Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Beltane-- How I spent the 1st of May

I totally meant to do a bit of a pre-post to this, but my mind has been preoccupied with school and work (which I will talk about at a later date), so I had no time to kind of do an intro post to the celebration of Beltane.  And now it's May 2nd, which is definitely NOT Beltane, and I had a fabulous day which I'd like to tell you about, so I'm gonna kinda condense the pre-post into a BRIEF explanation of what Beltane is.

For those of you who don't know what Beltane is, it is considered one of the four Fire Festivals in the Pagan Wheel of the Year (our annual holidays).  As a secular holiday it's called May Day.  For some pagans (like Wiccans), Beltane is considered one of the biggest holidays of the year, second only to Samhain (which is MY favorite holiday).  Beltane, like Ostara, is also a fertility festival; unlike Ostara, Beltane has a tendency to be far more sexual-- for those of you who are into baroque music, ever heard a song talking about "going a-maying?" Totally means shacking up in the woods.

Did I just blow your mind?

You're welcome.

Anyway, Beltane is a fertility festival,  and sex is one of the many ways to celebrate fertility, so I'm sure no one is really surprised.  But Beltane can be and is more than just about sex, it's about celebrating abundance; it's about thanking whoever you pray to for the good fortune you've received, for friends and family and the gift of life.  It also involves a bit of sympathy magic to ensure that the the upcoming fall harvest is both plentiful and delicious.  Now, there are many interpretations of the Wheel of the Year mythos, but one of the most popular (to my knowledge) is one where the Beltane is celebrated as they day when the God and Goddess are united in The Great Rite, a sexual union of the feminine and masculine; it is understood that the Goddess conceives at this time, and the result of that conception is to be realized at the harvest festivals (Lugnasadh, Mabon, and Samhain) and once more at Yule, when the Goddess gives birth to a new Sun, and the whole cycle repeats itself.

So. How did I celebrate Beltane this year?  Lucky for me, I got to actually participate in a group ritual at school.  It was AWESOME and I have pictures.

We made flower garlands for our heads!

 Making the garlands was definitely good fun.  I put flowers and ribbons on mine, and I felt very festive!  I took it home to show Kourtney.

My finished garland!
After making the garlands we all assembled in a circle around the two little altars we created.  Now, Beltane is traditionally a fire festival, and one of the the traditions is to have jump over fire to cleanse yourself.  It's also a custom to have two bonfires with space in the middle, and as sympathetic magic you pass all of your cattle through the space in between, purifying and protecting them for the next year.  Well, we didn't have cattle, and we didn't have permission from Mills to create a bonfire, so we made due with two candles.

those meringues and brownies are supposed to be offerings. We did it for the lulz.
After we were all assembled in a circle, one of the women who helped with the celebration cast the circle and asked everyone to ground themselves. Then (with her help) we all called the four directions, and then circled the altars three times, everyone calling out things they were thankful for this season. Then each of us ran between the two "fires" (the candles).  Then came the Maypole.

It was great fun to be a part of the Maypole dance.  There were two students who each played the fiddle and we danced to their traditional Irish music as we weaved over and under each other, trying not to bump into anyone (and failing multiple times).  It was quite a rush, and also a bit of work-- none of us realized how long it would take to get to the end of the ribbons!  I called it Pagan Aerobics.  But it was good fun, great music, and a lot of laughs. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The last part of our ritual was saying goodbye. We returned to the circle, bade farewell to each of the directions, and released ourselves from the circle.  After that it was food, drink and mingling.   I loved it.  The woman who let the circle, Mandy, was great, and I felt like a real pagan for once!  It also made me think about how I do ritual at home, and how I can improve upon it.  Even though I practice alone, that doesn't mean I can't practice with gusto!

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