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Archive for the ‘Beltaine’ Category

I do consider Samhain to be the beginning of my spiritual year, but I also cannot deny the status quo in regards to modern society.  Generations have looked to the point between December and January as the threshold to a new year and the continual existence of all. I can’t deny the power associated with such a movement, even if I don’t always observe it with much excitement.  Last year I spent it quietly with my husband.  We relaxed.  This year, I’ll likely spend it helping my sister move and then celebrating with some of my tribe.

Another thing I want to do is clean my home as best as I can.  Many people believe that what you do at the end of the old year will follow you into the new year, and that we should strive to surround ourselves with the qualities we want to fill our lives with.  I want my apartment to be cleaner and I want to take more time making it thus.  I spent some time today cleaning and organizing the kitchen.  There is still work to be done but it’s slowly getting better and more user-friendly.

I also find myself looking forward to the green half of the year.  With the Winter Solstice pretty much over (I plan to take my decorations down on the 6th.  There’s an old Irish belief that it’s unlucky to do so before or after.), I find myself excited for Beltaine.  I feel a bit bad about that since I don’t feel as giddy over the next high day, Imbolc, which is sacred to my blessed Lady Brighid, but to me that’s more of a quiet holiday for counting one’s blessings.  The Spring Equinox has never been that festive to me either.  Beltaine, though, is another story completely.  The ground will finally be completely or in the process of thawing.  The leaves will be blossoming and the robins will assuredly be back by then.  It is when my grove erects a May Pole and we dance about it to provoke the Earth Mother into fecundity.  It is a flirtatious and celebratory time!  I find myself excitedly looking through seed catalogs and humming Jonathan Coulton’s “First of May”…

This time of year is also when I find myself a new calendar.  This year I am going to use  The Artisans Guild of Ár nDraíocht Féin 2011 Calendar.  It supports the guild I belong to and features the work of several amazing Pagan artists – including a couple of my dolls!

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Beltaine

Beltaine is a Celtic holiday traditionally celebrated around May 1st.  It is a day to celebrate the return of fertility to the Earth as well as the beginning of summer.  In regards to the etymology of the word, linguists are fairly certain that the “-tain” refers to the word tene, meaning “fire”.  The “bel-” is less certain among linguists.  Some believe it refers to the Gaulish God Belenos or that it derives from the word bel – “brilliant” (Freeman 135).

Beltaine is one of the most important holidays in the Celtic year.  It is associated with specific events, invasions, and monsters that appear on Beltaine in Celtic myth (Ellison 129).  According to Mara Freeman, “events that mark the end of an old order and the beginning of a new frequently take place at Beltaine” (136).  For example, the invasion of the Tuatha Dé Danann of Ireland occurred on a Beltaine, as did the invasion of the Míl, the ancestors of the Irish who conquered the old Gods (136).

Beltaine is also associated with fire, as is implied by the name.  The druids would gather on hills to create grand bonfires which would help to purify the community and their livestock for the summer (Freeman 137).  In fact, Beltaine was the day the cattle were brought to pasture in the fields until the beginning of winter on Samhain (Ellison 129).  The cattle would be driven between two such bonfires to ensure their health and fertility for the coming year.

This holiday is also associated with love and fertility.  Couples or whole groups of people would go off into the forests or fields to “bring in the May”, or have sex.  It was believed that, in doing so, the fertility of the couple would be transferred to the Earth and aid in the upcoming harvest (Ellison 130).

Having been a practicing Pagan for several years now, I’ve been exposed to a few Beltaines and, as I grow and learn about the path I am on, I have come to love and anticipate this holiday.  Many groups in my area dance the May Pole for Beltaine, a traditional fertility ritual.  It, along with bringing in the May with my partner, has become something I look forward to every year.

Folk customs aside, the transition of the natural year has always been most noticeable around May 1st.  The trees are budding, the ground is moist and filling out with green life, the song birds have returned, and wild flowers paint the land with color.  It is such a joyous time of the year for me.

In the future, if I have a family, I would love for my children to anticipate Beltaine as much as I do, although they probably won’t understand its full meaning until adolescence.  I would love to give them tenfold of what I have experienced so far: ample feasts, dancing, singing, flower gathering, and love-focused rituals.  I would like Beltaine to take a higher precedence over Valentine’s Day for my own family, as Beltaine is less focused on material gifts and more on love and growth.  It is a positive holiday – one of my favorites.

 

How I Celebrated in 2007

On the 28th of April, 2007, I attended the Beltaine ritual at Muin Mound in Syracuse.  It was my first experience at a Druid ritual.  The ceremony began at 7 PM.

The Beltaine ritual was lead by Skip Ellison.  I think he did a wonderful job.  He was both welcoming and powerful seeming.  Everyone in the grove was also very welcoming.  It felt like a big family!  Skip’s daughter also took on an important role by leading the songs and chants as the bard.  Two other girls also did a lot to invoke the three Kindreds and make offerings.  Everyone else (about ten or so people) participated in minor ways such as singing, chanting, making offerings, and participating in the “toast and boast.”  I was amazed at the amount of group participation that occurred.

The gatekeeper for the ceremony was Manannan Mac Lir.  The deities honored were Angus the Young God and a Goddess I wasn’t familiar with called “Flower Face.”  Angus was celebrated because of his summer ties with love and fertility, while “Flower Face” is also associated with love as well as new growth.

Skip’s method of divination was ogham stones.  If I recall correctly, he drew three different discs – one for each kindred.  One was ivy, and one was oak.  I cannot remember the third!  I do remember that the oak was an omen for the Gods.  Skip said it was a very good message.

Before the actual ritual, we performed a May pole dance.  The beautiful May pole was made using the previous year’s Yule tree.  Skip explained that it’s part of how they keep in tune with the cycle of the year.  Each Yule, they get a Yule tree.  Come Beltaine, part of the old Yule tree is added to the Beltaine pole. When the pole has been danced, it is placed in the grove to give fertility to the Earth all summer long.  Come Samhain, the beginning of sleep and rest for nature, the May pole is burned to represent the death of the green until spring.  I thought it was really beautiful and I would love to start such a tradition with my own family some day.  So, we danced the pole and leant our energy to the land for a good, fertile growing season.

As stated, I really liked the grove and the ritual.  I felt it was structured very well.  I liked the emphasis on the Gods as well as the ancestors and nature spirits.  I felt like I was really honoring the Gods rather than abstract concepts. I liked all of the offerings people gave.  I was really impressed when one member offered a song on a flute!  Being my first time, I did not make a special offering.  I hope to next time.

I had trouble with chants and responses.  I could hum along with the melody, and pick up some.  I was really confused when we invoked water, earth, and sky.  Everyone began to chant something I didn’t know.  Eventually I realized that they were referring to the three great fears of the Celt.  They were asking that the sky not fall, the earth not open up, and that the sea not swallow them.

When we got to the “Toast and Boast” part of the ritual, I thanked the Gods for the wonderful community I found to worship with.  I explained that when I started out on my spiritual path, I was alone.  Now I have a wonderful mate who worships with me, Pagan friends, and I celebrated Beltaine with two different groups!

I really enjoyed the ritual.  I felt a lot of energy there.  I especially felt Manannan’s presence.  It felt like tickles down my back.  I just knew he was there with us.  I definitely plan to go to the grove again.

 

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Bláithíne/Blathnat,  the flower maiden and Goddess of the fields, is an apt deity to honor in May.  The northern hemisphere is waking up and filling with flowers instead of snow.  She leaves her husband (through arranged marriage) to be with the one she really loves, Cuchulain.  In the end, she’s killed by her husband’s bard.

Bláithíne is the Irish counterpart of the Welsh Blodeuwedd.  Although I have an Irish hearth culture, I’m more familiar with her story.  In this version, she is actually created with magic (out of flowers) for the purpose of being Lleu’s wife.  I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the Lugh=Lleu argument, but there’s definitely similarities between the two.  It’s interesting how Blodeuwedd is forced to marry the Welsh Lleu, and in Ireland, Cuchulain is, in some stories, fathered by Lugh.   I also think it’s fascinating how, in the Welsh version, Blodeuwedd is punitively transformed into an owl.  The contrast between flowers/light/day and owls/dark/night is interesting.  It’s the sort of duality that exists in Persephone.

* Image: “The Flower Maiden” by Henry John Stock.

[ For my LJ friends, please visit me at: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ ]

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My Beltaine was wonderful.  After a delightfully amorous morning, hubby and I went to The Mustard Seed in Watertown to enjoy their Earth Day celebration.  We got to try a plethora of products, including some eco-friendly perfume, organic cat treats (which our babies really enjoyed), soaps, and a micro-brewed kombucha.  My husband is not a fan of the drink in general, but it was probably the best batch I ever had!  We also had some delicious local baked goods and a grilled portobello sandwich.  Yummy!

We headed to Syracuse to attend Muin Mound’s Beltaine celebration.  Yesterday was actually my three year anniversary of going to Muin Mound.  I made a point to make it to a business meeting.  I want to be more involved, especially as I’m going to become an official Folk of the Grove next month.  My grove mates have become such a spiritual family to me.  It’s so easy to talk to them now, and I have so much fun.

The men went into the woods to find a tree for the maypole.  My husband went reluctantly at first but ended up having a lot of fun finding, sawing, and constructing it with Skip.  Hubby is one of those men who almost always has a knife on him and it was quite handy yesterday!  Muin Mound’s tradition is to attach last year’s Yule tree to the top of the maypole.  We dance around it to celebrate the fertility all around us and leave it standing in the yard to fill the land with more creative energy.  Come Samhain, when the harvest is over, the maypole is chopped up and placed in our bonfire.  It’s a lovely tradition that really connects us to the land.  I wish we brought the camera to get a photo of our maypole this year.  It’s probably the best I’ve ever seen!

The ritual was beautiful.  The usual nemeton was already infested with mosquitos so we opted to use the area closer to the home.  We’ve been using it a lot, actually, and the larger nemeton is generally bug free for Samhain.  It’s sad, in a way, because the nemeton is so visually striking with the large central bonfire and bridge lit by torch-light, but the newer, less-infested nemeton is also lovely and is growing on me.  The second bile (sacred tree) looks quite proud with some offerings hanging from it.  There’s also a lovely pond which works as the well!

As the ritual began, the sky lit up a few times and thunder rolled around us.  It was really something to acknowledge the three realms and chant “may the sky not fall down upon us” in such weather.  I took two larger roles in the ritual this time.  We have a member who always welcomes the Nature Spirits, but she wasn’t there last night, so I took the part.  I felt so confident and just said what was in my heart.  It was an amazing feeling!  I also welcomed and honored the Goddess of the rite, Bláithíne.  I had an idea of what I could say, but in the end I read something prepared ahead of time.  I usually don’t like to do that, but I’ve really never worked with Bláithíne before and didn’t want to stumble or get her story wrong, even though I’m fairly sure I know the basics of it.  I felt a lot of wonderful things while calling to her.  I felt the strength of an independent woman who knows what she wants.  I felt the awe and joy of the plants all around me.  I also felt compelled to learn more about her and make a doll inspired by her to give to the grove next Beltaine.

At the end of the rite, the sky could no longer hold and it began to rain.  It felt cool after a humid day dancing around the maypole.  We were finishing our right so it didn’t spoil our fiery fun at all.  We went inside and had a wonderful potluck feast.

It was such an enjoyable day and I hope everyone did something as wonderful!

May the Kindreds bless you this season!

[ For my LJ friends, please visit me at: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ ]

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Blessed Beltaine, my friends!  Or Bealtaine in Irish.  I sometimes like to call it that because it just feels so good rolling off the tongue.  Anyway, I hope everyone has a wonderful day!  As has become tradition, I must post one of my favorite Jonathan Coulton songs.  FYI – it’s NSFW.  😉

http://www.youtube.com/v/gRhPeJ3uzOc&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00




What a great ditty. It always gets me happy and excited for Beltaine – in an immature, sexual kind of way. 😛 Truthfully, I’m already feeling the amorous energy associated with the day!


To get you up and moving around, here’s one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands, Omnia! I’s called Tine Bealtaine. Nothing like a great, upbeat Neo-Medeival tune to get you in the mood for one of the most important holidays in modern Paganism!


http://www.youtube.com/v/N3Wo7RBnY1Y&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0x402061&color2=0x9461ca

Today the husband and I are going to celebrate with our grovies at Muin Mound after attending an Earth Day celebration at The Mustard Seed in Watertown. Whatever you’re doing, be safe, have fun, and may the Kindreds bless!

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The “writer’s block” topic on Live Journal today is about Valentine’s Day and I decided to add my two cents.

Given that we’re less than a week out from Valentines, how do you feel about the approaching holiday? Will you participate or abstain? If you’re not in a relationship, how will you celebrate your single status?

You know… I just don’t do V-day anymore. It used to be a big deal to me, in part because a majority of my life was spent in public education where, every year, we spent tons of money on candy and crappy, mass-produced cards that my classmates inevitably threw away shortly after receiving. As someone trying to live a more sustainable life, I can’t help but see this highly commercialized holiday as environmentally disgusting. Ok, I’ll admit a detail about my personal life – I work with children. Despite my feelings, I don’t want to disappoint their wee little hearts. Try to discuss sustainability with an X-Box and toy-obsessed youngster. I dare you. 9 times out of 10, it doesn’t change much because, in the end, it’s really the attitude of the parents that matter. All the same, I’m not giving cards or plastic bags of candy. They are getting pencils bedecked in hearts because they are useful. Yes, I am that sort of adult.

“But Grey Catsidhe! You’re newly married! Aren’t you going to have a romantic evening with your hubby?”

Our first date several years ago was on Valentine’s Day. A year after that, we started to think about why we were celebrating. We knew we loved each other. But…was that really a good reason to go out and spend money? Especially after the winter holiday season? We were in college and we were broke. When we really thought about it, we realized that Valentine’s Day just didn’t matter to us. If we were going to spend money on gifts, then let that be on our birthdays and the Solstice. Otherwise… Neither of us are Catholic so St. Valentine doesn’t matter to us. I’m a Celtic Recon/Druid, so Lupercalia isn’t for me either. And I’m no longer a fan of celebrating religious holidays claimed by secular America just because it’s socially traditional. Bah. I’ll stick to traditions that I actually find enjoyable!

If you celebrate Valentine’s Day, that’s fine. Go out and have fun! Maybe even take some advice and see how sustainable you can be while you celebrate. My husband and I? We’ll use a holiday as an excuse to get jiggy with it on the 1st of May. Beltaine baby! Sex in the forest! Show the plants how it’s done! February is too cold for that anyway… So why even bother? 😉

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Rain rain rain

I mentioned in my last post that I have an ear infection. I got a prescription from the doctor and it’s helping a lot. I feel my body fighting back and feeling better bit by bit.

Last night it started to rain. When I woke up today it was still raining. Most of the snow has been washed away, just like my sickness. There’s a literary term for this… When writers link the occurrences of the natural world to their own… It’s escaping me at present…

Anyway, for some reason the rain has further invigorated me. As soon as I looked out the window, I thought “spring!” and felt some sort of emotional/chemical reaction in my being.

We are almost out of the dark half of the year. As much as I enjoy snow, it makes my heart skip a beat for soon it will be Beltaine!

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