Spring was never my favorite season, not while I was growing up, anyway. Yes, Spring meant the end of coats and the beginning of baseball, but it also meant the return of grass cutting and farm work. And it meant the return of allergy season.
Three Winters living in northern Indiana (the last one had 78 inches of snow) gave me an appreciation of Spring, but my love of Spring began when I became a Pagan.
I knew about May Day, and I seem to recall a Maypole dance in first or second grade, although I might be confusing that with a story of a Maypole told by my grandmother or some other older person. In any case, when I first read about the Wheel of the Year I immediately gravitated to Beltane. The idea of a festival celebrating the beginning of Summer and the fertility of the Land, and celebrating good, honest, sexuality was extremely appealing.
I don’t think I ever felt the limitations of solitary practice as much as I did at Beltane during my early Pagan years. Never mind the sex, I wanted a big group celebration with a Maypole and garlands and frolicking and mead and the whole party.
Oh, do not tell the Priest our plight,
For he would call it sin;
But we’ve been out in the woods all night,
A conjuring Summer in!
And we bring you news by word of mouth
Good news for cattle and corn
Now is the Sun come up from the South,
By Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!
excerpt from “A Tree Song” by Rudyard Kipling
My first Beltane with Denton CUUPS was an extremely small event. But the second year was memorable, and not just because it was outdoors and COLD (even in Texas, Summer doesn’t get here till late May). We acted out the story of Rhiannon and her missing child, then held ritual contests and generally had a great time. The next year we added a Maypole and it’s been a tradition every year since. Our Beltane circles have been some of out best-attended and best-received rituals.
Still, I’ve had dreams of bigger and better Beltanes. Inspired partially by Edinburgh’s Beltane Fire Society’s pageants and partially by the local Moonlady Winter SolstiCelebrations, I had thoughts of organizing a huge pan-DFW Beltane circle. I tried to start something in 2010 but it didn’t turn out quite like I had imagined. There are many reasons for that – not the least of which is that I’m a good ritualist but a lousy promoter – but the biggest is that my two inspirations are spiritual and cultural celebrations, which allows them to draw from a broader base of attendees. While I wanted a Beltane celebration, I wanted a religious celebration. I wanted a Pagan ritual, not a show.
There is another traditional aspect to Beltane that sometimes gets overlooked. Beltane is 180 degrees opposite Samhain on the Wheel of the Year, and like Samhain it is a time when the Veil Between the Worlds is at its thinnest. So if we can’t go big, let’s go deep.
This year, our Beltane circle will have the Maypole dance and a spiral dance, but the main working this Saturday will be the presentation of the Four Hallows of the Tuatha De Danann.
When the Tuatha De Danann – the children of the Goddess Danu – invaded Ireland, they brought with them the Four Hallows, four items of Otherworldly origin. They are The Sword of Nuada – no one ever escaped from it once it was drawn, and no one could resist it; The Spear of Lugh – no battle was ever sustained against it, or against the warrior who carried it; The Cauldron of the Dagda – no company ever went away from it unsatisfied; and The Lia Fáil – the stone that would cry out in the presences of the true King.
Throughout history, they have presented themselves to those in need who are worthy of them: women and men whose hearts are true and whose motives are pure. They help those who possess them do great things, but then they return to the Otherworld – you may touch a Hallow and be blessed by a Hallow, but you will never own a Hallow.
We’re going to present our physical representations of the Hallows, then give participants the opportunity to commune with which ever one calls to them. I really don’t know what’s going to happen during that time. It depends on what the Gods and the Hallows decide to do: who they call and who they touch.
I’m not comfortable with open ended rituals in a public setting. But the last couple we’ve done have gone well – I’m learning to trust that if we do our part, the Gods will do Their part… even if that turns out to be nothing like what I had imagined.
And I continue to dream of Beltane.