Beltane Ritual 2013

I’m a Pagan because I love the gods and I believe I have a relationship with them. I love ritual because it provides a framework for expressing my relationship(s) with deity. I can sit and converse with Pan or Dionysus absent ritual, but if I want to celebrate my connection with them in a public way, ritual is what keeps me from looking bat-s*#t crazy.

Long ago in the far far away land that is Michigan, I used to celebrate Beltane in a very big way. Thirty (or more!) of my best friends and I would depart for out of town on Saturday morning and then spend the next twenty-four hours “ringing the summer in.” Obviously there was camping and feasting, but there was also a Maypole Dance, and usually two rituals. The first (bigger) ritual was our PG-13 ritual, suitable for children and people who blushed easily. Near midnight we’d have a second ritual, usually more flirtatious and often with some extraneous kissing. Those were some of my favorite days . . . .

In theory our bigger ritual was to be written by committee. I remember a meeting to discuss the Beltane Ritual one April evening which ended basically with “Jason, we want a lot of poetry in this ritual, and maybe have everyone draw down the God/Goddess.” That was how our committee worked, a few thoughts on what to do, and the instruction that I then write it. For the next week or so after that meeting I sat on my front-porch, raspberry cider always near, counting out syllables on my fingers attempting to put “a lot of poetry” in our ritual. Not all of its great mind you, but I tried.

The previous pre-Beltane season my Grandmother died suddenly of a brain aneurism. I was charged with writing a ritual that year too, and away from my computer I scribbled down various thoughts and put together a masterpiece of a ritual, weaving together the threads of rebirth with the inevitability of death. Sadly, I lost that ritual shortly after it was presented, but a friend of mine has made vague notions that he collected some of those pages when the ritual was done.

With the exception of that one (now lost) lone Beltane Ritual, my May Day Celebrations have typically been light-hearted. At Samhain I tend to take my ritual writing oh-so-seriously, while at Beltane I tend to find myself drawn to lighter fare. There’s a part of me that’s bothered by this, and a part of me that tries to console the other part by saying “It’s Beltane! People are expecting a ritual that’s fun!”

Most of my Beltane rituals revolved around the idea of the Maiden and Goatboy joining together as one on May Day (that’s a fancy way of saying “they do it”). The Triple Goddess has always been a very powerful archetype because it works so neatly-Maiden, Mother, Crone-it’s easy to see three phases of life, experience, and being within the three aspects. (I realize it’s not perfect, my always 29 year old wife is neither a Maiden or a Mother at this point in her life.) It’s not as neat on the male side of the equation, mostly because we lack the poetic terms to make it so. Since one of my few nicknames is “Goatboy” we named the Horned Youth of our yearly cosmic drama “Goatboy.” It works so well that I’ve been using that term for over ten years now.

So there you have it. I’ve explained the bad poetry that makes up the first third of the ritual and warned you about the character/archetype of the Goatboy. Happy Beltane!

Statement of Intent:
High Priest:
“The Earth is renewed, the green grass grows
Upon the wind the scent of the red rose.
The Maiden joins with the Jack of the Green
The world alive in a joyful Spring scene.
We celebrate the most joyous of days,
Sacred Beltane under the Spring sun’s rays.
Hail and welcome!”

Quarter Calls*

East: “Come to us o spirits of air, come to us on this spring day fair. Bring to us the warm flowing breeze, stir the young spring leaves! Touch us with your powers of inspiration as we sing and dance tonight in celebration. Hail and welcome!”

South: “Come to us o spirits of fire, help us set winter on the funeral pyre. Bring to us the long sun soaked days, let us dance in summers rays! Touch us with your powers of passion as we celebrate the Spring in! Hail and welcome!”

West: “Come to us o spirits of water, come to us as the days grow hotter. Bring to us the gentle spring rains, let there be blooms upon the plains! Touch us with your loving song as we make love all night long. Hail and welcome!”

North: “Come to us o spirits of earth, come to us full of laughter and mirth. Bring to us the fresh green grasses, and the lovely Beltaine lasses! Touch us with your powers of healing and join us in our Mayday reeling! Hail and welcome!”

Circle Casting
“ I cast this Beltaine circle upon the beautiful Spring night. I cast this circle to guard our Mayday rite. With this circle I designate sacred space Only those with positive intent may be in this place! So mote it be!”

Spring Poem
High Priestess:
“The earth shrugs off its coat of wintery snow
Buds begin to form upon the quiet trees
It becomes clear that winter has to go
The sun breaks free of February’s freeze
Day begins to overtake the dark night
Green peaks out of the once frozen ground
Long absent flowers reach for the suns light
The jay sings her almost forgotten sound
Spring has come to play its warm joyful song
Tonight we dance upon the new green grass
We laugh, we circle, knowing we can do no wrong
In the space where the Lord and Lady pass
Happiness is Beltaine surrounded by friends
Outside upon the Earth the Maiden tends.”

Call to the God
High Priest:
“Lord of the Sky we call to you tonight
He who shines down upon us as the sun
Awakening life with your golden light
With your power and might all things are done
Lord of the forest we call to you now
Guardian of the new green growing things
Sacred keeper of shovel, scythe and plow
Let us offer thanks to all that you bring.
Lord of lust, union, dreams and desire
Join us in our springtime revels and play
Ignite our minds and hearts with passions fire
Help us to steal a kiss this night of May
The Great God is with us this sacred night
Feel his power, love, compassion, and might. Blessed Be!”

Call to the Goddess
High Priestess:
“Lady of the Moon we call to you tonight
Reflection of beauty, love, and mystery
She who is the bright soul of the dark night
Worshipped throughout time and history
Maiden of the spring we call out to you
She who walks upon the carpet of green
She who paints the sky a lovely spring hue
Lady whose touch awakens all that’s seen
Gaia goddess, soul of this planet Earth
Join us as we honor you this night
Touch us with love, joy, happiness and mirth.
Dance with us as we celebrate your light
The Lady has joined us for our rite
Sing her praises this sacred Beltaine night. Blessed Be!”

Charge of the God
Charge of the Goddess

(It’s probably not necessary here to read the Charges, but I like them in my rituals, and they are poetry in their own rite. If you are worried about the ritual running long, I’d leave them out.)

Drawing Down the Might

(In this part of the ritual the Lord and Lady are drawn into all the participants of the ritual. Everyone pairs up and turns are taken in the drawing down. The High Priestess reads the words of the drawing down the first time through, the high priest the second. My friend Christopher came up with “the Might” to be gender neutral.)

High Priestess/High Priest:
“Lord and Lady of might
In all your beauty bright,
Shine on us here
And with your silver beam
Unlock the gates of dream
Rise bright and clear
On Earth and sky and sea
Your magick mystery
Its spell shall cast
Wherever leaf may grow
Wherever tide may flow
Till all be past.
O sacred gods of power
At this enchanted hour
We ask your boon.
May fortunes favor fall
Upon true witches all
Lord of the sun/Lady of the moon.”

High Priestess/High Priest:
“Now kneel before your partner and repeat after me.”

“Blessed be thy feet which have brought you to the Old ways.”
(Both feet are lightly kissed.)

“Blessed be thy knees which shall kneel at the sacred altar.”
(Both knees are kissed.)

“Blessed be thy sex, without which we would not be.”
(The stomach is kissed.)

“Blessed be thy heart, from which all love springs.”
(The heart area is kissed, above the breasts.”

“Blessed be thy mind, which shall picture the sacred forms.”
(The forehead is kissed.)

“I Invoke and beseech Thee,
O mighty Ones of all life and fertility.
By seed and root, by stem and bud, by leaf and flower and fruit, by Life and Love, do I invoke Thee to descend into the body of thy servants. The Lord and Lady have arrived have this sacred day in May.”

(In case you missed it, positions are switched after the first go through and everything is repeated. It’s not intended to be a full on “drawing down,” more a chance to reflect on the sacred within us all. I like the idea that we are all Maidens and Goatboys on Beltane and all children of the Goddess and God. I also think the fivefold kiss works well as a “body blessing,” reminding us all that our bodies are sacred, and worthy of love and respect, no matter their shape, size, or age.)

The Flirtation: Love is Always Given

(After the Lord and Lady are drawn down, the Maiden takes the flowers on the altar and begins to hand them out to all the women in the circle. While she’s handing them out she should say things like “pretty flowers to all the pretty ladies” while purposely avoiding the gaze of the men folk. She could even playfully walk up to one of the men and say something like “these flowers are only for my beauties.” The whole idea is that she only passes them out to the ladies, and you want to pass them out to anyone who identifies as a woman.)

In our Beltane rituals the part of “The Maiden” was generally handled by our High Priestess, though you could use a separate person if you wanted to. While the Maiden is busy handing out flowers somewhere in the circle the Goatboy, usually played by the High Priest, is getting upset. “Where’s my flower?” he might say. He is supposed to whine a little bit here, generally I tend to give myself the least flattering role when writing a ritual.)

Goatboy: “And now where is my flower? Am I not fair enough to deserve a flower?”

Maiden: “A flower might help with your goat scent, but alas, I do think you are deserving of such a token.”

Goatboy: “My true love stands before me, and yet she will not share with me. (light bulb goes off in Goatboy’s head) Perhaps it’s not a flower you wish to give me anyways, perhaps it’s something far sweeter?”

Maiden: “You certainly jest (and then grins knowingly at the Goatboy), and even if I were to give you something sweeter, it would have to be earned.”

Goatboy: “I will not be treated as a second class goat, or man! Let me know what I must do to earn your love! Shall I hump a hundred sheep for you? I would even share my wine with one as sweet as you! Just tell me what it is and I shall do I as you ask.”

Maiden: “It is sweet of you to offer your wine, but what I want is not a physical thing. I need to know that you truly value me, that you won’t just disappear when distracted by other things, like the goats and sheep you always volunteer to hump. I want you to close your eyes and count to ten. If you can find me on this May Day fair, I will consent to give you a kiss.”

“I shall do as you say, and I will turn over every rock and blade of grass upon our dear Mother Earth to find you! One . . . two . . .”

(Goatboy counts to ten and then proceeds to hunt for the Maiden who hides among the people in the circle. She can move around too, and should be sure to say things like “will you hide me from my smelly consort?” etc etc. People can attempt to distract the Goatboy, but he should gently rebuff them until he finds the Maiden.)

Maiden: “At last, you have found me! It’s good to know that there is some blood still inside your big head!”

Goatboy: “And now I shall take my kiss and that flower in your hand.”

Maiden: (shakes head.) “No Goatboy, love is always given, never taken. I give you this kiss and I give you this flower because your heart is honest and true.”

(Goatboy and Maiden kiss.)

Maiden: “And now I bid all of those with love in their hearts to share their flowers and celebrate Beltane. For today we are all Maidens and all Goatboys, and all lovers of the sweet summer yet to come. All hail!”

(Now everyone makes merry and exchanges flowers, perhaps kisses, with the Goatboy and the Maiden and everyone else with an active role in the ritual, making sure that all in the circle are a part of the merriment. DO NOT leave anyone out. In my original version of this ritual we went straight from this portion into a Spiral Dance led by the High Priestess. I think we had drummers then, now I don’t really have a good troupe of percussionists so I added the next bit to compensate, and because I always mess up the Spiral Dance.)


Oak and Ash and Thorn

Goatboy: “Isn’t there something we are forgetting? If I remember correctly it’s something about ‘do not tell the priest our plight, or he would call it a sin, But we’ve been out in the woods all night, a-conjuring summer in’ something about Oak and Ash and Thorn?”

Maiden: “We won’t get to the sin until later my dear Goatboy, but I think I can join you in a rousing dance and sing a long to a favorite summer song!”

Goatboy: “Now we dance the summer in to Oak and Ash and Thorn!”

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(Lots of versions of Oak and Ash and Thorn out there, the one here is by the band Coyote Run. At my Beltane Ritual in a couple of weeks I’ve got three different versions of the song cued up to use. When the singing and dancing have been completed remember to ground, especially with the mini-drawing down done earlier in the ritual.)

Maiden: “Now I need you to feel the ground beneath your feet . . bend down if you so choose . . . and put all of your excess energy back into the Earth. Let your energy feed the soil the blooms and the summer to come.”

Goatboy: “Blessed Be. Now help me with the most sacred of all rites.”

(Priest and Priestess grab chalice and athame.)

Cakes and Ale/The Great Rite

High Priest: “We stand upon the Earth, most sacred and ancient of all altars. The gifts of the Goddess and the God all arise from the bounty of the Earth. Great eternal womb from which all life flows you are the altar, eternal seed from which life springs, you are the altar.”

High Priestess: “Altar of mysteries, curious wonder and marvelous miracles, the Earth is our sacred space. The Earth, where all life unites as one. As a sign of the ancient ways I anoint thee with a kiss upon thy lips.”

(Priestess and Priest lightly kiss.)

High Priestess: “Open for us the secret way, the pathway of knowledge and wisdom, beyond the gates of life and death, beyond the gates of night and day, beyond the bounds of time and space, where all things become one in the eyes and heart of the Goddess and the God.”

High Priest: “As the blade is to the Lord.”

High Priestess: “As the cup is the Lady.”

(The chalice is held up and the athame is plunged into it.)

High Priestess/High Priest: United in life, love, and abundance. So mote it be!

High Priestess: “Now we shall bless the cakes and ale.”

High Priest: “We ask the Lord and Lady to bless these cakes, bless the grain which arises from the womb of the Earth, bless the sweetness of life tasted within the sugar, and bless the cooperation needed to make them. Blessed Be!”

High Priestess: “We ask the Lady and Lord to bless this wine. Bless the grapes which spring from a tiny seed, bless the alcohol-the elixir of life, and bless the fellowship which arises when we share it. Blessed Be! “

(Cakes and Ale are passed around.)

Goodbyes to the Lord and Lady

High Priest:
“The sun sinks in the night sky
The time has come to say goodbye
Farewell to the Lord of the wood
God of all that is growing and good
We bid you farewell at the ritual end
Fond farewells and blessings we send! Blessed Be!”

High Priestess:
“The Maiden turns to Mother
As she has now found her new lover
We bid farewell to the Maiden of spring
Thanking her for the joy she brings
Thanks to the Lady we are never alone,
She that is Maiden, Mother, and Crone! Blessed Be!”

Dismissing the Quarters

North: “Earth has blessed our rite as we now sink down into night. Spirits of the north go in love and peace the elements we now release. Hail and farewell!”

West: “Water has blessed our rite as we now sink down into night. Spirits of the west go in love and peace the elements we now release. Hail and farewell!”

South: “Fire has blessed our rite as we now sink down into night. Spirits of the south go in love and peace the elements we now release. Hail and farewell!”

East: “Air has blessed our rite as we now sink down into night. Spirits of the east go in love and peace the elements we now release. Hail and farewell!”

Releasing the Circle
“ I cast this Beltaine circle upon the beautiful Spring night.
I cast this circle to guard our Mayday rite.
With this circle I designated sacred space
And now I return us to our regular time and place.
So mote it be!”

Closing Poem
High Priestess
“The Little darling Spring has run away
The sunshine grew too hot for her to stay
She kissed her sister, Summer,and she said
‘When I am gone, you must be queen instead’
Now reigns the Lady Summer, round whose feet
A thousand fairies flock with blossoms sweet.”

Closing Statement
High Priest: “This ritual is now at an end, we rejoice in the Spring and the Summer soon to follow. Though we now leave this place our celebrations have but begun. Let all we do tonight be in celebration of our community and the wonders of the Springtime.”

*In many traditions the circle casting proceeds the calling of quarters/elements. When I wrote this ritual I tended to do quarters first and circle casting second. Today I generally do them in the reverse order. What I’m saying is, you can flip the order depending on how you do things.

About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

    Looks like a fun ritual, Jason.

    In the drawing down section, what will you do with or for those who aren’t paired? Our group has gotten pretty good at making Beltane inclusive of sexual orientations, but we struggle with how to include those who are single.

    • JasonMankey

      When we did this a few years ago we somehow found a way to pair everyone, even though we weren’t just a collection of couples. I usually make sure that everyone with a speaking part in my rituals stands kind of apart, and then “fills in the gaps” as needed.

      I’m doing something similar to this for Beltane this year, but we’ve turned the drawing down section into a self blessing, so no pairing off.


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