It’s Beltane! May Day! The official day to celebrate Life, Love, Fertility and Hope! It’s a natural impulse, as spring bursts into bloom, the Earth as our guide and inspiration. Seeds planted in the rich moist soil (and bodies!) are the impetus for the ancient adage: HOPE Springs Eternal!
Beltane is the name the ancient Celtic cultures gave to this lusty time of year and dancing the May Pole is the mid-point in the festivities of Old. On the eve, bonfires were built to assist the sun with it’s light and heat. Cattle were driven through the smoke for purification and Lovers leaped over the flames in joy and blessing. Traditionally, on this sacred Eve-ning, the old pole was burned, it’s ashes scattered over the fields to enhance fertility in the coming season. Young men would choose a new tree to erect for the dance to come. Make no mistake about the meaning! That robust young tree was the symbol of the Earth’s phallus, to be adorned and celebrated for it’s reproductive powers!
A young maiden, by virtue of her virginity, was chosen as May Queen, to be honored and adored as the symbol of the Earth’s fertile womb waiting to be impregnated with New Life! This was the day that Making Love was not only celebrated but encouraged! The energy of Bliss and Blessing would spread across the land and into hearts, young and old, renewing Hope for the future.
In Our Family tradition, the celebration of May Day was a joyous event that folded in Mother’s Day, spring birthdays, and the drinking of May Wine . (We loved a crisp white wine infused with sweet woodruff).
To be completely honest, it was the women who promoted this holiday in our clan gathering. Our men participated by burning the old tree and cutting and erecting the new one. The women and girls attached the long colored ribbons to the top of the pole just before it went up, and the men then became more indulgent observers than revelers (until later that night!)
In May, my garden in Gig Harbor, was just beginning to bloom with Forget~Me~Nots, sprigs of early Lavender, Lilacs and BluBells. The women and girls gathered in baskets of flowers and wove them into garlands for our hair , as we laughed and talked and sipped our wine (or fresh juice!). The little boys went off into the woods to choose the twigs they would need to make their headband of Stag Horns!
We dressed in our favorite flowing dresses and skirts and the music was always gay and merry; Celtic reels, pipes and drums. The boys were more than pleased to provide the percussion background to the thrum of the day. The aromas of the feast that would follow the dance, drifting out onto the deck and into the garden, reminded us of more pleasures to come at the table…roast lamb, new potatoes, asparagus, young greens, berries with thick cream and a always more May Wine!
The impulse to dance would spontaneously lift us to our feet with joy throughout the day, and when it seemed just the right time, we would go to the pole…curtsy or bow to the power of regeneration and new life it still means to us…and Dance! In and out, over and under each other’s arms, we danced and laughed. (and often the mothers, aunties and grandmothers cried with Joy to be able to continue our festival tradition with our young ones)
Such a heart filled memory this brings to me now. In those days, before children were grown and scattered, loved ones were lost to us by illness, marriages disintegrated and households disrupted…..We celebrated our lives, each other, our children and the good fortune to belong to Our Clan. The memory of that last May Day at Our home is so vivid to me today. I see our mother, dressed in her full bright skirt, the garland of flowers and ribbons that she had assembled worn as her crown, laughing even as tears streamed down her cheeks. She danced!…her chronic pain disappearing while she reveled in the embrace of her family….her greatest joy.
Today and every day can bring us Hope for new life, opportunities to rejoice and give thanks for our abundance and pleasures and a renewed sense of Belonging. Isn’t this what our deepest longing is meant to evoke? We belong together, come what May!
Blessings to All now and always!