The fire was lit just before sunset. There are good magical reasons for that. In Celtic lore those moments and places that are ‘neither nor’, that partake of multiple qualities, or offer transitions are places and times of power. We were lighting the fire in the season of Beltaine, under the full moon of May, at the setting of the sun. That is what the novelists call well-omened.
But the reality of beginning a spiritual work in that twilight hour is that nature provides an anchor for change and trance that simply can’t be matched by words or candles. Since our planning and work had been fairly successful, we managed to light the fire at just the right time. By the time we had finished Hallowing the Grove, darkness was descending.
As I said previously our Beltaine weekend had a full schedule. We started on Friday doing the final cleaning on our barn and grounds, but we sensibly made it to bed early that night. After another half-day of set-up on Saturday a modest crew arrived for the workshop on Druidic ritual, we had a lovely picnic, and turned our attention to the special rite at hand. Our big Beltaine offering rite would be the following afternoon. We were gathered that evening to do a special Hallowing of the two new idols that had been installed in the Nemeton at the previous Full Moon.
I didn’t expect a big turn-out. Our annual Beltaine rite on Sunday afternoon is well-known locally and usually well-attended, while we’re just beginning to offer Saturday teaching and work in the summer. Nevertheless had a dozen folks for the afternoon discussion, and twenty for the evening ritual. They included a few of our very experienced ritualists, and a few pretty new but plainly committed Grove members.
The new Nemeton and surrounding forest seemed ready to respond well to us at last. At the close of last year our omens and the ‘feel’ of the place had been kind of spiny. Here at the start of summer we seemed welcomed with open arms, with warm air and clear skies, the moon lighting the forest path. With the help of our experienced members we opened the Grove in the usual way. Very usual, including singing our characteristic consecration hymn. Often I like to do spoken consecrations in more ‘magical’ rites, but these images will hear that song a lot, and so we began as we mean to carry on.
The question of just who the idols were to be consecrated to was solved by choosing to consecrate them cross-culturally and generally. L. and I have the whole place to make deity-specific idols of our allies and patrons – this new Nemeton will be used in a multi-cultural fashion, both in local work and when we host larger Pagan groups and meetings, from ADF’s multi-cultural Priesthood to regional festivals. Thus we chose polytheistic expediency over esoteric empowerment, for this particular set of images.
In the second phase we guided the visualization of ‘perfect’ idols of the EM & GK. In this we kept it general as well, allowing each to develop the detail internally. That led directly to the offerings to the idols themselves. Each idol was bathed, the Mother in milk and the Keeper in whiskey; the Mother received bread, and the Keeper apples, and both were washed again in clear water. L. and I then went to the central fire, and began making individual oil offerings for each of the several names under which we knew the gods would be called. The folk called out names, and a number of ethnic deities were offered to in that way.
Compromise polytheism. Did such a consecration ever happen in the Old Ways? We have no reason to think that it did. However it suits our work, and will be part of an ongoing worship of the gods – lots of the gods.
The omen was good. We drew Coll (the hazel, poetic wisdom/Inspiration), Ceirt (apple – sustenance and otherworldly power), and Ruis (Elder, Passion, and the Otherworld Goddess). I was entirely pleased to see this as the Lord of Wisdom and the Otherworld Goddess, with apple standing for our land, as it has in omens in the past. Having received that excellent omen we blessed whiskey for the return flow, and each attendee got their sip as they came forward for a moment of audience with the two beings.
With this consecration, and with the next day’s use of the new Nemeton for a well-executed Beltaine offering, our new space is well and truly blessed. On we go!