Beltane is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature, and it is associated with important events in Irish mythology. It marked the beginning of summer and was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops, and people, and to encourage growth.
The word Beltane corresponds to the modern Irish Gaelic word Bealtaine, the name of the month of May, and to the Scottish Gaelic word Bealtuinn meaning May Day.
Other names For the Day and the celebrations are:
May 1: Rudemas/Roodmas, Rood Day (the Christian term for Rood Day), St. Walburga’s Day; Beltane, May Day, Cetsamhain (opposite Samhain), Cershamain, Fairy Day, Sacred Thorn Day, Old Beltane, Beltaine, Beltain, Baltane, Walpurgis Night, Floriala (Roman feast of flowers from April 29 to May 1), Walpurgisnacht (Germanic-feast of St. Walpurga), Thrimilce (Anglo-Saxon), Bloumaand (Old Dutch) This holiday like many of the sabbats start on the eve and is celebrated thru the following Day.
There is no consensus on how the name was derived at but it is agreed that this Sabbat honors fertility and creation.
This was also a time when many cultures light Balefires. In some places that is still an honored tradition.