Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

May 1st, 2017

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times: Beltaine 2017

BeltaineRitual

Bright Blessings!

I write this on April 21. It’s in the sixties here in Central Ohio, and my radishes and peas are coming up nicely. Big plans are in place to add manure to soil for our tomatoes, summer zucchini, cucumbers, and bell peppers.

Aside from that, people who have literally been hibernating save for the mandatory work, and errands, are slowly reappearing into creation. Outdoor gatherings and festival season is nearly here, and invitations are being sent left and right.

Every year here, this time of year is the same.

And every year, it is about Samhain time the hibernation begins.

Past articles I’ve written discussed the blessing of people and herds that were done at Beltaine time. The lingering “winter negativity” is blessed away, and there is much rejoicing about bursting forth into the Summer grounds. Gardens and fields, if they haven’t already been blessed, are, and while some focus on swimsuit bodies, Pagans tend to focus on camping, out-of-town Sabbats, and fire pits in the back yard whilst grooving with nature.

I find it interesting modern people follow the same patterns the ancestors did, and even non-Pagans do this. While we live in a climate controlled, and insulated world, the seasons still control how our bodies feel, directly influencing all that we do. Even if we don’t follow an Earth based tradition, we are still children of the Earth.

For us in Ohio, just before Beltaine, a Witchcraft Museum is set to open thanks to the man who brought Wicca to the United States, Raymond Buckland. I could write all about this, but you are better off seeing the Wild Hunt article about it. Here is the link!

http://wildhunt.org/2017/04/reboot-of-buckland-museum-set-for-apr-29.html

Beltaine is a fitting time for this opening, and while it’s not specifically a
“Beltainy” topic, I wanted to make sure to include information about it to spread the word.

As to Beltaine, I’ve written about what is done in days past and how modern Pagans revive that through my own experiences. Here is last year’s Beltaine article, for example.

http://paganpages.org/content/2016/04/celebrating-the-old-ways-in-new-times-18/

The bonfires, ritual blessings, and fertility rites are done in as many different ways as there are people celebrating. Generally, it is the Irish and Scottish festivities we look to for inspiration in modern times.

This year, I’d like to explore what is done in Wales.

Calen Mai

Like their other Celtic cousins in Ireland and Scotland, the Beltaine festivities mark the beginning of the Summer season, and the return of the animals to Summer grazing grounds. They also did the purification and blessing fires. They call May Day Calen Mai or Calen Haf.

The festivities kick off the night before, on May Eve, with the lighting of the bonfires.

Outdoor gatherings, are of course the order! A “fight” between Winter and Summer is staged, with actors performing the parts. Of course, Summer wins, and a May King and Queen can then be crowned. Human representations of the forces of Nature seem to be the rule no matter where May Day festivities are.

It is divination, especially, to see who you are destined to marry, that was part of the May Day festivities. It was believed that extra thinness of the veil between ours and the Otherworld would make messages from the spirits all the more distinctive.

Hawthorn is gathered to decorate the outside of the home to represent new life and growth- but the hawthorn blossoms are not taken inside, as that would be bad luck. Both hawthorn and birch were seen as auspicious for May Day, and in some cases, the Maypole itself was specifically made of birch.

Besides Maypole Dancing, folk dancing , including Morris Dancing goes on. I had not realized the rich history Morris Dancing has in the UK. It was first mentioned in writings at least six hundred years ago, and while some say their groups are modern revivals, other groups claim lineage for generations. The costumes and pageantry hearken back to pre-Christian Pagan times when masked dancers drove away the bad, and brought in all good blessings. I will mention the city UI live in has our own troupe of Morris dancers. They are called The Olentangy Motley Morris and Rapper Dance Team. Men, women, and children partake of this. While some Morris groups are men only, others include women and kids as well.

A video of modern day Morris dancers is here.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqVpXe5_GUQ

 

 

Some girls go out in the morning, and wash their faces with the dew. This is supposed to make them especially beautiful the whole year long.

Aside from these things, like any festival, there is music, food, fellowship, and good times. After a long, cold Winter, it is always nice to get out, and enjoy the weather and the good folk you are near!

Beltaine Working

This year, I suggest keeping it even more simple than I usually do, and having a day of a form of divination following a short offering for the spirits.

As it is believed Beltaine is one of the times the veil is thin, and messages from the Otherworld are stronger, it’s a good time to listen.

My opinion on divination is not a popular one. I believe being able to do so is a gift, not a skill learned. No matter how many classes you take, how many divination tools you buy, and how much you practice, if you don’t have the gift of prophecy, your readings will not be accurate.

However, receiving messages from ancestors and spirits is something we can all do, regardless of our gifts. So, instead of Beltaine divination, I’ll suggest Beltaine communication with the ancestors to receive messages.

Some have actual ancestor altars, and some don’t.

If you have an ancestor altar, all you need to do is give gifts and ask for messages, and omens about your future from your personal ancestors right at your very own altar. Just like always.

If you don’t, you can set up an altar for this at any time. Simply put any pictures of deceased loved ones, and gifts of food, drink, or something they would like, be it a trinket, a lit candle or incense, or even playing music they liked. If you have belongings of theirs, make sure to include those. You are setting up an energy center to focus your communications with them. It will act as a place to draw them, and for you to go for that communication. It becomes a meeting place of sorts! While spirits don’t just communicate with you AT the altar, it’s an excellent way to establish initial communication, and a work center for yourself.

You can ask specific questions, and then wait for signs.

Communication with spirits is not always as cut and dried as it is with the living. Remember, they do not have bodies, and thus, communicate differently sometimes than they would have when they were alive. So, while you may ask a specific question, sometimes, your answer from them will be less easily interpreted. Of course, for some people, the messages are loud and clear! In the event they are not, it may take some interpreting, or waiting for the meaning to come to you.

A friend of mine always knows when he sees butterflies, that is a certain ancestor speaking to him. My lucky number happens to be 666. Whenever I see that, I know my spirits are telling me I am on the right track. For some, like my mother, a dream of the dead meant she knew she would soon hear from the living. In her case, it meant she would hear from a certain family member she seldom heard from. A message from an ancestor may be that you “see them in passing“ out of the corner of your eye, then you turn to do a double take, and they will have vanished. It means they are near.

There are times the messages don’t come immediately, and creep in days, weeks, or even months later, and at the most unexpected of times! For example, after my mother’s passing, an angelic spirit visited me, and was very warm, and wanted me to let her into my personal aura. I did not recognize her, and refused, of course. It took a few visits for me to realize this was my mother in her new form. She was not anything like the individual she has been while alive, and was popping in from her new world.

Set up your altar indoors or outdoors. One method of leaving offering is, of course, to leave it outside for the critters to accept. This can be especially effective if say, your departed loved one was a bird watcher. Leave birdseed. If your loved one used to go feed the ducks, go do that. If your loved one was in animal rescue, then either make a donation in their name, or go ahead and rescue an animal in their honor. If they are like me, and love to garden, plant something as a gift for them. It is a gift you will continue to tend and nurture, and can act as both offering, and “altar” of sorts where you establish contact with them.

Then, wait for their messages or answers.

It is always best, however, when establishing contact for the first time, to do so without asking questions or guidance. For a while, just talk to them. Over time, the communication will grow stronger, and you can begin asking.

However you decide to celebrate Beltaine, be it with or without divination, dancing, communication with ancestors, or gatherings, may you be blessed with new growth, and good beginnings.

Blessed Beltaine.

Blessed Be


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