“What potent blood hath modest May.”
– Ralph W. Emerson
Tonight and tomorrow (in the northern hemisphere) are the traditional dates for many of the major spring/summer festivals in modern Paganism. Beltane, Bealtaine, May Day, Floralia, Protomayia, and Walpurgis Night, to name just a few. This fire festival heralds the coming of summer and is a high holiday, 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.
Walpurgis Night bonfire, near lake Ringsjo, Sweden
Photo by David Castor
Here are some quotes from the press, and from fellow modern Pagans, on the holiday.
“It is Beltane! The Earth softens under the caress of the sun and all the world is new. We emerge from the darkness of a long, difficult winter; our eyes drink in rolling green hills budding branches and tender shoots. We breathe deeply the fresh fragrance of radiant blossoms. Merriment calls!” – Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary
“A sex ban imposed on performers before last year’s Beltane Fire Festival has had an unexpected, and happy, consequence – a baby born exactly nine months later. Rupert Smith, who was playing the part of a Red Man, during the fiery pagan event last year, celebrated the lifting of the ban with his partner – who just happened to be May Queen Fenella Hodgson – after returning from the Calton Hill festivities. The result was son Reuben, now three months old, and, for his efforts, Rupert has now been promoted to the leading role of the Green Man – the May Queen’s betrothed – this year.” – Catherine Salmond, Edinburgh Evening News
“May Day roots go back a long way. For Gaelic peoples it was celebrated as Beltane. Germanic tribes observed it as Walpurgisnacht. In the Middle Ages, the English would erect maypoles and hold “Morris” dances. Some typical ways May Day is celebrated is by crowning a May Queen, putting up a maypole and making May Day baskets and leaving them on the doors of your neighbors, friends and family members. In the late 19th century, May Day became a symbol of the achievements of the labor movement (which brought you the two-day weekend, the eight-hour work day and a minimum wage), and was celebrated as “Labor Day.” Cold War politics rescheduled America’s Labor Day. It is interesting to note Beltane and Walpurgisnacht both use bonfires as part of the celebration. Fires protected the people from spirits and purified the land for a good growing season. It reminds me a bit of prairie burning.” – Regina Murphy, The Emporia Gazette
“I will be back to celebrate the dawn on May 1, arriving well before dawn at Berkeley’s Inspiration Point in Tilden Park. There, every year, in no matter what the weather, Berkeley Morris performs Morris dances to ‘bring up the sun’ and honor the day. I have always felt something almost primordially right about this way of celebrating the dawn and the beginning of this season. I remember one year during a ferocious downpour they danced in the puddles and a decent crowd of us stood under umbrellas to honor them and the date. More often they dance as the light gradually grows until the sun breaks through on the far eastern horizon, bathing us in its gentle light. When the weather is decent, and it usually is, hundreds show up. Not all are Pagans, but they are certainly Pagans at heart, honoring the turning of wheel, the sacredness of this day, and the warmth of community.” – Gus diZerega, A Pagan’s Blog
“Despite its modern links to Christianity, Valborgsmässoafton, which has been celebrated in Sweden since the Middle Ages, is one of two Swedish holidays which still resemble their pre-Christian merrymaking. The other is Midsummer. The original pagan festival heralded the onset of the growth season. It attempted to ward off evil, ensure fertility and cleanse the land of the dried and dead of winter. Today, it is still the accepted gateway to long and warmer days.” – Elizabeth Dacey-Fondelius, The Local
“Long before it was a code word for distress or a major holiday of the Soviet Bloc, May Day was a pagan ritual celebrating the arrival of spring. That primal, earth-mother definition drives the Phillips neighborhood’s May Day parade, one of the Twin Cities’ most visually spectacular festivals and a kickoff to Minnesota’s all-too-short warm-weather months. The parade’s most striking feature is the gigantic puppets built by local kids and neighborhood groups…” – Decider Twin Cities
“There are four great festivals of the Pagan Celtic year and the modern Witches’ calendar, as well. The two greatest of these are Halloween (the beginning of winter) and May Day (the beginning of summer). Being opposite each other on the wheel of the year, they separate the year into halves. Halloween (also called Samhain) is the Celtic New Year and is generally considered the more important of the two, though May Day runs a close second. Indeed, in some areas—notably Wales—it is considered “the great holiday”. “ – Mike Nichols, The Witches’ Sabbats
May you all be especially blessed this evening and tomorrow.