A Merry May Day

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 1, 2013 — 1 Comment

This time, right around May 1st, are the traditional dates for many of the major Spring/Summer festivals in modern Paganism (in the northern hemisphere). Beltane, Bealtaine, May DayFloraliaProtomayia, and Walpurgis Night, to name just a few. These festivals herald the coming of summer, a time of merriment, celebration, and bounty, a liminal time when the barriers between our world and the otherworld were thin. In many traditions and cultures it is a time of divine union and fertility.

Edinburgh's Beltane Fire Festival. Photo by Paul R Seftel.

Edinburgh’s Beltane Fire Festival. Photo by Paul R Seftel.

Here are some quotes for this holiday season:

“We are told that the flesh is weak, that the flesh should be subdued, that the god of some other religion would have us not gratify the flesh. The flesh is understood to be the place where evil resides and from which torment wreaks havoc upon the mind. The flesh is temporary, so it must be trivial. The flesh will not remain, so we must not give it credence. The flesh will pass unto the earth, rot in the ground, turn into dust. We are told again and again to dismiss the flesh. But Whitman says, ‘And your very flesh shall be a great poem.’ Yes. Our very flesh shall be a great poem. That is the message I’d like to offer on Beltane.”Teo Bishop, “Beltane 2013: The Great Poetry of Flesh,” The Huffington Post

“Today, I stand for beauty. Heart open to the world. Today, I conjure hope. And strength. With the courage and the love to carry on. Leap the fire with me, In Beauty’s name. Blessings be upon you. Blessings, all.”T. Thorn Coyle, “Walpurgisnacht Manifesto”

“In the face of so much destruction of the natural world and so much disregard for life, Beltane is also an act of rebellion against the status quo. It says about us–as simple people, as a growing community–that we don’t give in to the death cycles imposed on us from Away, not in this season.  We plant and know that the harvest comes–not in the stately march from Lughnasadh to Samhain–but bit by bit and day by day.  We eat the impossible radishes in two weeks, we rip the dewy and crispy lettuce from the fat stem that sustains it. The hens fluff out and begin to lay again and life is there before us–irresistable, delicious. Magical.”Byron Ballard, “Summer is Come,” PaganSquare

“Despite some of our most cherished Beltane traditions not necessarily being related to ancient paganism, I’m still amazed by them. One of the things that I cherish so much about Modern Paganism is just how “right” everything feels within it. We find the things that reflect how we see the seasons and make them a part of our Wheel of the Year. Just because ancient Druids didn’t dance around with Maypole ribbons doesn’t make my Maypole dance any less fun. Our holidays reflect the ways people celebrate the turn of the seasons, those ways aren’t any less valid for arising outside of a pagan religious tradition. This Beltane, sing, dance, and make love all in Her praise, because people have been doing just that all along, even when they didn’t realize it.”Jason Mankey, “Beltane, Maypoles, and Spring into Summer,” Patheos

“The Pagan festival that is widely celebrated at this time – May Eve or Beltane – celebrates the warmth of the sun, the blossoming of nature, fertility of crops and animals, and abundance in the natural world. It is the time before the sun’s peaking at Midsummer. Around us the birds sing, flowers bloom, trees blossom – everything is joyous.”Vivianne Crowley, “The Beauty of the Green Earth: Honoring Venus,” Patheos


A sound clip from a radio special Mike Nichols did for KOPN in 1973. It may well be one of the first radio specials ever created specifically by a Wiccan for Wiccans (as opposed to Wiccans being interviewed on a news show). Background music is by John Renbourn.

“In the words of Witchcraft writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, the Beltane celebration was principally a time of “unashamed human sexuality and fertility”. Such associations include the obvious phallic symbolism of the Maypole and riding the hobbyhorse. Even a seemingly innocent children’s nursery rhyme “Ride a cock horse to Banburry Cross …” retains such memories. And the next line, “to see a fine Lady on a white horse”, is a reference to the annual ride of Lady Godiva through Coventry. Every year for nearly three centuries, a skyclad village maiden (elected “Queen of the May”) enacted this Pagan rite, until the Puritans put an end to the custom.” – Mike Nichols, The Witches’ Sabbats

May you all be especially blessed during this season, and a very happy Samhain to those of you living in the Southern hemisphere!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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