thank you. I must remember this.

And have a happy BOWL-tan-a!

:D

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Thanks, Thalia, for your insight on the proper pronunciation of Beltane -- a night course in Gaelic definitely makes you the most accomplished Gaelic speaker I know! And I'm adding the correct pronunciation of deosil to my list too. I was saying DAYO-shill, which appears to be the Harry Belafonte pronunciation.

theviolethourmuse said...

It's sow-in!!

Midwinterain said...

Oh Goddess, I wonder how many sabbat names, and other names, I've been saying wrong... Apparently Samhain and deosil, as well as Beltane...

Well, I'm going to change my habits and say it the right way from now on!

Happy Bowl-tan-a and May Day to you, Debra!

Midwinterain. xoxo

Cameron said...

I have been shuddering for years over pronunciations of Samhain, and heaven help us with Mabon and related words...NO one has EVER pointed out an alternative or correct pronunciation for Beltane!!! 0.0 THANK YOU! I find the correct pronunciation to be beautiful and while, like you I doubt I will be able to get those around me to shift, I will certainly correct my own pronunciation personally! Thank you for sharing this! And Happy Beltane! Many hugs!

laughingwolf said...

ack!

you may do as you wish [as if what i say mattered :P], but i'll NEVER call a PORSCHE a PORSHHH... i mean, c'mon!

just like HELSINKI is NOT pronounced HELL SINKY... it's a FINNISH word, why pronounce it like it was ENGLISH?

finnish is a finno-ugric tongue, not remotely anglo-saxon!

correct pronunciation: HEL-SINGGI

for a SINKY sound, it would be spelled with a two Ks...

i have the same bitch about other words lazy assholes want to anglicize! GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

ensouling said...

My Welsh and Irish aunts spoke Gaelic as a grownups language when they didn't want us to know what was being said. How often I've wished they chose to teach us it instead!

This brings me back in time! Keep fighting the good fight. Even now, my reading vocabulary is much larger than my speaking vocabulary and I am ever grateful for the advent of audio on online dictionaries. So thank you.

Tricky Nag said...

Even Wikipedia (my sad source for all things of importance) is turning against you - your pronunciation does not appear first. But, on the upside, it appears.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Hi Tricky Nag -- Thanks for the info, good to know! I never check Wikipedia (or even a dictionary) for pronunciation assistance because (true confession time) I can't figure out the proper sounds from those mysterious characters. I need my pronunciations spelled out PHONETICALLY, dammit. Clearly, you paid more attention in English class than I did!

Jeanne said...

It can be so hard to teach old dogs new tricks.....

Thalia said...

I can never figure out the damned pronunciation things on Wikipedia, either. Which makes something that bills itself as useful decidedly not.

It probably doesn't help that there are like a gabillion spelling variations of the word, either. My Dictionary of Celtic Mythology has:

Beltaine, Belltaine, Bealtaine, Beltain, Beltane, Beltine, Bealteine, for the Irish, with Bealltuinn for the Scots Gaelic, and Boaldyn for the Manx (which is as far as I know pronounced phonetically like English). If the ea in one of the Irish variants is pronounced like the ea in bean sĂ­dhe, (banshee, lit. 'faerie woman') then it's more or less like 'ban' in English, though with a sort of more forceful twist to it? Like I can describe it over the internet, crap.

All I know of the Scots Gaelic one is that double N usually makes the vowel before it go all nasally, like in the preposition anns an ('in') where the anns is pronounced more or less 'ounce.'

Sorry. In a parallel universe I'm a linguist, honest. In this one I'm just a wannabe, :(

Monica said...

i pronounced it as intended but always got the weirdest looks and my intention was not to bring attention to myself, so i stopped. this was in England amongst fab pagans.

Saoirse said...

It's less like Bowl-tan-a, more like Bey-yawl-ten-eh, sort of spoken with an open mouth if that makes any sense! I'm Irish and nothing makes me roll my eyes more than hearing neo-pagans mispronounce the festival names. I know it's snitty but I can't help it!

P.S. Welsh and Irish/Gaelic are two completely different languages, as different as French and German. They're from two different branches of the Celtic language family and don't have many similarities in pronunciation. I speak reasonably good Irish (as we call Gaelic) and began to learn Welsh as a teenager and found there was very little overlap.

hecate doe said...

2 years late, but had to comment. Saorirse got it closest---the way I was taught was Bey-awl-hen-eh (the t is actually pronounced like a very gutteral h, often written "ch" like the first sound in "hanukkah"). As she mentions, not Welsh, but Gaelic. Even with the gutteral "ch" sound, this is way prettier I think than the English pronunciation bel-tane, yes? Just as So-win (or So-vin) is prettier than sam-hain :). But the spirit is the thing!

Trisha said...

My great-grandmother was from Ireland. She died a couple of years ago at 104 years old. She was the first in our family born here. She and her parents pronounced Bletaine as (Bel-Tawn-ya). That is how my family has always said this word. After you hit 100, who's going to argue with you? We lost her last year. I am 33 years old. Thought I would share. :)