“The month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom, and to bring forth fruit; for like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in likewise every lusty heart that is in any manner a lover, springeth and flourisheth in lusty deeds. For it giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May.” – Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur
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.
“April could not end more dramatically: bonfires rage across the country in aggressive farewell to winter cold. Walpurgis Night, the 30th of April, is a breathtakingly pagan rite, with choruses gathering round pyres to dispel the cruel winter and conjure up a good harvest year. Romance in the air and empty bottles in the gutter.” – Kim Loughran, The Local (Sweden)
“…while Samhain began one kind of yearly cycle, Bealtaine began another, and both could be construed as a kind of “New Year”. In ancient Ireland the High King inaugurated the year on Samhain for his household (and, symbolically, for all the people of Ireland) with the famous ritual of Tara, but in nearby Uisneach, the sacred centre held by the druids in complementary opposition to Tara, it was on Bealtaine that the main ritual cycle was begun. In both cases sacred fires were extinguished and re-lit, though this happened at sunset on Samhain and at dawn on Bealtaine. Bealtaine was a time of opening and expansion, Samhain a time of gathering-in and shutting, and for herd-owners like the Celts this was expressed with particular vividness by the release of cattle into upland pastures on Bealtaine and their return to the safety of the byres on Samhain.” – Alexei Kondratiev, Samhain: Season of Death and Renewal
“Japanese Taiko drummers are to join this year’s spring rituals at the annual Beltane Festival in Edinburgh. Mugen Taiko Dojo fuses ancient the Japanese spiritual practice, traditionally used to frighten away evil spirits, with Celtic traditions. Beltane 2010, which is held on Calton Hill, is expected to be a sell-out as the party falls on Friday night. A crowd of 12,000 people is expected to watch the pagan-inspired spring ritual…” – BBC News
“Beltane begins at sundown, April 30, and extends until sundown May 1. Those fortunate enough to be able to meet outside in the country will often have bonfires on the 30th, which young couples can jump through, celebrating their hopes for love and perhaps fertility. That night, weather permitting, many will sleep outside, and fertility will have another chance to manifest … Before dawn many of us will be up, myself among them, to watch and applaud Morris Dancers who symbolically dance up the summer sun.” – Gus diZerega, Beliefnet
“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
“You start in April and cross to the time of May
One has you as it leaves, one as it comes
Since the edges of these months are yours and defer
To you, either of them suits your praises.
The Circus continues and the theatre’s lauded palm,
Let this song, too, join the Circus spectacle.”
– Ovid, Fasti (V.185-190)
May you all be especially blessed this evening and tomorrow.
*A very happy Samhain to those of you living in the southern hemisphere!