TWH – 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 Day, Floralia, Protomayia, 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.
Walpurgisnacht celebrated the night of April 30, is closely associated with Witches, and is also called Hexennacht. The eve of May Day was considered the night when witches gather and meet.
In ancient Greece, the holiday of Anthesteria was celebrated. Today it is more commonly called Protomagia. It is a day that recognizes the rebirth of nature and is associated with the well-known story of Persephone’s ascent from the Underworld. While some modern Hellenic polytheists celebrate this day in February, many celebrate it on the first of May. And, not long after, as spring continues its dance, some modern Pagans celebrate Thargelia, which is a birthday celebration for Apollon and Artemis.
These festivals and others 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.
But that does not apply to Pagans everywhere. Our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are readying for winter. The first of May marks the height of autumn and the end of the harvest season. The celebration of Samhain and other similar holidays that honor the dead or the Ancestors are now upon them.
There is an international secular celebration as well. In most of the world, May 1 is a Labour Day linked with International Workers’ Day which celebrates the achievements of workers (Australia, Canada. Japan. New Zealand, and the United States celebrate these achievements on different days of the year). So, this is a long weekend in many places.
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
“Want to celebrate the fertile earth at Beltane? Go right ahead, but do so with a broader understanding of just what fertility is, and celebrate in a way that widens the circle instead of shrinks it. Want to cherish and honor Beltane? Understand its past and incorporate that into your rites as well instead of just focusing on modern tropes. Beltane is what we make of it, and I think we can make it the inclusive and accepting sabbat I believe it to be.” – Jason Mankey, “Finding & Building a Better Beltane” 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
“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
And some music for our friends in the North,
and for our friends in the South,
May you all be blessed during this turning of the Wheel!