‘THINK on THESE THINGS’ for April 28th

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

True forgiveness could be described as a divine amnesty where we receive a pardon from the unworthy things we’ve done, and have another chance to prove our worth. Forgiveness is something we must give in order to receive. And we have a tendency to linger over old grudges, using them to bolster our reasons for not forgiving. But we cannot return to the past, nor can we change one whit of anything that happened then. We cannot make up for resentments we’ve caused in others, no more than they can make up for ours.

To forgive is divine. God is above punishment, but we are not. It is we, not God, who punish by taking things into our own hands and making them work for our own selfish reasons. We demand punishment by hanging on to painful past experiences that produce self-pity. We are the ones who blame God’s will for our illnesses, our poverty, our lack of friends. But we are wrong, for there is a moment of truth when we face ourselves and know that we are the guilty.

And there is a time such as William Wordsworth wrote about, “That blessed mood, in which the burden of the mystery, in which the heavy and weary weight of all this unintelligible world, is lightened”…..because we’ve been forgiven.

 

________________________

Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet: http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com

Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org

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Elder’s Meditation of the Day – April 28

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – April 28

“Indians living close to nature and nature’s ruler are not living in darkness.”

–Walking Buffalo, STONEY

There are many Indian people who are living according to nature and according to ceremony and culture. They may not have a lot of material things, but that doesn’t mean they are not successful. What is success anyway? Can success be measured by material things? What is it we are really chasing anyway? The Elders say that what everyone really wants is to be happy and have a peaceful mind. Material things by themselves do not bring happiness and peace of mind. Only spiritual things bring happiness. When we live a spiritual life we will not have darkness. Instead, we will be happy.

Great Spirit, today, let me walk the Red Road.

April 28 – Daily Feast

April 28 – Daily Feast

Our faith is shaken and disappointment sets in when the pain we thought we were rid of comes back. Our bodies and souls have good memories where pain is concerned – and no matter how hopeful we were, our first response is to think we must have been mistaken. We were not wrong, and we would never let a thief come back in to rob again. Fear is the thief and it steals. So we need to claim freedom from fear with the same intensity we claim other things that are rightfully ours.

~ My heart tells me I had just as well talk to the clouds and wind, but I want to say life is sweet, live is strong, man fights to save his life. ~

CAPTAIN JACK – MODOC, Circa 1873

“A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume II” by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

The Daily Motivator for April 28th – Always a new way

Always a new way

There’s always a new way to appreciate life. There’s always a new way to be helpful to others.

No matter how much you’ve seen or done, there are always new things to experience. No matter how much you’ve achieved, there are always new ways to create value.

There are new problems to be solved and new beauty to be enjoyed. There are new people to meet and new ways to enrich the relationships you already have.

There are new and more compelling ways to express what you’ve always known. There are new ways to give your love to those you’ve always loved.

There is never any reason to be bored or complacent or unmotivated. Every moment offers the possibility of living life in new and more satisfying ways.

There’s always a new way to make this a great day. In this moment, life begins again, so live it with the fresh, new enthusiasm it deserves.

— Ralph Marston

 

Source:
The Daily Motivator

Daily OM for April 28th – Cooperation

Cooperation
Acting Together for Good

by Madisyn Taylor

Cooperation is allowed to flow more easily when we let go of the necessity to be right all the time.

Cooperation seems simple: working together toward a common goal for the benefit of all involved. But amazingly it can be quite challenging, even when we have so many successful examples all around us. Human society is based upon the concept of cooperation, but finding a balance to ensure the good of all members of society is difficult. In nature, symbiotic relationships form between unlikely allies: a bee and a flower, a bird and a rhinoceros, small fish and sharks. Yet nature also shows us instances of constant competition in which only the strongest survive. Given the choice, it seems most people would choose the more peaceful path of cooperation. Intellectually, we know that together we can create something greater than what one could do alone, but cooperation still seems to be one of the greatest challenges people face. We don’t always agree on how goals can be reached. Our priorities may be different, or our methods, but in the end, cooperation offers the best chance for success.

So how can we learn to cooperate with each other? We can gain greater perspective by trying to understand one another’s point of view, perhaps even putting ourselves in their place. We can search for commonalities as well as differences, and look for the good in different approaches. There is always more than one way of doing things, and some approaches are better suited for certain situations than others. All this is easier when we let go of the necessity to be right and to call others wrong. More important, we must believe that there is a solution that benefits all involved, not just one side.

The results of cooperation can be as simple as effortlessly getting everyone in your household to their appointments to large-scale social shifts to changing minds and hearts or policies that affect the future.

 

 

Source:
The Daily OM

The Wheel of the Year: Round and Round She Goes and Where She Stops!

The Wheel of the Year: Round and Round She Goes and Where She Stops!

Author: Raveneve Night 

Why do we pretend to be something we are not?

It is Halloween in Australia. The birds are singing, the frangipanis are budding and you could almost see Walt Disney’s Bambi appear on the horizon. If ever there was a clichéd moment it was this one. But what do I see? Little monsters, vampires and devils appearing at the Free Dress day at school. The shops have pumpkins, orange candles and skeletons and we go again into Halloween frenzy.

The television is showing horror movies and cartoons, while at my door appears four little persons, one in a sheet, one with a bad green complexion and two who are not dressed, but are there for moral support. Fortunately chocolate is always at hand so my Halloween-wanna-bes are satisfied, (although I dread to think if someone actually took the trick option what would happen). They also seem to have done pretty well for themselves.

The Saturday before the big event a multitude of ‘spooky’ parties were held and much mead was consumed, while grown adults tried to turn spring into wild, snow-driven, foggy winter to create atmosphere, (I’m told dry ice is a favorite option).

I know I have a weird sense of humor, but you’ve got to admit, grown men and women, running around in cloaks, capes, long flowing dresses and wigs in 30 degree Celsius/ 86 degrees Fahrenheit heat is quite funny. Not to mention the runny make-up and sweat spots in the clothes. It is enough to make Spielberg snicker.

This is what you get for trying to deny the energy of the place you are living in.

The Goddess and Horned God are trying to do Their all to awaken the land in spring and we as a group are pretending that we are talking to the spirit of Halloween. It is enough to give Mother Earth a hangover, (along with the rest of the population). I don’t think that people are going to want to “celebrate” Beltaine in proper tradition, (fertility rites and all). If they wander around pretending to be the Undead, it sort of defeats the purpose.

Now lets have a look at the material that we have got to work with:

1.Beltaine energy, (yum, yum)
2.Flowers budding
3.Birds pairing off (slightly censored)
4.Green and glorious land
5.Lots of blue sky
6.And for the main event- hundreds of skeleton, crotchety witches, ghouls and mother-in-laws

Mix repeatedly and what do you get? A very confused spring celebration, pregnant skeletons, ghouls, etc and lots of cranky Mother-In –Laws (possibly the most scary of the monster type).

It is enough to make you cr, and if you think this is bad imagine what it is like for our real Samhain.

I know that fighting the Media on this is like changing politicians. After you get rid of one they all start to look the same. But I’m not entirely sure of what it is doing to our psyche to continually try and pretend that we ‘down here’ experience the same celebrations as you guys ‘up there’ at the same time. It has to be creating a level of confusion in our land.

Clearly imitation is a form of flattery, but how much damage are we doing by celebrating death energy in spring and Goddess knows what else in our actual Halloween. What a waste of lovely energy. Is it any wonder that Australia is in the middle of one of the worst droughts ever!

I ask all of you, what do you think would happen if you were giving birth and some nut comes along dressed in black and chanting about the souls of the dead? Well, you would have a pretty pissed-off Mother, the nurses would be calling the police, and the baby might have many years of death energy to try and get rid of. What a tragic event. But this is what happens year after year, and Australia is not the only country affected. How many countries in the world try to follow some Pagan festival only to have it on at the wrong time of year for the actual country?

Now I’m not going to attribute every disaster in the world on this but if we think about it, how quickly would the land be healed or the weather returned to normal if we used the right energy at the right time of the season? It has got to be better than what is happening now.

Now let us examine Midsummer/Yule. Hmmm, in Queensland in the glorious tropics, December is hot. Gentle breezes blow sand and salt as we laze around in the ocean drinking up the sun. There is lots of smiling people, casual and relaxed, and the sky is the color of blue satin-streaked with white lace clouds.

It is school holiday time and parents with siblings in tow try to find, buy or steal something that will occupy the little darlings while Mum and Dad sleep the sleep of the weary.

December, a time of lazy days and party nights and what does the European Wheel of the Year have for us? Yule! Snow-covered windows, Christmas Carols (Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow)… Well, you get the idea.

Christmas then comes something of a shock. It is 30 degrees plus and you start to see white on windows and tinsel in the shopping centers. Yep, fake snow, fake velvet, chubby angels in winter robes and Yule/Christmas springs forth in plastic abundance.

Now I know that Midsummer is the height of passion between the God/Goddess, Their bounty is ensured with kindness and love. So what do we Pagans have to put up with I ask you…Turkey, Chicken, Ham everywhere, with Plum Pudding to go.

Just a little side note. Did you know that in Australia in summer it is dangerous to leave candles by the window because they will actually melt in the heat without being lit (they end up looking like U’s which make them hard to light)? I am told if you freeze them they will last longer. The road of Paganhood is filled with these little adaptations.

So lets again analyze the situation. We have the Australian Pagans trying to bring forth Midsummer under the watchful guidance from our God (esses) Who provide:

– Delicious summer energy
– Youngens everywhere bouncing, yelling and giving their parents merry hell
– Blue sky, warm breezes and swimming at the beach (I am a very lucky Pagan and I know it).
– Seafood galore
– Fresh fruit and vegetables, the gift of plenty
– Lazy days and energy-filled nights

And most of the good old Aussie community wants winter, snowmen, frost and ice (although I think if we actually had to feel real cold we would curl up in a ball and whimper).

A white winter for Christmas is what the marketing and sales divisions want to sell so that we will get into the Xmas spirit and spend, spend, spend. We came close to a “traditional Christmas” this year — it was a chilly 25 degrees Celsius (brrrr). I still went swimming at the beach, but it was a bit too cold for poor, old, ancient me.

Now in Australia we have modified the Turkey Dinner to Seafood, Roast Potatoes to Salad, but this somehow still just doesn’t feel right. We go to the shopping centre and Carolers sing in the shop speakers, tinsel is aglittering and Yule is commercially motoring along to the lovely jingle, jingle of cash registers.

If we remove the Christian element, we still have a whole country culture wanting it to snow or have a white Christmas, (it actually did snow in the mountains this year and boy were we shocked). It is summer, not winter. So let us get over it.

So what does this have to do with us as a Pagan community?

Please note here that many Pagans do use the Southern variation of the Wheel of the Year successfully but here is my sticking point: Why do Witches, Wiccan or Pagans try to follow the European Wheel of the Year no matter what or where they live?

We are an Earth-linked religion and guardian. We are supposed to know better. It is like trying to have a funeral at a christening. It shouldn’t happen.

We are supposed to be ‘in touch’ with the land not working against it. How much happier would our country be if we worked with it, not against it. We especially need this to fight the traditional “Commercial Attitude” of the Media and the mundane community.

The thing to remember with the Wheel of the Year is that it should link to the place where you are in, not published dates practiced half a world away. This would be as much of an issue for Pagans who lived in higher latitudes than England, as it is for those that live lower. Celebrations have to be seasonally adjusted to where YOU are at, not when someone tells you.

My husband has just poked his nose in to comment that many of our festivals are solar-linked, especially the Solstices and the Equinoxes. It depends on the times of the sunrise and sunset (he would have to make things really difficult mutter, mutter) and now this gets really difficult. Well this is where research, many calculations and reading of the magazine, “Spellcraft” (Australian Publication) helps (I made him look up the relevant article; serves him right).

I live in a sub-tropical climate so I make my spring earlier and my summers longer. We do have about one week of ‘real’ winter, but that is only after a really long autumn. If I lived much further north then I would have my seasons ‘wet and dry’ as the Indigenous people do. They are the absolute authority when it comes to living ‘with’ the land rather than against it. They have done this for Eons.

The land needs every Pagan heart beating to the same rhythm. If we try to switch the seasons because of tradition then there is a block in the beginning. Halloween energy is difficult enough to deal with in the right time, let alone calling it out of season.

Be one with the land and it will work with you.

Happy Witching!

You Call it May Day, We Call it Beltane

You Call it May Day, We Call it Beltane

Author: Peg Aloi

The season of spring has arrived! The rites of fertility have begun! This is a holiday with a colorful past, and strangely enough, one of the only major festivals on the pagan calendar which has never been Christianized. But as we shall see, it is a holiday with two distinct flavors of celebration throughout history…

But first, some nostalgic wanderings…

April 30th, 1972.

Somewhere, I must have learned about May Baskets. I think my favorite third grade teacher mentioned them briefly in Social Studies class (she often talked about holidays and their origins), and then I wanted to find out more about this wacky custom. I was a precocious reader as a kid so it may have been almost anywhere: the Encyclopedia Britannica, Woman’s Day magazine, maybe even Playboy. I don’t recall where, but I know once I learned about the custom of giving them to some one special, I was determined to make one and leave it in secret for my favorite third-grade teacher, Miss V.

I took a small box (about half the size of a shoebox) and glued lavender construction paper to it. I also fashioned a handle out of the same paper, gluing it to both sides. I cut out flower petals shapes in different colors and glued those on, too. Very tasteful, I thought. I cut some daffodils and lilacs from the yard, and put them inside. I had already asked my aunt if she could drive me over to her house, having cleverly looked up her address in the phone book earlier. (Now, these days we would call such behavior something less innocent than childlike admiration; we might call it, oh, stalking). As we drove up with the basket to my teacher’s house, at around 6 pm, I found myself thinking, gee, what if she sees me? I got out of the car, ran on tiptoe (as if that would make me less visible) and put it on her porch. As I turned, the front door opened.

As luck would have it, I was busted: by Miss V. herself! She saw me, then the basket, and figured it out. She smiled and thanked me and said it was very sweet of me. I was mortified that she found me out. But then the next day in school, she made me a card with flowers on it. The front said “Thank you” and the inside said “for delighting my day with a May Basket.” So I got to put that card on my desk like a little teacher’s pet. Of course, I did not think that at the time; at the time I was simply very proud. And realized if I had not gotten “busted” she might never know who brought the May Basket, and I’d have my secret, but only that. This way, maybe the other kids would think of making May Baskets for someone: a teacher, a parent or grandparent. Of course, all I knew was I made something cool and gave it to someone special.

May 1st, 1988

I’m in graduate school. Living in a cool two-bedroom apartment above a funeral home. I have just started really getting into the whole paganism thing. Not in a coven yet, but doing the beginner stuff: practicing a bit of spellcraft, making little altars in my room, going to meetings of the Pagan Students’ Organization, buying books by Margot and Starhawk and Janet and Stewart… So I know it’s Beltane. But not to the extent that I know how to really celebrate it as a true pagan. (Not to worry, within a year or two I would be dancing ’round maypoles, washing my face in the dew and “going a Maying” like a veteran!)

So I get up in the morning and dress in something kinda frilly and festive, not all that atypical for me but I wanted to feel like I was observing the season today. I leave my apartment to go to class, and what do I find on my doorknob but a garland of flowers! Shaped like a crown to be worn. Wow. I don’t even have a clue who it might be from (but I have my suspicions). I take it with me and carry it around to classes that day. I finally run into a male friend of mine who knows I ma into this pagan stuff. He apparently knows a thing or two about May Day folklore, and I eventually find out he left it as a sign he was interested in dating me. Which was rather sweet. This was a very shy young man who I cannot imagine actually asking me out on a date. But his leaving a relic of ancient paganism on my door, well, that was impressive. We did date for a while. He was a nice guy and very smart. At the time all I knew was, he made something cool and gave it to me, so he must have thought I was special.

Beltane: a Pre-Christian Fire Festival

“But they are… naked!”
“Well, naturally, it’s far too dangerous to jumo through the fire with your clothes on!”

–Lord Summerisle explaining Beltane to Sergeant Howie in the 1973 film “The Wicker Man”

According to an article entitled “The Merry Month of May” on about.com (link) “The first day of May is still celebrated as a pre-Christian magical rite in some parts of England. Local people dance around a maypole (an ancient fertility symbol), in what was once one of England’s most important festivals of the year.” May Day and Beltane obviously have much in common, as both celebrate new growth and fertility. Even when May Day celebrations were banned in the late 16th century for being immoral, the customs died hard and it wasn’t long before the festivities were once again widespread. But long before the May Day celebrations, with their maypole dancing, garlands and dances became popular, the ancient fire festival of Beltane took place for centuries.

It is not clear where or how the festival of Beltane first came about; Ronald Hutton in The Stations of the Sun mentions the first recorded instance of a bishop in Lincolnshire complaining about local priests who “demeaned themselves by joining games which they call the bringing-in of May” in 1240. May Games were recorded in Scotland in 1432. There is some speculation that Beltane and May Day is related to the ancient Roman festival of Floralia. According to the about.com article, this was “a six-day party in honor of Flora, the goddess of Spring and Flowers, the Floralia was a time of singing, dancing and feasting in the ancient capital.” Dressed in bright colors in imitation of spring flowers, citizens would decorate the entire city with fresh blooms. “Hares and goats, symbols of fertility, would be let loose in gardens as protectors of Flora, and great singing and stomping would be heard in order to wake up Spring.” Of course, dancing is a large part of May Day celebrations as well. Apparently, Flora was also the patron of prostitutes, and during this festival the Roman “working girls” participated enthusiastically, performing naked in theatres and taking part in gladiatorial events. The themes of fertility and sexuality are obviously still very much associated with Beltane and May Day amongst modern pagans… but let’s look more closely at the ancient history of Beltane in the British Isles.

First of all, the origin of the name “Beltane” is disputed. The holiday was also known as “Roodmass” in England and “Walpurgisnacht” in Germany. Alternately spelled Bealtaine, Beltaine, and any number of Gaelic derived-spellings, it is also the Irish word for the month of May, and is said to mean anything from “Bel-fire” Feast of the god Bel” to “bright fire.” Janet and Stewart Farrar, in Eight Sabbats for Witches offer an excellent tracing of the holiday’s Irish roots, and particularly the European fire-god Belenus whom they believe this festival is named for (a name possible traced back to Baal, the bible’s only pagan god, whose name simply means “Lord”). Ronald Hutton states that since the Celtic word “bel” means bright or fortunate, this is adequate to explain the translation as being “lucky fire” or “bright fire.”

For FIRE is what this festival is all about. It is one of the two great fire festivals of the wheel of the year (the other is Samhain). It also falls upon the cross-quarter days, which mark the astrological movement of the sun. In ancient times, the calendar days for these holidays would have been roughly seven to eleven days AFTER we now celebrate them (usually on the first of the month). The way to know for sure is to observe when the sun reaches 15 degrees of the zodiac sign. For Beltane, this is Taurus, the Bull (the sun reaches 15 degrees Taurus on May 5th this year). At Lammas, Leo; at Samhain, Scorpio, and at Imbolc, Aquarius.

Samhain and Beltane divide the year into two distinct halves of great importance to agrarian-based societies (as in western Europe, where our Celtic calendar of eight major seasonal festivals originates). In F. Marian McNeill’s book The Silver Bough, she states: “At Beltane, flocks and herds went to their summer pastures; as Hallowmass (Samhain) they returned to their winter quarters. Beltane may be regarded as a day of Supplication, when a blessing was invoked on hunter and herdsman, on cattle and crops.” Whereas Samhain was a “Day of Thanksgiving, for the safe return of the wanderers and the renewal of the food supply.”

Fire festivals in ancient times were seen as times of propitiation and purification. Propitiation, says McNeill, “means sacrifice; to propitiate the mysterious forces of nature and ensure fertility in field and fold and on the hearth.”

“You’ll simply never understand the true nature of sacrifice.”
–May Morrison to Sergeant Howie, “The Wicker Man”

Human sacrifice was still practiced in Gaul as late as the 1st century BC, and was later replaced by sacrifice of animals (most notably the Bull – another Taurus connection?), and later an offering of specially consecrated cakes or loaves, as in the sun-shaped loaf in “The Wicker Man.” “The life of the fields: John Barleycorn.” But of course, by the film’s end, more than bread was consumed by the flames.

(Never seen The Wicker Man? It’s a cult classic well-loved by pagans for its deliciously politically-incorrect sacrifice of a morally-uptight police sergeant when he visits and island renowned for keeping the “old ways.” The film’s events take place on the days leading up to Beltane.)

As for purification, fire has always been seen as its chief agent. Traditionally, all domestic fires in Irish, English and Scottish households were extinguished on Beltane Eve, after having been kept lit continuously all year. Just before dawn, villagers would process with their animals up the hillsides to the highest point where fires would be kindled and relit for people to see for miles around. It was also traditional to build these fires out of nine of the sacred woods from Druidic folklore, including oak, ash, thorn, rowan, apple, birch, alder, maple, elm, gorse, holly, hawthorn, and others.

The bonfires were lit so that a narrow passage existed between two fire, so that cattle and other livestock could be led between the fires, to purify them from disease or sterility for the coming year. Torches of dried sedge, gorse or heather were also lit and carried around remaining flocks or stables, to further purify the air.

Fire, Water…

Water, the other element of purification, also plays a strong role in Beltane custom. Spring was the traditional season of “well dressing” particularly in Ireland where wells were seen as holy places (even with the advent of Christianity, when many wells dedicated to pagan goddesses were re-dedicated to the Virgin Mary). But even more specific to Beltane, morning dew was seen as sacred and magical. To this day, young women all over the British Isles rise at dawn to wash their faces in dew (dew from oak and rowan trees is said to be particularly well-suited). It was and is believed doing so would enhance a woman’s beauty and health in the coming year, and if she uttered an appropriate charm while doing it, she might also meet her future husband in the coming year.

This poem was written by someone who observed young women engaging in this practice in King’s Park in Edinburgh:

“On May Day in a fairy ring,
We’ve seen them round St. Anton’s spring,
Frae (from) grass the caller dew-drops wring,
To weet their een (to wet their eyes)
And water clean as crystal spring
To synd them clean.”

Village elders also left libations and offerings of food to guard their flocks against any evil from the fairy folk, or from the ravages of storms, floods, or disease. Butter, eggs, milk and cheese were left in hollow stones, or poured into the ground. Alternately, ale or fresh-baked bread was offered, with the idea that a gift of the finest the household could provide was the most suitable offering.

In Aberdeenshire, McNeill tells of a custom of kindling fires on May 2nd, as it was believed “witches were abroad then.” Beltane, like Samhain, was the time when the veils between the worlds were thinnest, and like fairy folk, “witches” were thought to be fond of this time and to use it for magical rites. Keep in mind, in those days, the “witches” were the ones that country folk worked magic against, and those of us today who call ourselves “witches” are actually closer in spirit to those village wise women and cunningmen, who used folk magic and spells to protect their homes and families and flocks. The Aberdeenshire citizens believed witches would steal milk from cows, and ride stolen horses to their meetings. Fires were lit and villagers would hold hands and dance around them three times deosil (sunwise) – does this sound familiar? Except they would then yell out “Fire! Blaze and Burn the witches! Fire, Fire! Burn the witches!” Thanks goodness we have moved far beyond these, ahem, heathen customs!

Earth and Air…

Dancing was a common way to celebrate the season. The Maypole rites being an obvious example, but before this practice became widespread, dancing without benefit of a giant pole was also common. Dancing round the bonfires was seen as a way to partake of the purification of its flames. Women wanting to get pregnant would perform fertility dances at the fireside. Once the Beltane fires were relit on the hillsides, villagers would carry a flaming torch, the “need-fire, ” back to their homes and relight their hearthfires with it. On the way, it was customary to dance and sing the season in. Records of may dances and songs go back to well before the 16th century. The songs affirmed the purpose of the fire ceremonies: protection and purification. The protective power of the magical woods was thought to affect any who lit their households with their flames. The sight of the bright flames on the hills, and the line of people processing with torches in the dark, must have been an awesome sight to behold.

(This year in Ireland, a huge ritual will be held to re-kindle the ancient fires of Beltane. It was nearly cancelled due to foot and mouth disease, but now it looks like this ancient ritual of healing the land and its creatures will take place after all, and not a moment too soon.)

The most protective wood of all was rowan, and prior to the Beltane Eve bonfire lighting, branches of rowan were cut in huge amounts and used to decorate the homes of all. Branches tied with red thread (signifying the rowan berries, and a favorite color of fairies) were hung in doorways of homes, stables, barns and sheepfolds, and, as McNeill states, particularly “in the midden, which was a favourite of the black sisterhood.” (I think she meant witches.) In the Highlands of Scotland, girls tied sprigs of rowan in their hair or on their clothing just after washing in may dew. (Incidentally, in “The Wicker Man” the hapless Sergeant Howie is first sent for to investigate a missing girl, whom he believes intended for human sacrifice: her name is Rowan.)

Just as rowan branches were seen as protective, people also gathered armsful of tree branches in blossom to decorate their homes in honor of the arrival of spring. This custom was usually fulfilled the following day, on Beltane proper, after the midday sun brought the blossoms to the fullest size and fragrance. In later years, when May festivities spread to England, these branches were carried from door to door, offered with songs, in the expectation that gifts of sweets, money or food and drink would be offered. This in turn led to the “garlanding” customs popular in southern England, once the province of women but later an activity popular for young girls and sanctioned by local schools and parishes. No matter what the blossom, it was known as “gathering the May.” Hawthorn was most common, and so one of its folk names is “May.” (Rowan Morrison’s mother’s name is May, as well). “Going a Maying” innocently refers to the custom of young people gathering blossoming tree branches; but later became a common euphemism for what happened after the branches were gathered in the woods, and before they were brought home.

Once the fires were relit on Beltane Eve, and children put to bed, and the wee hours of Beltane morning arrived, the more adult festivities began. And that includes the traditional activities associated with fertility (remember Flora and her fondness for prostitutes? Kinda along those lines). Newly wed couples and new brides were expected to perform fertility rites around the bonfires, to take advantage of their potency and purification. Humans were much more closely connected with the rhythms of the earth in those days, to put it mildly, and no doubt the running of sap in trees, the blossoms and buds bursting forth, the scents of flowers and new growth and damp soil and rain, all stirred the senses and reawakened the body—these days we call it “spring fever, ” but in antiquity, indulging such urges was completely normal and expected.

Or, in the words of Lerner and Lowe, from the musical “Camelot”:

“It’s May! It’s May!
The lusty month of May!…
Those dreary vows that ev’ryone takes,
Ev’ryone breaks.
Ev’ryone makes divine mistakes!
The lusty month of May! ”

Naturally enough, unwed men and women would also partake of the spirit of these rites, and find themselves venturing off into the nearby fields or forest to perform their own fertility rites. Blessed by the gods on this sacred night, such unions were seen as wholly proper, even when not blessed by marriage; they were referred to as “greenwood marriages.” It is also true that betrothed couples would make love at Beltane, and if the union did not prove fruitful, i.e. no pregnancy resulted, they might dissolve the partnership before marriage without repercussion. In fact, the origin of the “year and a day” handfasting custom observed by modern pagans, in which they renew their vows after one year, dates back to this. If new marriages did not produce children within one year, couple often split and married others, with no penalty.

But why sex? If the point of these festivals was to preserve the land and the flocks, why not simply observe fertility in the birth of lambs, the growth of plants? Ah, but ancient peoples believed in sympathetic magic: that practice of a small, symbolic action representing a larger one. By making love in the fields, human beings believed they were helping make the earth more fertile, blessing it with their own activity of producing new life and abundance. And even if the ultimate goal of such unions was not pregnancy, it couldn’t hurt to help the magic along!

Which brings me to what is often considered a wholly sexual symbol, and main feature of ancient May Day and modern Beltane celebrations: the maypole.

Phallic Symbol? Or Tree Worship?

Beltane celebrations in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man and parts of Britain later became intertwined with May Day rites derived from the Floralia (due to the Roman invasion of Britain, mostly). But more importantly, the different customs associated with May 1st became very diverse and widespread to such an extent that these practices were banned on a wide scale. Though complaints about “immoral” practices started early on (as in the 1240 reference from Hutton), the Protestant, well, protest against May rites came to a head in 1555, when May Day observances were banished by Parliament. This mainly had to do with the “Maying” rites, which uptight clergy believed were merely opportunities for fornication in the fields and defiling of young women (mistakenly believed to come away pregnant more often than not. Hutton notes that later demographic research showed no concomitant rise in pregnancy rates at this time of year; in fact, late summer was a much more common time for conception).

By 1565, the common practice of electing “an Abbott of Misrule” and other ritual roles, like Robin Hood, Maid Marian and others, was also banned by law. Such plays had become commonplace, as had Morris dancing, sword dances and other celebratory ways of “dancing in” spring. Margaret Murray, in “The God of the Witches” noted the similarity between Robin and his typical band of 12 men being modeled on a “Grandmaster and his coven.” Although it is just as clearly related to Jesus and his disciples. In any case, the traditional green costumes and elaborate dances, as well as Robin Hood’s association with Robin Goodfellow, or Puck, were also connected to fairy tradition and so seen as “heathen” by the clergy. Some have speculated that this tradition of using Robin and Marian as May Day “deities” actually has its origin in Diana and Herne: goddess of the hunt and forest creatures, and god of the wild hunt. Indeed, Herne is seen as one aspect of the Green man, and many May Day rites also featured The Green Man. Diana is also a predecessor of the Queen of the May, a role later usurped by Marian… but Diana’s virgin aspect makes her a likely model for such a role.

The maypole itself was banned in 1644. By 1660, when it became clear the monarchy would be restored, May Day rites were once again permitted and in fact spontaneously reappeared across the country. But by then the holiday had lost much of its earlier sexual significance; May Day had replaced Beltane, if you will. But it is also true that by this time, the dancing of the Maypole had become the central “ritual” of this holiday, not the bonfires. Only in remote parts of Ireland and Scotland did the fires apparently continue as the dominant feature.

It is not clear when the maypole first became part of the May festivities, or what its exact origin is. Our post-Freudian society naturally wishes to call it a “phallic symbol” and have done with it, and indeed this seems fitting. A wonderful scene in the oft-mentioned “The Wicker Man” finds the young male students dancing round the maypole, while the female students watch them from their classroom, in which they listen to a lecture about the rites and rituals of May Day (even their textbooks have a chapter on it!), and all the girls in unison know the answer to what the maypole represents: “phallic symbol.” The teacher, Miss Rose, says it is the penis, “revered in religions, such as ours, as the generative force in nature.”

But according to Ron Hutton, other explanations present themselves. Some authors, including Sir J.G. Frazer in The Golden Bough, refer to it as “the repository of a fertility-giving tree spirit.” Many years earlier, Thomas Hobbes suggested the maypole was meant to honor the Roman god of male potency, Priapus. Hutton himself suggests they are just as likely symbols of tree worship (particularly since the earliest maypoles were living trees, stripped of all leaves but for a tuft of greenery at the top). He also mentions the Northern European concept of the divine tree which connects the earth tot he world of the divine, and the maypole as a connection between them. Finally, he credits Mircea Eliade for his theory that it is “merely a way of rejoicing at the returning strength of vegetation.”

Modern Traditions

“For the May Day is the great day,
Sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did ley
Will heed this song that calls them back…
Pass the cup, and pass the Lady,
And pass the plate to all who hunger,
Pass the wit of ancient wisdom,
Pass the cup of crimson wonder.”

Jethro Tull, “Cup of Wonder, ” from the 1977 album Songs From the Wood

Modern pagans celebrate Beltane as a festival of reawakening spring, of fertility, of the renewal of the lifeforce, of creativity, or rebirth, of love and sexuality, or birth and regeneration. Janet and Stewart Farrar, whose work forms the basis for many Wiccan groups, offer a ritual for Beltane in their Eight Sabbats for Witches in which they feature the Oak King as a symbol of the death of the old season, and a “bel-fire” is rekindled to usher in the new season, along with lyrics from Rudyard Kipling’s famous song of tree worship in England, “Oak and Ash and Thorn.”

“Oh do not tell the priest our plight, for he would call it a sin,
But we’ve been out in the woods all night a-conjuring summer in;
And we bring good news by word of mouth, for women and cattle and corn,
For now is the sun come up from the South by Oak and Ash and Thorn.”

Some covens kindle their own bonfire, using nine of the sacred woods. Others celebrate the Great Rite, the sacred marriage of the god and goddess, in symbolic or actual fashion according to their tradition. Solitary practitioners often choose Beltane as a time to reaffirm their dedication to the path; and couples in a magical partnership might choose this auspicious time to work sex magick, to achieve a chosen goal.

Larger pagan gatherings feature maypole dancing; I have attended a number of these over the years and there really is nothing like a fifty-foot tall maypole with a hundred people dancing around it with ribbons!

May wine is a traditional drink of the season: to make your own, simply add dried or fresh meadowsweet to white wine. Let it steep for at least 24 hours. You can either leave the herb in the wine or strain it out. The herby, vanilla-like fragrance and taste are indescribable, and really say “Beltane!” I have also seen recipes for “May Cup” on the net. And this is a fine time to experiment with aphrodisiac brews, for example adding damiana to some white zinfandel.

Perhaps it is best to remember this as the time when Aphrodite, who rules the sign of Taurus, is coming into her own. She presides over the realms of love and sex and beauty, but also over the flowers and fruits which brig us such pleasure: delighting our senses with their colors and scents and tastes and juices. She fills blossoms with nectar, and her body is beneath us as we walk and dance upon the newly-yielding, softened earth, alive again after the dormancy of winter, full of new life. She is in the animals, the lambs born at Imbolc who frolic among spring meadow flowers, the other creatures who come into their mating seasons at this time. And she is in us, offering her discernment of beauty, blessing our eyes with new awareness of color and texture in nature. In our hearts which beat quicker with the warmth of the sun and the fires rekindled within us. In our minds, alive to possibility and creativity, awakened and reborn with new energy. And in our bodies, walking on hills and in meadows and forests, dancing around our own fires and in circles with like-minded loved ones, sharing laughter and song and love, enjoying and creating the feast, the celebration, the magical birthright that is life on Earth.

May your fires burn bright!

Peg Aloi

Beltane — Holiday Details and History

Beltane — Holiday Details and History

Author: Christina Aubin 

Beltane is the last of the three spring fertility festivals, the others being Imbolc and Ostara. Beltane is the second principal Celtic festival (the other being Samhain). Celebrated approximately halfway between Vernal (spring) equinox and the midsummer (Summer Solstice). Beltane traditionally marked the arrival if summer in ancient times.

At Beltane the Pleiades star cluster rises just before sunrise on the morning horizon, whereas winter (Samhain) begins when the Pleiades rises at sunset. The Pleiades is a cluster of seven closely placed stars, the seven sisters, in the constellation of Taurus, near his shoulder. When looking for the Pleiades with the naked eye, remember it looks like a tiny dipper-shaped pattern of six moderately bright stars (the seventh can be seen on very dark nights) in the constellation of Taurus. It stands very low in the east-northeast sky for just a few minutes before sunrise.

Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain, divide the year into its two primary seasons, winter (Dark Part) and summer (Light Part). As Samhain is about honoring Death, Beltane, its counter part, is about honoring Life. It is the time when the sun is fully released from his bondage of winter and able to rule over summer and life once again.

Beltane, like Samhain, is a time of “no time” when the veils between the two worlds are at their thinnest. No time is when the two worlds intermingle and unite and the magic abounds! It is the time when the Faeries return from their winter respite, carefree and full of faery mischief and faery delight. On the night before Beltane, in times past, folks would place rowan branches at their windows and doors for protection, many otherworldly occurrences could transpire during this time of “no time”. Traditionally on the Isle of Man, the youngest member of the family gathers primroses on the eve before Beltane and throws the flowers at the door of the home for protection. In Ireland it is believed that food left over from May Eve must not be eaten, but rather buried or left as an offering to the faery instead. Much like the tradition of leaving of whatever is not harvested from the fields on Samhain, food on the time of no time is treated with great care.

When the veils are so thin it is an extremely magical time, it is said that the Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse. Roving about on Beltane eve She will try to entice people away to the Faeryland. Legend has it that if you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you may see the Faery Queen or hear the sound of Her horse’s bells as She rides through the night. Legend says if you hide your face, She will pass you by but if you look at Her, She may choose you. There is a Scottish ballad of this called Thomas the Rhymer, in which Thomas chooses to go the Faeryland with the Queen and has not been seen since.

Beltane has been an auspicious time throughout Celtic lore, it is said that the Tuatha de Danaan landed in north-west Connacht on Beltane. The Tuatha de Danaan, it is said, came from the North through the air in a mist to Ireland. After the invasion by the Milesians, the Tuatha faded into the Otherworld, the Sidhe, Tir na nOg.

The beginning of summer heralds an important time, for the winter is a difficult journey and weariness and disheartenment set in, personally one is tired down to the soul. In times past the food stocks were low; variety was a distant memory. The drab non-color of winter’s end perfectly represents the dullness and fatigue that permeates on so many levels to this day. We need Beltane, as the earth needs the sun, for our very Spirit cries out for the renewal of summer jubilation.

Beltane marks that the winter’s journey has passed and summer has begun, it is a festival of rapturous gaiety as it joyfully heralds the arrival of summer in her full garb. Beltane, however, is still a precarious time, the crops are still very young and tender, susceptible to frost and blight. As was the way of ancient thought, the Wheel would not turn without human intervention. People did everything in their power to encourage the growth of the Sun and His light, for the Earth will not produce without the warm love of the strong Sun. Fires, celebration and rituals were an important part of the Beltane festivities, as to insure that the warmth of the Sun’s light would promote the fecundity of the earth.

Beltane marks the passage into the growing season, the immediate rousing of the earth from her gently awakening slumber, a time when the pleasures of the earth and self are fully awakened. It signals a time when the bounty of the earth will once again be had. May is a time when flowers bloom, trees are green and life has again returned from the barren landscape of winter, to the hope of bountiful harvests, not too far away, and the lighthearted bliss that only summer can bring.

Beltane translated means “fire of Bel” or “bright fire” – the “bale-fire”. (English – bale; Anglo-Saxon bael; Lithuanian baltas (white)) Bel (Bel, Bile, Beli, Belinus, Belenos) is the known as the bright and shinning one, a Celtic Sun God. Beli is the father, protector, and the husband of the Mother Goddess.

Beltane is the time of the yearly battle between Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwythur ap Greidawl for Creudylad in Welsh mythology. Gwyn ap Nudd the Wild Huntsman of Wales, he is a God of death and the Annwn. Creudylad is the daughter of Lludd (Nudd) of the Silver Hand (son of Beli). She is the most beautiful maiden of the Island of Mighty. A myth of the battle of winter and summer for the magnificent blossoming earth.

In the myth of Rhiannion and Pwyll, it is the evening of Beltane, that Rhiannon gives birth to their son. The midwives all fell asleep at the same time, as they were watching over Rhiannon and her new baby, during which he was taken. In order to protect themselves, they smeared blood (from a pup) all over Rhiannon, to which they claim she had eaten her son. The midwives were believed, and Rhiannon was forced to pay penance for seven years. She had to carrying people on her back from the outside of the gate to the palace, although rarely would any allow her to do so. The baby’s whereabouts were a mystery. Oddly, every Beltane night, one of Pwyll’s vassals, Teirnyon Twryv Vliant, had a mare that gave birth but the colt disappeared. One Beltane night Teirnyon Twryv Vliant awaited in the barn for the mare to foaled, when she did, he heard a tremendous noise and a clawed arm came through the window and grabbed the colt. Teirnyon cut off the arm with his sword, and then heard a wailing. He opened the door and found a baby, he brought it to his wife and they adopted Gwri Wallt Euryn (Gwri of the Golden Hair). As he grew he looked like Pwyll and they remembered they found him on the night Rhiannon’s baby became lost. Teirnyon brought Gwri of the Golden Hair to the castle, told the story, and he was adopted back to his parents, Rhiannon and Pwyll, and and named by the head druid, Pryderi (trouble) from the first word his mother had said when he was restored to her. “Trouble is, indeed, at an end for me, if this be true”.

This myth illustrates the precariousness of the Beltane season, at the threshold of Summer, the earth awakening, winter can still reach its long arm in and snatch the Sun away (Gwri of the Golden hair). “Ne’er cast a clout ’til May be out” (clout: Old English for cloth/clothing). If indeed the return of summer is true than the trouble (winter) is certainly over, however one must be vigilant.

On Beltane eve the Celts would build two large fires, Bel Fires, lit from the nine sacred woods. The Bel Fire is an invocation to Bel (Sun God) to bring His blessings and protection to the tribe. The herds were ritually driven between two needfires (fein cigin), built on a knoll. The herds were driven through to purify, bring luck and protect them as well as to insure their fertility before they were taken to summer grazing lands. An old Gaelic adage: “Eadar da theine Bhealltuinn” – “Between two Beltane fires”.

The Bel fire is a sacred fire with healing and purifying powers. The fires further celebrate the return of life, fruitfulness to the earth and the burning away of winter. The ashes of the Beltane fires were smudged on faces and scattered in the fields. Household fires would be extinguished and re-lit with fresh fire from the Bel Fires.

Celebration includes frolicking throughout the countryside, maypole dancing, leaping over fires to ensure fertility, circling the fire three times (sun-wise) for good luck in the coming year, athletic tournaments feasting, music, drinking, children collecting the May: gathering flowers. children gathering flowers, hobby horses, May birching and folks go a maying”. Flowers, flower wreaths and garlands are typical decorations for this holiday, as well as ribbons and streamers. Flowers are a crucial symbol of Beltane, they signal the victory of Summer over Winter and the blossoming of sensuality in all of nature and the bounty it will bring.

May birching or May boughing, began on Beltane Eve, it is said that young men fastened garland and boughs on the windows and doors of the young maidens upon which their sweet interest laid. Mountain ash leaves and Hawthorne branches meant indicated love whereas thorn meant disdain. This perhaps, is the forerunner of old May Day custom of hanging bouquets hooked on one’s doorknob?

Young men and women wandered into the woods before daybreak of May Day morning with garlands of flowers and/or branches of trees. They would arrive; most rumpled from joyous encounters, in many areas with the maypole for the Beltane celebrations. Pre-Christian society’s thoughts on human sexuality and fertility were not bound up in guilt and sin, but rather joyous in the less restraint expression of human passions. Life was not an exercise but rather a joyful dance, rich in all beauty it can afford.

In ancient Ireland there was a Sacred Tree named Bile, which was the center of the clan, or Tuatha. As the Irish Tree of Life, the Bile Pole, represents the connection between the people and the three worlds of Bith: The Skyworld (heavens), The Middleworld (our world), and The Otherworld. Although no longer the center life, the Bile pole has survived as the Beltane Maypole.

The Maypole is an important element to Beltane festivities, it is a tall pole decorated with long brightly colored ribbons, leaves, flowers and wreaths. Young maidens and lads each hold the end of a ribbon, and dance revolving around the base of the pole, interweaving the ribbons. The circle of dancers should begin, as far out from the pole as the length of ribbon allows, so the ribbons are taut. There should be an even number of boys & girls. Boys should be facing clockwise and girls counterclockwise. They each move in the direction that they are facing, weaving with the next, around to braid the ribbons over-and-under around the pole. Those passing on the inside will have to duck, those passing on the outside raise their ribbons to slide over. As the dances revolve around the pole the ribbons will weave creating a pattern, it is said that the pattern will indicate the abundance of harvest year.

In some areas there are permanent Maypoles, perhaps a recollection of ancient clan Bile Pole memory. In other areas a new Maypole is brought down on Beltane Eve out from the wood. Even the classical wood can vary according to the area tradition is pulled from, most frequently it seems to be birch as “the wood”, but others are mentioned in various historical documents.

Today in some towns and villages a mummer called Jack in the Green (drawing from the Green man), wears a costume made of green leaves as he dances around the May pole. Mumming is a dramatic performance of exaggerated characters and at Beltane the characters include Jack in the Green and the Fool. The Fool, and the Fool’s journey, symbolism can be understood in relation to Beltane as it is the beginning of beginnings, the emergence from the void of nothingness (winter), as one can also see the role of the green man as the re-greening of the world.

Traditionally in many areas Morris dancers can be found dancing around the Maypole. Morris dancing can be found in church records in Thame England going back to 1555. Morris dancing is thought to have originated many centuries ago as part of ancient religious ceremonies, however it seems that Morris dancing became associated with Mayday during the Tudor times, and its originating history is not all that easily traced, as is the way with many traditions.

The Maypole dance as an important aspect of encouraging the return of fertility to the earth. The pole itself is not only phallic in symbolism but also is the connector of the three worlds. Dancing the Maypole during Beltane is magical experience as it is a conduit of energy, connecting all three worlds at a time when these gateways are more easily penetrable. As people gaily dance around and around the pole holding the brightly colored ribbons, the energy it raises is sent down into the earth’s womb, bringing about Her full awakening and fruitfulness.

In Padstow, Cornwall, Beltane morning a procession is led by the “obby oss” a costumed horse figure, in a large circular banded frock and mask. The procession is full of song, drums and accordions. Professor Ronald Hutton of Bristol University points out that the first account of the Padstow May Day ‘Obby ‘Oss revelries was written in 1803. He offers evidence however that, like English Morris Dancing, its origins lie in English medieval times. This does not discount the possibility that its roots lay in the foundation of the fertility rites of Beltane, a more politically correct transmutation of fertility acts.

There is also a Queen of May. She is said in many areas to have worn a gold crown with a single, gold leaf at its front, in other areas her crown was made of fresh flowers. She was typically chosen at the start of the Beltane festival, which in time past was after sundown on the eve before Beltane day. Many accounts mention both a May Queen and King being chosen, whom would reign from sundown the eve before the Beltane day to sunset on Beltane. Among their duties would be to announce the Beltane games and award the prizes to the victors. The rudimentary base of this practice can be drawn back to the roots of Beltane festivities, the union of the Goddess and Her Consort, the joining of earth and sun, the endowment of summer. The Goddess has many guises: Danu – The Great Mother, Blodeuwedd (the Flower Bride), Isolt (Iseult, Isolde) and many, many others. The consort can also take many forms including the Green Man, Cernunnos or Tristan.

As Beltane marks this handfasting (wedding) of the Goddess and God, it too marks the reawakening of the earth’s fertility in its fullest. This is the union between the Great Mother and her Young Consort, this coupling brings new life on earth. It is on a Spiritual level, the unifying of the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine to bring forth the third, consciousness. On the physical, it is the union of the Earth and Sun to bring about the fruitfulness of the growing season.

It is customary that trial unions, for a year and a day, occur at this time. More or less these were statements of intent between couples, which were not legally binding. The trial marriages (engagements) typically occurred between a couple before deciding to take a further step into a legally binding union. It seems ancient wisdom understood that one does not really know another until they have lived with them, and when you live together things change and we change, as well. With this understanding unions were entered upon, first as a test period, and then if desired, a further commitment could be taken. It through always knowing that it is only through the choice of both to remain, that the relationship exists favorably.

May, however, according to old folklore is not a favorable time for marriages in the legal and permanent sense. There is reference after reference in the old books of this belief, and according to my Irish grandmother, May is not the month to marry, woe is to had by those who do. I can understand the premise of this folklore, May is the Goddess and God’s handfasting month, all honor would be Hers and His.

Water is another important association of Beltane, water is refreshing and rejuvenating, it is also imperative to life. It is said that if you bathe in the dew gathered before dawn on Beltane morn, your beauty will flourish throughout the year. Those who are sprinkled with May dew are insured of health and happiness. There are other folk customs such as drinking from the well before sunrise on Beltane Morn to insure good health and fortune.

The central color of Beltane is green. Green is the color of growth, abundance, plentiful harvest, abundant crops, fertility, and luck. White is another color that is customary, white brings the energies of cleansing, peace, spirituality, and the power to dispel negativity. Another color is red who brings along the qualities of energy, strength, sex, vibrancy, quickening, health, consummation and retention. Sun energy, life force and happiness are brought to Beltane by the color yellow. Blues and purples (Sagittarius energies: expansion, Good Fortune, magic, spiritual power, Success), and pinks (Venus energies). Beltane is rich in vibrant color, lighting the eyes and cheering the Spirit as we leave the dreariness of winter behind.

It is customary to bake a colorful fruit and spiced filled bread for festivals in the Celtic lands, traditionally this festival bread is sweet dough made with sweetmeat and spices. In Scotland they are the bannock – Bonnach Bealtain – for Beltane, in Wales – Bara Brith, Ireland it is Barm Brack and in Brittany Morlaix Brioche. For Beltane this bread was made the eve before Beltane day, is it said that the bread should not allow it to come into contact with steel during preparation (steel is harmful, deadly to the faery folk).

Bannocks are actually uncut scones originally cooked on a griddle. Wheat does not grow well in the Highlands, originally bannocks were made with oat or barley flour made into dough with little water and no leavening. Traditionally, a portion of the cake was burned or marked with ashes. The recipient of the burnt cake jumped over a small fire three times to purify and cleanse him or herself of any ill fortune. Offerings of bannocks and drink are traditionally left on doorsteps and roadways for the Faeries as an offering, in hope of faery blessings.

May is the month of sensuality and sexuality revitalized, the reawakening of the earth and Her Children. It is the time when we reawaken to the vivid colors, vibrant scents, tingling summer breezes, and the rapture of summer after a long dormant winter. It is a time of extraordinary expression of earth, animal, and person a time of great enchantment and celebration.

The excitement and beauty of Beltane can not be better expressed than through the gaiety and joy of our children. There is not doubt “spring fever” hits at Beltane, and hits hard. Children are full of unbridled energy charged up and ready to go! Children always amplify the seasonal energies and the thrill of their change, they bring richness and merriment wherever they go.

It is the child’s unrestrained expression of bliss and delight that is what Beltane is all about. It is the sheer joy of running through fields, picking flowers, rapturing in the sunlight, delighting in the fragrance of spring, dancing in the fresh dew covered grass. Our children guide us through the natural abandonment of our adult sensibilities and show us how to take grand pleasure, warmth and bliss from the gift of Beltane.

Blessed Beltane to you and yours!

Christina Aubin

Mother Earth and Sister Moon: A Beltaine Story of Creation

Mother Earth and Sister Moon: A Beltaine Story of Creation

Author: Lady Abigail 

I have always been drawn to the powers of the Earth. We call her Mother Earth, Earth Goddess, Life Giver and the Great Goddess. We have so many names for her and so many ways to see her.

My Great Grandmother would give me roots, seeds and plants to grow in my own garden each spring. She wanted to teach me to understand and respect the Earth. I loved, even as a child, digging in the dirt and seeing the worms turning in the ground letting me know winter was truly ending.

Each spring, we make a special altar outside as we cleaned the yard from winters disarray. This altar was for the Mother Goddess and to the Great Grandmother of all life. We would build a fire from the branches that had fallen and carefully pick an area that would later be made into a garden.

Once the altar was made, we placed a silver dish filled with water on it. In a wood bowl, we put bird food and corn with some of the fruit left from cellar not used during the winter. At sunset, we would set a light a candle, and give thanks to Grandfather Day and Grandmother Night for bringing life unto the Mother Earth once again.

Today we hear the term Mother Earth used for stressing the need for saving our planet. It is more than our planet; she is also our heartbeat and our survival.

My Great Grandmother was a beautiful, Native American woman. She was only a child when she would marry her husband. He was of French heritage and a Woodsman of the World. In her early years, she would live in the Deep South and later the Ozarks. She would be widowed early in life and left to raise her three children alone. She did so, with pride, honor and with no help from anyone.

Then at an age where many were deciding that they were too old and should just set in a rocking chair and wait for time to pass, she took in a 3-month-old baby. Raising that child with more love than many people ever know in a lifetime, sharing her wisdom and her traditions in ways that allowed dreams and understanding, never speaking that one might be better than the other. This was my Great Grandmother and I was that child.

I never felt I really belonged to any one people or one place. My Great Grandmother had dark hair, dark eyes and dark skin; I was a fair skinned, blond headed and green-eyed pixie child. She spoke three languages, as I worked with one and stumbled to learn another. My Great Grandmother would tell stories of her life as a child, the toils that her family struggled with to escape from captivity and start new lives. I wanted to be a part of that life, I wanted to be like her and look just like she did; but I didn’t.

It was from my Great Grandmother that I would learn that being Native American was not about how you looked, or even the blood that was in your body, it was understanding that the Earth is alive and a part of your heart and a part of who you are. Yes, the Earth is alive and so are the trees, the rocks and even the air we breathe.

As a child, my Great Grandmother would tell me wonderful stories of life, family, nature and magick. Some, like this one, were a mix of her traditions and her life. She would blend her family stories with her personal understanding of life so that I could see beyond what was put before me. The spirit within her stories would help me grow in my understanding of the magick and mysteries all around us.

This is a story of creation. A spring story that would become my Beltaine story of creation … though the time is not found within any moment of time.

In the beginning, there was no land and no water, no stars and no sky. Only a great void filled with all that could be. Living within the void was creation, not yet by name for no words had yet been spoken. Silence was the void.

Then like a whispering wind gentle on a summer night, a sound crossed the great void. Our Grandmother of the Night called to the Grandfather of the Day. “Grandfather, do you see we are alone and have no children our sky is empty and our hearts alone.”

Suddenly, Grandfather Day spoke in a deep thundering voice. “Then we shall have Children, daughters, two daughters.”

Joyfully Grandfather Day and Grandmother Night begin to dance across the great void. As they danced, the void of nothingness began to divide and become sky. Both of day and of night, separate of each other but together as one. Soon their dance of joy called to the stars and planets who also begin to spin in their dance.

As they danced Grandfather Day reached within the planets and picked what he saw as the most beautiful of planet of all. This would be his child of peace and rebirth. She was cool and green as if covered with life ready to be born.

Then, Grandmother Night reached into the stars and pulled from within the most silvery calming of light. But as she watched it she saw it was moving, she saw it was ever changing.

But there was not life, Grandmother Night called to Grandfather Day, “Where is their life, their illumination, their energy.”

Grandfather Day held out his hand with the cool and green planet within it and touched it to the small silvery planet within Grandmothers Nights hand.

With a cracking of sound and bolt of light, the small cool green planet took breath. Upon her was air to breath, water to drink, land to plant and life full of all creatures and form.

The small silvery planet held no life upon her but she dance within Grandmother Nights hand with joy. Her silvery smile was full of peace and power. Her dark face of held a calming renewal within. For what seemed like stillness was giving life and dance within the circle unto her sister as she pulled and give energy.

“Grandfather Day, ” said Grandmother Night, “I call to you to name your children and set them together within the circle dance.”

Grandfather Day thought for a moment and said, “I shall call our silvery daughter of the luminous glow, Moon, for in her changes life shall be reminded of the dance, all cycles will be renewed and reborn.”

Then Grandmother Day said, “I shall name our cool blue and green daughter, Earth; for she shall be Mother of life and death within her seasons.”

Still within the dance, Grandfather Day and Grandmother Night loving and gently placed their children, Earth and Moon, within the sky, always together, drawing energy one to the other for all time.
It was a joyful time but soon the dance slowed, and across the sky came the thunderous voice of Grandfather Day.

“Grandmother Night, now call your stars and planets to keep watch over our children, for we need rest.” Slowly they drew again into the void of existence but always watching Earth and Moon within the circle dance.

Now, each night we can look into the sky and see the planets and the stars. We can see sister Moon as she calls her sister Earth to the dance. And sometimes we can hear Grandmother Night and Grandfather Day talking to their daughters in the rolling thunder as rain cleans the sky, or in night winds song whispering through the trees, reminding us, to take care as we join in the dance of life. For if we do not take care, we can lose our place in the circle and the dance could end.

Time and the ravages of a careless world, have taken so much from the Earth. Unfortunately, many do not understand that what we are losing, is ourselves. We are here to be the protectors of the Earth, dancers within the dance. Mother Earth is not a resource of what we can take from her. She is life and we must give back to her in guardianship for her life and our future. Mother Earth is our only chance for the blessing of time itself.

My Great Grandmother would teach me to respect the Earth. For the Earth is the life giver and the mother of all things. Now as we approach the time of spring and Beltaine, as we seek the energy of renewal and the assurance of new life, may it also remind us that we must learn to walk with the Earth and not upon her.

Have a magickal Spring…

Lady Abigail
High Priestess Ravensgrove Coven
Greenfield, IN

Copyright: Copyright © 04092008
Lady Abigail
High Priestess Ravensgrove Coven
Greenfield, IN

Bonfires

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A circle gathered round a roaring pit
All joining hands to bask within it’s glow
And under Moon crowned sky all starry lit
We sing and praise the Power’s shadowed flow.

For some the flames form dancing Dragon’s wing
And other smoke wrought visions climb the air
For all a caring closeness will this bring
And psychic current bonding hearts to share.

We charge this timeless place between the worlds
To call the Goddesses love within our hearts
And join with her our joyous souls unfurled
Our spirits dance with her by ancient arts.

This night forever captured in this glade
To see old souls re-met and friendships made.

—-Bonfire

By J.A. Bordeaux