May 1 and the surrounding days mark the traditional dates for many major spring festivals celebrated by modern Pagans in the northern hemisphere. Such holidays might include Beltane, Bealtaine, May Day, Floralia, Protomayia, and Walpurgis Night to name a few. These festivals herald the coming of summer or the apex of spring – a time of merriment, awakening and bounty; a liminal time when the barriers between our world and the other world are thinned. In many traditions and cultures, it is also a time of divine union and fertility. And, for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, the beginning of May marks another seasonal festival entirely, as winter is ushered in with the celebration of Samhain and the honoring of ancestors.Here are some quotes for this holiday season:
To the pastoral Celtic people’s of Europe the changing pattern of the seasons was a matter of life and death, and marking these changes key moments in the life of the community. Beltane – “bright fire” – was one such marker celebrated in various forms across Ireland, Scotland and Man as the starting point of summer. A celebration of the time of light and growth to come, Beltane was associated with a variety of practices, from the display of fresh greenery to the baking of Beltane bannocks. Perhaps the most important element, however, was the lighting of Beltane fires on the first of May, which would recall the growing power of the sun and provide an opportunity to cleanse and renew the conditions of a community – both humans and their animals – that had spent the dark months indoors. – Beltane Fire Society, “A Detailed History of Beltane”
Perhaps it is best to remember this as the time when Aphrodite, who rules the sign of Taurus, is coming into her own. She presides over the realms of love and sex and beauty, but also over the flowers and fruits which bring us such pleasure: delighting our senses with their colors and scents and tastes and juices. She fills blossoms with nectar, and her body is beneath us as we walk and dance upon the newly-yielding, softened earth, alive again after the dormancy of winter, full of new life … – Peg Aloi, The Witching Hour, “You May Call it May Day, We call it Beltane”
Sensuality – what a lovely word. It rolls off the tongue – you have to say it slowly, it really doesn’t work otherwise. Like dripping honey. Sweet molasses. A cat’s stretch. It needs time, awareness, mindfulness … Sensuality is often misinterpreted as relating solely to the sexual experience. What we need to do is bring the sensual back into our everyday lives, seeing how it relates to the whole experience rather than just a sexual one. Sensual – input from the senses. – Joanna van der Hoeven, Druid Heart: Living a Druid Life, “Beltane and the Sensual”
We can think of ‘the sleeper’ as being our own consciousness, lulled into a kind of soporific dullness by everyday life. When we ‘awake’, we become aware of what is around us. If we can start to live fully in the moment, extracting from it all that it has to offer, then we are truly alive. The idea that the true potential of the psyche is latent and asleep in a kind of waking dream is common in spiritual traditions. Beltane is a good time to wake the psyche. The days grow longer, the weather draws us out of doors, and nature is frantic with activity. The energy of Beltane is all about wakefulness. – Vivianne Crowley, Greening the Spirit, “Beltane the Sleeper Awakes”
This Friday I’ll keep my son home from school, and the kids and I will go walking in my favorite wood, a place where the Spirits are keenly present. We’ll take offerings and work on listening to and looking for the Other-than-Human. We’ll spend the afternoon enjoying one of the fine public parks in my town. We’ll not spend a dollar, nor do anything that requires some one else to work. We’ll pass out reminders of beautiful resistance. And we will celebrate the efforts of my husband, who works every day, and many weekends, to provide for us. – Niki Whiting, A Witch’s Ashram, “May the First”
A Very Merry May to All!