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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

 

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqVpXe5_GUQ[/embedyt]

 

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

Samhain 2015 for Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

 

This article is cheating. I admit it.

I was looking over last year’s article to ensure I did not write close to the same thing this year, and I stumbled upon the file for the talk and ritual I gave at our Samhain last year. It was conveniently and entirely different from last year’s article.

Of course, memories came flooding back. Each Sabbat and gathering is packed with good memories with loved ones. Samhain, the time for honoring the dead, is a good time to connect with the living as well. In pre-Christian times, it was a time of communal work and celebration of a good final harvest and bringing the herds in for winter. It was also a time to give thanks, and ask the powers that be for protection from sickness, starvation, and death in the cold months.

I reworked my talk into an article. That is the cheating! The article discusses some history, as well as ancient practices, and then the ritual we used to honor the Sidhe has been reworked and is given at the end.

A LITTLE HISTORY AND WHY THEY HAD SAMHAIN

Samhain originally comes from Ireland and was celebrated as the beginning of winter. It dates from times when the folk were dependent upon herds. May 1, Beltaine, was of course when the herds were brought out to Summer fields, and Samhain was when they were brought in for the winter. It was also the cold part of the year. People got sicker and were more likely to die. So, people would be doing rituals for protection at Samhain.

They also believed that the dead had more access to the world of the living at that time. They not only honored the dead, but also did things to ward off spirits that were not so nice. Bad spirits could bring disease and death of livestock or people.

Back before refrigeration, insulation, electricity, and preservatives, all of this was a very big deal. The people believed very strongly that the spirits, gods, and the ancestors directly influenced what happened to the living. They could bring suffering and sickness, or bestow life, health, wealth and blessings. It was very important that all the proper taboos were observed and honor was paid to the gods, the dead and the spirits. All the proper workings and rituals had to be observed so everybody made it through the cold winter. And of course it was at the end of final harvest, so there was eating, drinking, feasting, and revelry!

ANCIENT SITES

We know what neo-Pagans do now, but we rely on the writings of people like the monks to let us know what the pre-Christian Pagans did. Some of the writings depict things we’d never do in modern times.

One god who was honored Samhain time was Crom Cruach- who favored human sacrifice. At the historical plain in what is now in Ulster, called Magh Slecht ( maw shlaykht), an image of Crom Stood, and that is where some Samhain rites were said to begin. At Magh Slecht, there are monuments dating back to before 4000 BC and there are 80 known monuments on the site. It became the center for worship of Crom, and devotees were said to prostrate themselves to Crom by kneeling and putting their foreheads on the ground. Thus, the name Mag Slecht means, “The plain of prostrations”. The monuments still there include not only Christian sites, but also artificial islands, burial sites, stone circles, and even a couple of castles. According to the monks, St, Patrick struck down the statue of Crom, ended the worship of him, and founded a church there. It is said when he struck the statue down, a ring of stones encircling the statue sank into the ground. Interestingly, it is said the Killycluggin Stone is the one St. Patrick struck down. Others say the stones around the Killycluggin Stone were actually the image of Crom. There is of course, an amazing looking replica placed where the original was excavated in 1921, as well as remainders of the stone circle. The original Killycluggin Stone is now in the County Cavan Museum in Ballyjamesduff. An online source at

themysticwood.com/shop/2015/08/01/10-tidbits-about-crom-dubh-sunday

has beautiful photos and a little more about Crom and the stone.

Other sites where Samhain was celebrated was The Hill of Ward in Ireland. It was an Iron Age ringfort where a lot of things happened, and its massive Samhain gatherings were to light the winter fires, which took place in Medieval times. Its structures date from 200 AD. It is said the god Lugh was honored on Samhain on the Hill of Ward. The Hill of Tara was also a site where Samhain gatherings occurred. It is 12 miles away from the Hill of Ward, and when fires are lit atop the hills, the fires can be seen all the way 12 miles away at one another. I lucked into an awesome You Tube Video the University of Dublin created called “The First Halloween”. You have to see it!

Another site watched was a cave where the dead were said to emerge. It’s called Oweynagat, The Cave of Cats. It is part of a complex of sites known as Rathcroghan that has burial sites, and was used for huge ritual gatherings. It complex is estimated to be 6,000 years old. The cave itself is just part of that. It was specifically the door to the other world guarded by Queen Maeve who was said to transform into the Morrigan. She held off the beasts from beyond to protect humanity. It was said she was born and also died at the entryway. She is said to emerge in her chariot every Samhain pulled by a one legged chestnut horse. Inscribed in Ogham on the lintel above the door is “Hellmouth Door of Ireland”. They also call it the cave of cats because it is said a three headed long fanged cat guards the door. I watched a video of somebody brave enough to enter. It’s a small cave where many have entered and finally, some workmen started installing electricity, and a portion collapsed to form a dead end. If you’re like me you think maybe the dead do not want people snooping around in there. It was not a place you wanted to be when those creatures emerged.

You can find the footage I am talking about at YouTube. Type in Oweynagat, cave of the cats, Rathcroghan. A journey into mother earth. Mike Croghan is the one who made this video.

Scientifically speaking, very little excavation has been done on the whole complex, but they have used radar surveys, which show a lot of similarities between Rathcroghan and the Hill of Tara complex.

BONFIRES

At these ancient sites, there was not just sacrifice on Samhain. Of course, bonfires were lit on the hills to drive out or burn up unwanted influences, as well as having two bonfires people and livestock walked between to bless them. People took flames from these fires back to their homes and lit new fires from them.

THE SIDHE AND THE DEAD

As for the honoring of the dead, it was originally the Sidhe who were honored. People left food and drink for them, sometimes leaving a portion of crops in the fields for them. If the people had to walk outside , they would turn their clothes inside out or carried salt or iron to keep the Sidhe from harming them.

The dead were welcomed into the home by setting a place for them at the table. They were honored and kept happy, because if they were upset, or wanted to come for revenge, little could be done. The Sidhe, in particular, were those creatures who you did not want to offend. Nowadays, many Neo Pagans like to decorate with fairies and dress in pretty costumes with gossamer wings, many of whom look similar to Tinkerbell. A lot of people think of the Sidhe as sweet, pretty, little earth folk who are charming and enchanting and sprinkle pixie glitter and whatnot, and that is not the way things are at all. To this day, the people of Irelend go out of their way to not piss off the Sidhe.

Some believe they are the descendants of the Tuatha De Danann- or children of the goddess Danu and when the Milesians defeated them, they went to live in the mounds. Historically, the Milesians are actually an ethnic group of people said to have come from Iberia, and settled the Island. And it is historically accepted by some that the Tuatha de Dannan were the pre-Celtic inhabitants of Ireland. They were said to go live in the mounds, which have been proven to be ancient burial sites. According to the lore, as the children of Danu were forgotten about, they shrunk in stature. Some Xtians believe they are fallen angels. Some believe they are spirits that go about their lives just like everybody else. Many believe that we live in parallel worlds with the Sidhe and our world comes in contact with theirs at times and boundaries have to be respected. Money is thrown in wells for them, great care is taken to build roads AROUND sites said to be theirs, food and drink is left for them. If people believed the Sidhe had blessed them or done work for them, gifts of a bowl of cream or new clothes was left for them. Baked goods, apples, and berries were also left for them.

The Sidhe could smile upon you, but they could also harm you. They may not only kill you or your livestock, but they could take you home with them. The belief was that the fairy mounds were completely open at Samhain time. It was a big worry that you might be carried off. If you wound up there, you might find your way back…eventually- but the Sidhe’s time is not our time. What would seem like moments in their time can be decades in our time.

A tale is told of a man who was perhaps the greatest fiddler alive. The Sidhe liked him- a lot- and so they took him with them- and he was seen sometime after his disappearance- looking horribly exhausted, filthy, starved, and a look of horror about him- and his arms seemed to be playing the instrument all on their own, detached from his body.

Encounters with the Sidhe did not always go this way, but there was a chance they could, So it was very important if to stay in or close to home if not at ritual come Samhain time if at all possible, but if you had to leave home, you could do things like- leave gifts, of course, wear your clothes inside out and carry iron, or salt to ward them off.

COSTUMES

You could also disguise yourself. Costumes started from people disguising themselves to confuse or ward off the supernatural creatures- you might get carried off to the other world if they were not disguised well. It further developed into mumming, or going from door to door costumed as part of the festivities, which is still observed all over Britain to this day. Sometimes, it was done in costume to collect things for the celebration from each household, and sometimes it was done for fun.

FUN AND PRANKS

Alcohol was used to celebrate since the time of the ancient Irish, in more recent times, they did so as well. Fueled by booze, the pranks could get pretty wild. For example- folks would throw rotten fruit or veggies around houses, throw bags of flour all over people, or make noises outside their houses.

The Sidhe could also play pranks on people. They might do something as mild as put thorns in your bed or like those horrid creatures from the Otherworld, they could wreak damage on property of livestock. They might even swap their kid for yours.

Maybe it was the Sidhe and the dead that got us started doing tricks and pranks Samhain time, but folks sometimes, to this day go too far-

Like in 2012, a 17 and 18 year old were arrested for throwing an egg in a 71 year old woman’s face who thought she was answering the door for trick or treaters.

In 2010, two women were arrested for a prank. They wrapped a mannequin in a “bloody sheet” and dropped it off on the highway and waited at the top of a hill with binoculars to see how many people they could scare.

Maybe in the days of yore, you could blame a prank on the Sidhe or spirits- but nowadays, I don’t think the police are going to buy that.

DIVINATION

Samhain was also a good time to do divination. Since the otherworld was much more active in this world, the realities shifted, messages would be clearer. They did not do “readings” the way we do. They sometimes used food. An apple was peeled, and the peel thrown over the shoulder to see if it would reveal the first letter of the person’s future spouses name. Eggs whites were dropped in water to see if it would reveal the number of children a couple would have. They sometimes had each person present put a rock representing themselves in a ring together. Everybody would run around the stones and in the morning if any stone was mislaid it was supposed to show who would not survive the winter.

TODAY AS OPPOSED TO THEN

For us Neo-Pagans, we do Sabbat. Usually an evening ritual and gathering. But in days past, the festivities might last a week from first bringing the cattle in, to blessing them and getting them situated- down to slaughtering the last of the meat- especially the animals they felt would not make it through the winter and then having the feast prepared- which might last for more than one day.

So from its humble beginnings – in Ireland thousands of years ago, we now have people all over the world celebrate this blessed time of year when the living and the dead commune and when we prepare for the ice and snow and dark and cold.

We may celebrate differently today and for perhaps different reasons but this ancient occasion is what brought us all together tonight.

One other thing about the Sidhe- it is really not polite to talk about them, and I have talked about them a whole lot, haven’t I? It is a good thing the ritual honors them!

In Honor of the Sidhe

This ritual comprised the closing for our Samhain in 2014 and I am sharing it here. The ritual is a good one to do with anybody, including kids and people who have no formal training in ritual. They do their reading, and give their offering. Simple.

Preparation

Gather things for four offerings. Food, drink, coins, and incense.

Do not cast circle, as your people will stand in a circle and that will comprise your circle. You do not want a closed circle for this out of respect for the Sidhe and so they may come and go as they see fit. Plus, when you leave your offerings, each person needs to be able to move around to place things wherever they deem fit. That might just be a distance from where you are standing to do ritual. Plus, you do not want to banish.

Do not set up an altar. You just need your papers with the readings written on them, and your offerings. It is really best to do this outside in your garden or in nature. You can have garden torches if you like, or outside lights if available. Then again, if you are in a deep forest, or if the stars and moon are not bright enough, you can always let people have their own flashlight or candle to illuminate. But if you cannot be outdoors for this rite, just turn off the lights and light enough candles to see by.

You can have three people to give offerings of drink, food, and money and you can offer the incense at the beginning. Ideally, you want to leave the offerings out in nature for the Sidhe to accept without being watched. You can split up the readings for your group. You can also do all the parts yourself if you are doing Solitary ritual.

You certainly can have people stand facing the appropriate directions when they give their offerings, but you really don’t have to. Wiccan use of the four directions comes out of traditions that came later on in Pagan practice. While the purpose of this is to honor the Sidhe, not to necessarily stick with any given dogma, if you prefer, you certainly can do things “by the book” as they say, moving only clockwise, and standing facing in the traditional Wiccan directions.

The Ritual

Opening Reading

If history, lore, and science are believed, some of us, perhaps all of us in this very room are the descendants of the Sidhe. Some writings say they were the first inhabitants of Mother Ireland. The ones originally responsible for the very fact we have Samhain. If all this is to be believed, they walk among us morseo this time of year, and more than that their blood flows in our veins. It is because of them that we are alive today. And because of us, they are alive today.

It is them who we will honor and ask for blessings in this rite.

Reading #1

(Light the incense, and put it in the center of your group of people.)

Hail to the Sidhe.

Beautiful and Terrible.

Small, and Great.

Seen and Unseen.

Hail to you Fathers of Fathers.

Mothers of Mothers.

Guardians of the Otherworld.

Reading #2

(Put the drink in the center)

You can heal or you can harm.

You can grant life or death.

Accept our gifts and respect

As we enter the cold, dark months.

Reading #3

(Put the food in the center)

Spare us and our loved ones another winter

That we may make it to the Summer.

Increase our wealth and give us good health.

Help us to pass this winter in good company

And to create good memories

Accept our gifts and our respect.

Reading #4

(Put the money in the center)

Smile upon us, give us safe passage home this night

And this season.

(Now those offering gifts will gather up gifts, and with all attendees, take the things and place them where the Sidhe can find them.

Come back together.)

Closing

(Have all join hands.)

The Sidhe have been gifted and honored, and now, may your gods and guides bless you. May the ancestors be ever present all of your days. May the Sidhe smile upon you, and may we all see one another soon.

Merry Have We Met,

Merry Shall We Part,

and Merry Shall We Meet Again.

Blessed Be.

Blessed Samhain.

May 2018 for Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

Bright Blessings!

Here in Central Ohio, the Cailleach continues to rule, reminding Brigid she is still queen for now. Many of my non-Pagan friends are complaining up and down, saying winter needs to go. I say give the Cailleach her time, we will all be whining we are too hot soon enough!

Soon, Beltaine will be upon us. If you have read my past articles, you know I love to plan a gathering for Beltaine. It’s been a year, or has it been two, or has it been three???? Since I have hosted a Beltaine gathering?

I will be honest. Sabbats, for me, just are not that special when I’m alone for them.

It’s all about the fellowship, and doing ritual for me.

 

The folk- the Wicca, or Soul Kin

A simple internet search for “The need for religious kin” turned up nothing. I read a few articles about mankind’s need to have companionship, and be surrounded by like-minded individuals because we feel most understood and validated by them than the people less like us.

I did not find the references to share to support the point I want to make, so I’m just going to make it myself.

Many of us find we feel the presence of whoever we worship best in the presence of other worshipers. A Xtian I once knew referred to it as “sanctification within the community.” As we become the hands, voices, and deeds of our gods, we feel their physical presence through circling with others.

In magical traditions, group magic raises more energy than magic worked alone.

I got so used to doing everything with a group, when I stopped doing so, I felt completely alone. My health and mobility dictated I had to do so, and not only did I stop hosting, or going to other people’s rituals, but I also stopped working. Then I stopped driving. Then, I went some months without leaving the house many days.

If you want to find out which of the friends and friendly acquaintances feel you are important to their lives, drop off the map, and you will find most all of them forget all about you. They easily replace you with other people who are conveniently wherever they are, and you may as well have never met them.

So, for those of us who have fallen off the map from the Pagan community, a Sabbat, which used to be the highlight of our lives, is just another day.

 

Embracing Aloneness

From my Catholic days, I remember something Mother Theresa said :

In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

Now, I have already said I experience my gods through others. Examples of that are when somebody is acting as an oracle, and guidance from the goddess comes. Another example is when we are doing a fund raiser together for a good cause. This is the gods using us to help one another. Yet another example is when you need emotional support, and another human being embodies the compassion of the goddess.

Sometimes, we spend so much time working with others, that we have little to no time on our own. This was true for me for many years.

I heard the voices of my gods spoken without human tongues. They visited me in dreams, in waking, in nature, and in the gut instincts I got.

Whenever I asked for communication, they answered. It’s not like I had NEVER spoken with them on my own. It just became habit that I spoke with them in the presence of others.

I spent so many Sabbats and gatherings in the company of others, I began to hear only that particular method of communication from them.

However, I’ve been like this for a while now, and I have made some realizations. My gods have not fallen silent. I just had to listen differently, and I made some realizations about how solitude can bring communication with them.

 

In the Silence of the Heart

I have learned something I never could have before when I was always busy, always surrounded with people, always planning, organizing, working, and always moving.

How to truly be still. How to be truly silent. How to be truly alone.

And how to be comfortable with that.

Most within our circles take time to do the form of meditation where you sit, do nothing, try not to move at all, and try to make your mind blank.

That is not what I am talking about.

Can you be completely alone for many hours or days at a time, go no place, see nobody, and do very little besides the necessary?

Can you endure tedium? Being unnecessary to everybody? No contact from large amounts of people for long periods of days, weeks, or months?

Can you live for a time, basically being as a hermit? Away from the hustle and bustle of life, the influence of society, and the expectations of others?

I am not saying I think everybody should just hole up and do so forever.

Let’s explore first, what a hermit is…

 

The Hermit

We have all seen the Hermit Card in Tarot decks. He turns up quite a lot for us. He represents going into ourselves, to search our souls, or retreating into solitude for a time. Depending on who you speak to, reversed can represent isolation and loneliness, or it can represent coming out of solitude.

Historically, some of the most famous hermits have been very religious. Christians still cloister some of their orders of nuns and priests, away from society. It is believed this withdrawal from society cultivates a closer relationship with the divine by some.

In the middle ages, it was not uncommon for hermits to build huts into the side of the church, and be ceremoniously bricked up permanently. They relied on the charity of people going to church to bring them food and necessities, and they enjoyed a window into the church where they could hear liturgy. These people were called anchorites, and people visited them for advice, as they were believed to have dedicated their lives to communing with their god and the angels full-time, and were considered very wise.

One of the magickal workings to discover one’s True Self, and the Holy Guardian Angel in Thelema entails months of a hermit like existence, and devotion to prayer and magical operations. The solitude allows for removal from distractions and interference of others.

In the quest for enlightenment, the Buddha became an aesthetic, withdrawing to be a hermit for a time.

Monasteries in many different religions have a structured life of prayer, ascribed exercise, a specific diet, a uniform, or habit, and life away from he mainstream society in general. Devotees may be called to take vows of silence, or chastity as well. I refer to this as cloistering, and cloistered life away from society supposedly gets you more in touch with who you are, and what is important.

It’s not for everybody.

My life has been semi cloistered for over three years now, and there are times I wonder how I lived a lifestyle of constant noise and crowds. I have learned a different side of reality.

  1. I realized I did too much- Society pushes us so hard, demanding we do MORE, buy MORE, ARE MORE. We are never enough, and we constantly have to prove we are worthy of simply existing. I found out that is wrong. Our worth as living creatures can certainly be diminished if we are terrible people who do terrible things, but our worth is not proven by our worldly accomplishments, and I discovered that because I just could not accomplish the volume of things I once did anymore. By nature, humanity is quite competitive, but that can become toxic and unconstructive. Sometimes, we struggle to do SO much, the quality of our work suffers. Quality trumps quantity, I found.
  2. What I do does not create who I am- I was told this by a very talented psychic long ago. The things we do change every so often, and often, we suffer identity crisis as the tasks and jobs we complete transition. We are not our jobs or our accomplishments. We are people, not actions, or things.
  3. In stillness comes peace- I had initially misinterpreted it as boredom. The silence was deafening. Now, TOO much noise overwhelms me, be it sound noise, or visual noise.
  4. I leaned to slow down- Not only do I no longer focus on quantity over quality, but I realize speed does not make things any better. Oh, there are going to be times tight deadlines loom, but times when they don’t, slow down, and enjoy the process.
  5. In the quest to do more, faster, we forget one another- We leave behind our loved ones, and neglect the time we should be spending with them. I cannot tell you how many people I have spoken with who get to middle age and beyond, and state they regret NOT spending more time with loved ones than they have. If the focus is on DOING things, instead of moments with loved ones? That is all our life becomes.
  6. I have time for things I said I wanted to do for years- Since leaving the house and working was not on the front burner anymore, I found time to pick up art again. I stepped away from it when I graduated college, and both painting and writing was literally abandoned, as I focused my time on career. I did study music for some years, but I never excelled in music. The written word, and art were my first loves, and I do both again now.
  7. I learned things about myself- I used to be high energy, high accomplishment rate, and never sat still. That did not provide the opportunity for me to pay attention to myself. I discovered I work best with no noise, visual, or otherwise. Before, I was in jobs where I had zero privacy to work, and my productivity drops in that setting. I think most people’s does. I discovered I don’t give myself credit, and people had been urging me to do so for years. I discovered I prefer a small, intimate friend group, rather than moving from group to group. I also discovered I’m not materialistic, which surprised me as much as I love “things.”
  8. I do not miss the loud, busyness- At all.
  9. A lot of people envy me- I have had so many say they wish they “did not have to” leave the house. On one hand, I point out it can be horribly isolating sometimes, and I tell them to be careful what they wish for. I am a very productive, self-starter, and a lot of people NEED a schedule to leave the house, or they just sit and rot. I always find things to stay busy, and a lot of people cannot endure boredom, solitude, or lack of excitement. A lot of people who envy me could not endure this.
  10. I am online more- Lots more. I do communicate with people all day long through social media and texting. I read and research more as well.

I am not saying everybody should cloister, or semi cloister. I am saying, the Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists and others are onto something in their assertion solitude can bring you closer to the divine, because it changes the way you think about yourself, the world, and life in general.

Personally, my concentration is better. I focus on the important things now. I read and study more. I have slowed down, which makes it easier for me to notice things. I pay attention to people and experiences more now as opposed to things, and tasks. I do not compare myself to others as much, being as competitive as I used to be.

All of these things create more connection with the self, and it is within us our connection with the divine lives.

Solitude can be used as torture. Prisoners in solitary confinement don’t benefit from it. The sick who are shut-ins or whose impairments keep them from communicating certainly don’t benefit either.

It seems religious hermits live as such only temporarily, or in such a way they are still able to connect with others. Monks have a community away from society, but they do so in groups, and they have each other. The public comes to them for religious guidance as well. I have already mentioned the medieval Xtian hermits whose huts were bricked into the church, and they saw and visited with people often. They just never left. The Buddha was a hermit for a time, but not for very long.

Human beings need one another, for certain, but sometimes, we need time alone, to retreat into ourselves to find the aspect of the divine we cannot experience with other people. This alone time has to be balanced with time with other people, or else it is not good for us.

Each person has their own level of time they need alone, and with others. Too much, and it’s bad, not enough, and it’s just as bad.

For Beltaine Working, I’d like to recommend how to find ways to have more alone time for scared workings.

I know it can be difficult. My friends who are parents and or have careers can attest to this. There have been times in my own life when I worked, sometimes two jobs, that the only time I had to myself was when I fell asleep, or was getting ready to leave for the day, or just getting in! I probably sound like somebody who has no place dictating to busy people how to carve out quiet, alone time!

I don’t assume everybody can find that alone time daily. As I said, I’ve been there! So what I am going to do is offer suggestions for sneaking in a few minutes here and there. This can be time to do ritual, devotions, or just sit quietly for a few minutes on a break from work or classes. It does not have to be large blocks of time set aside, but I will share some ways you can include quiet, alone time in even the busiest schedule for a LITTLE bit of that peace if that is all you can get

 

Saoirse’s Suggestions for Quiet Sacred Time

  1. When everybody else is asleep- Some of my friends who have kids swear this is the only time they get to themselves. That time is often filled with chores, paying bills, and or showering. It also, sometimes eats into their sleep time. Any spare second of time you get when it is crazy busy that NOBODY else is in the room with you can be gold! If all you get a chance to do is light a small candle or stick of incense, so be it, but it is your time.
  2. Short Mantras- Everybody loves time to relax, unwind, and sit in silence to meditate, but not everybody has the time. Even if you have time, there are days when everything is just so crazy and hectic, you simply cannot focus enough to truly meditate. Some people can do so no matter what! But for those who lack the time or ability to focus, short mantras, or sayings that are meaningful can help. One for me is the reminder “I create all that I am , and all that I will be.” Each of us needs little reminders for support all the time, and when we cannot read or meditate to reset our minds, personal sayings can supply some relief.
  3. A Weekly Hour- Is there a day of the week you can get a solid hour with very little deviation? Say you do two classes per week and have an hour and a half between them all. Can you head to a quiet spot during that break, and have your “Quiet Hour”? I have even known some people to utilize the time they commute to and from work as their quiet time with books on tape of sacred readings, or even spiritual music. Go to your car for lunch if the breakroom is busy and noisy. It might not last an hour, but a few quiet moments count.
  4. Lighting the Candles before bed- This is one thing my mother did. We had a low table in the hallway, and on it, she put a white tablecloth, and a single red taper candle. We would kneel before it to say our prayers together at night right before bed. I was small, and she was a single working mom, so I can’t imagine this nightly ritual lasted for more than a few minutes. We prayed, she blew out the candle, and we headed to bed!
  5. Go outside, touch the earth- This is a big one for me. I have always felt best with outdoor time as often as possible. Now that I have a dog, of course, that is multiple times per day! Most especially for those who follow an earth-based path, time touching the earth, or just breathing in the sweet perfumes of her air are crucial to us. Some suggest walking barefoot on the earth spiritually grounds one. I have never found that true for myself, as my feet hurt, but some people swear by it.
  6. Have a pouch, pile, stash, or stack of whatever helps- I used to keep a small bowl of crystals by my desk at a very stressful job. I would hold the crystals to help calm myself. Carry these things in your car, in your bag, wallet, or even on your person as jewelry. I have known some people to have things tattooed onto themselves that serve this purpose.
  7. FOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!- Foods and drinks nourish the body, which has been called the temple of the spirit. If you are not properly hydrated or your nutrients are off, you are going to feel awful. Good tasting things, also, help make you feel happy. Joy is not THE goal for spirituality, but it can help keep you going.
  8. Maintain Self-Care- Do things for yourself. I am not talking about a bite of chocolate or a bubble bath. Do that anyhow. I am talking about respecting your body’s limitations, and not jeopardizing your health. Maybe that means shutting the TV off early and hitting the sack, or being absent from a social gathering because you are just spent. Things like this can give much provided time without stimulation the body and mind needs so we don’t get overwhelmed or exhausted.
  9. Learn to say no- This is very difficult for some of us. Ate your kids screaming to hit ONE more store, and you feel guilty, but your sugars are low, and you have to go in to work early? Tell them no, and they better stop that screaming, too! Does your circle want more of your time than you can offer, and they just can’t find anybody else but you who qualifies to write a newsletter? Well, if nobody can write except you, then they sure can’t read either, can they? So, they sure don’t NEED that newsletter. Cutting down on unnecessary activities people guilt us into provides opportunity for more you time, and thus more time for your personal spirituality.
  10. Turn it off- I discovered in a strange way, that electrical currents do not always promote rest and calm. I slept in a cave with no electric on one night, and I have got to say, it was the most peaceful night of sleep I have ever gotten. It is the only time in my life when complete darkness and silence surrounded me. I was there with three other people, and one of the men was so overwhelmed, he had to leave. It was such a foreign feeling, and not for everybody. Not everybody can have that opportunity, but you can emulate this is small ways. Turn off the radio, and open the window to listen to the birds sing. Put down your cell phone, and watch the sunset.

 

Of course, each of us has our own personal ways of adding some quiet, alone time to our days that goes beyond anything I can suggest.

I wish you a Blessed Beltaine, Blessed “Me Time”, and Blessed Be!

***

About the Author:

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel

 

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

Midsummer 2015

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have done something completely out of character as Midsummer approaches.

I have come to the conclusion it is not important to be right.

Not always.

Like many of you, I have opinions. Strong ones. Opinions I always said you were all entitled to.

Before you tell me opinions are like toes, we all have them, and mine don’t make me special, let me assure you that I have always worked very hard to ensure my opinions are the best possible ones! You see, I am an educated person. I back up my opinions with facts and research, and I can prove my point to almost everybody. And if I am proven wrong, I just say I have learned something, and change my opinion. So I am always right!

That is very important, right?

But with my fortieth birthday looming just ahead, I have changed my mind about that.

After years of facilitating discussions in person and online, I have seen relationships crumble because people just HAVE to be right. Including me.

One of the big contention points is, not surprisingly, religion.

For Pagans, being part of a minority religion, if we are out of the broom closet, we are bound to get some grief from family or co-workers at one time or another. If you are like I have always been, you are not going to stand for that. You might also get upset just by the fact they express a religious opinion or belief that goes against yours, even if it is not directed to you.

Some family from mom’s side was always very vocal about being anti-gay. Mom was very vocal about being anti-anything-besides-Catholic. My father’s side of the family is conservative Southern Christian and I always say some of them believe separation of church and state is wrong and that the USA needs to be an Xtian theocracy.

I don’t handle listening to such sentiments very well. I can’t just not say anything in response to what I consider wrong. I can’t not try to get people to agree with me that god is too big to fit into one religion. I can’t not try to get people to agree with me that their way of life is not necessarily the right way for everybody. I can’t not call people on what I feel is total BS.

I just can’t. Can I?

Sure I can. We all can.

Nearing forty, I realize I am becoming more set in my ways. So is everybody else. I have had the chance to really think about what I believe. So has everybody else. I know what works for me and what makes sense to me. So does everybody else.

Some of my family is SO conservative, and while I am not 100% Liberal, compared to some of them, I am a total anarchist.

Many heated debates happened amongst us. In private, family members who agreed with me told me so. When I asked why they did not speak up, they all said the same thing…that it was not worth it to argue. I did not see it that way. All I could see was that I thought somebody was wrong, and I had to make sure they knew what I felt was right.

It got to the point some of us decided we were no longer speaking. Sometimes I initiated it, sometimes they did. You could absolutely tell whose child I was because I acted just like them. I did not care. I felt I was justified and that I had family who were intolerant, and that I did not need that in my life.

Then, eight months ago, my life changed. Completely. The changes meant I couldn’t work, and I spent a lot of time at home. Alone.

I also got a lot of visits.

Some were from people who did not share my political or religious views, but people who I love and have known a long time, nonetheless.

I also made a new friend, who came to see me every week, and some weeks, it was the only visit I got. She did not share my religion or my political beliefs.

I learned that none of it mattered.

I reconnected with some family as well. It took me three days to work up the courage to tell one family member I thought it was important to have a relationship, differing beliefs aside. She agreed.

I cried for the rest of the night after that because I was so happy.

Sometimes it takes being alone for a short time to realize how important it really is to have people in your life. Agreeing to disagree for the sake of getting along is not as difficult as I always told myself it was. Truthfully, when people wrote me off because they disapproved of my beliefs, it made me even less sympathetic to their beliefs. I wrote some people off too. I know that their reaction was the same as mine had been in the same situation.

We spent a lot of time creating hard feelings when we could have been discussing other things and enjoying life together instead. I realize it is not possible to have a relationship with EVERYBODY. But it IS possible to have more relationships if one is open to relationships with people who are different than them.

It is a good shift of mindset to have nearing Midsummer.

Midsummer is the longest day and shortest night of the year. Historically, it was celebrated with bonfires. We find the theme of chasing off disease, malevolent spirits, and misfortune with bonfires at many pre-Christian celebrations our Sabbats are based on.

Now, in parts of Europe, the Pagan Misdummer celebrations have changed focus, but some traditions are close to the same.

Instead of lighting fires and leaping over them in honor of the old gods, the festivities are oft done in honor of St. John the Baptist instead.

Midsummer, as celebrated in the Celtic lands, the Slavic Nations, and the Germanic ones are the places many of us who are Neo-Pagans and Heathens draw our traditions from.

In The Gardnerian Book of Shadows, which can be found free on sacred-texts.com, is a ritual for Midsummer. Flowers are arranged around a cauldron filled with water, referred to as the waters of life. The ritual focus is on an invocation of the sun, on its longest day to bless both earth, and people.

In ancient Ireland, the bonfires were built, and it was customary to see who could leap highest over the flames. It was believed the height of the highest jump was how high the crops would get. The animals were lead around the fires, oft clockwise, to bless them.

Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, England, is technically a group of things including wooded posts, buried antlers and animal bones and teeth, cremations, ditches, and small holes, as well as the large stones it is famous for , and initial materials has been dated to as early as 8,000 BC. The site was used over a long period of time, and even today, the site hosts rituals and educational tours. So technically, including today’s use, that gives a window of 10,000 years from evidence of first use of the site to today’s use of the site. Pretty cool!

The Midsummer sun rises in alignment with a large sandstone rock that is called the Heelstone. An avenue a couple of miles away was built that aligns with the Midsummer sunset. Evidence of large fires between the two suggests they were perhaps connected.

If this is true, they had at least an all day celebration and ritual and possibly a procession from where the sun rose to where it set.

In Denmark, healing wells were visited in pre Christian times, and bonfires, which are still part of today’s traditions were built. In mediaval times, it was the time for harvesting medicinal herbs.

In Sweden, Maypoles are used as opposed to for Beltaine. This is due to climate. Flowers cannot be found in abundance naturally as early as Beltaine. The Divine Feminine and Masculine are united in the dance, that significance being forgotten due to Christianization, but superstitions are not lost. Single people put flowers under their pillows in hopes of dreaming about future mates. Winter leaves are also burned in fires, perhaps to drive away winter…or in more mundane terms, “danger of last frost”!

After Midsummer, of course, days will shorten again, and nights lengthen. So this is a celebration of the sun at it’s greatest strength, and magically, an attempt to focus that power into strength for an abundant harvest to come. The strength is focuses on the crops, livestock, and the people.

For your own celebrations, may I suggest a prayer and simple personal working to add in there somewhere?

I know I am not the only opinionated Pagan whose family members or loved ones disagree with.

Would you consider changing your role in those conversations? Would you consider being the one to first say. “Let’s agree to disagree!” and then change the subject. Would you consider being the one to reach out to a loved one who will not change, one who would allow the relationship to be compromised, and simply tell them they are more important to you than how you disagree on beliefs?

I realize not everybody will be receptive to you when you do this, but here is a prayer and working for the purpose if you would like to do so.

First, you have to be ready to do this. Really ready. Because I guarantee, your loved one will not change their views. I guarantee that you won’t either.

There will be millions of opportunities to get into an argument with them forever and ever.

They might even TRY to get you to.

But, it takes two to fight. So, you can be the one to decide that arguing or fighting stops.

Even if you aren’t specifically a witch, your will for peace is a powerful spell indeed!

Here goes.

Set up your altar or ritual space as usual for a working.

Get an image of your loved one or loved ones who you want to have more peaceful communications with.

Get a candle which will provide the only light for your working. Use more than one candle if it helps you to see better.

Get a mirror to look into.

Get a few pieces of paper and a writing implement.

Get a small cauldron or other fireproof container because you will be burning some paper.

Get a gift or offering for your loved one. This can be discarded after ritual or actually given to them sometime in the near future.

Get a small gift or offering for yourself, also. Make sure it is something you like and that you will enjoy.

If you are like me, and you cry easily, get tissues.

And last of all, get a hot or cold drink of choice.

I say get something to drink, because of something my mom always did. When I was a kid and I had cried, she would get me a tall, cold glass of tea or something else yummy. She said crying dehydrates you. I do not know if this is true, but the drink always made me feel better!

I am assuming you have already had discussions with your loved one and have been unable to settle differences of opinion. If I am wrong, please put this article aside, and go talk to your loved one asap. Magic is useless if you have not first done the mundane work communicating your feelings and trying to patch things up.

If you are ready to do the working, light the candle to start.

Cast circle and invoke your gods and or guides or not, however you prefer.

Then, write a letter to your loved one. In it, communicate your feelings. Communicate also that you feel your relationship is more important than arguing over who is right, and that you have decided to stop arguing. Say whatever you want to in the letter. It can be as long or as short as you like. While you are writing, put the energy from all these feelings you have, as well as your hopes for better communications into this paper.

Once you have finished this, set that next to the image of said loved one, and put the gift, which is an offering for your loved one there with it.

Next, get another piece of paper, and write a letter to yourself. In it, validate your own feelings of hurt, or upset over things your loved one has said or done. Also acknowledge your own role in continuing whatever issues you have had with one another. Pledge in this letter to work on better communications. Be prepared that you may be the one called to reach out to the loved one, especially if you are estranged from one another. Be prepared you may have to be the one to agree to disagree and put your own opinions aside in order to keep the peace. Put the energy from these feelings into your letter as you write it.

Place this letter next to the mirror and place your gift to yourself there.

On another piece of paper, write how badly communications have gone in the past, and the hurt feelings you both have experienced because of it. You can list the various arguments, or scenarios of misunderstandings if you want. Write as much as you need to, focus putting the energy and hurt feelings into this paper, all of it.

Go back to the letter to your loved one. Read it aloud directly to the image of your loved one. Then read your letter to yourself, while looking in the mirror. Next, place the image of your loved one beside the mirror, and read aloud the third letter to the representation of them, and the mirror to yourself. When you have finished, fold the third letter in half with the side of the paper that has the writing on it inside. Slide this into a blank piece of paper to conceal the writing if needs be. As you fold this paper over or conceal the writing into another piece of paper, will that those hurt feelings and strained communications are becoming a thing of the past and replacing them will be good communications and better times.

Put the letters in a stack any way you wish. Then still yourself for a moment and when you are ready to let go of the hurt, resentment, grudges, reluctance to make up, or whatever upset you might feel, burn those papers. Know in your heart that you are letting go and destroying those bad feelings and all that will be left is the love and desire for a good relationship from now on.

Once the papers are burned, bury the ashes, laying to rest the bad times, or release them to the wind, completely letting them go .

Extinguish your candle or candles, close circle and banish as usual, and either discard the offering to your loved one, or give it to them sometime in the future. Keep the offering you gave to yourself and enjoy it.

Congratulations. You decided to be a peacemaker. You decided your relationships are more important than being right or arguing over opinions or beliefs. You decided we all have different beliefs and we can love each other and have good times and happy lives together despite those differences. You have good priorities and your loved ones are truly blessed to have you.

I think Midsummer is a good time to do this for two reasons. One, in Summertime, we have a lot of gatherings. The weather is nice and often, we see more of each other then. You might “run into” them, and before you do, a working to ensure better relations is an excellent idea. Which leads us to number two. Rather than dreading seeing somebody, use the powerful energy at this turn of the wheel, which is strong for creating life. The Sun is at its strongest and generations of people have used the power of this time for blessings, strength, and growth.

Over the past eight months, I learned that materially, you can lose everything, but if you have loved ones, they will get you through your worst times. There will come a day when you are doing well, and they are not, and it will be your turn to help them.

When all else is lost, as long as we have one another, there is reason for hope, and where there is hope, there really is life.

May you and your loved ones have a long, happy life together.

Blessed Midsummer, and Blessed Be.

 

Beltaine

Bright Blessings!

We just celebrated out Ostara last night, and I admit, I am dog tired today. We had TOO much fun, and I am reminded of how the film Excalibur portrayed Merlin as going into a deep sleep after becoming tired after doing magic! I actually slept in until about 2 P.M. today!

But more than that, I am worried. I am having difficulty reserving the group campsite we have been reserving for years for our Beltaine. You may remember my article from 2014 that lamented we were too ill to camp- wellk this year WE WANT TO CAMP!

Unfortunately, there is confusion about booking at the site EVERY year. Don’t ask me why, but this year, we were told they no longer even allow reservations. I called the main office to find out what the heck was going on and ask if they can pretty please allow us to reserve the site- and I was told they do , indeed, still take reservations, but I was transferred to somebody who had a really bad attitude. Not only was his tone of voice rude, but he said he would take my name and number, but did not care what I was calling about and did not want to know. I told him I will just call back tomorrow. I don’t trust that guy to relay my message.

I really should not feel sorry for myself. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, I have heard much worse. One year, a Pagan Pride was booked at a site and the reservation was paid for months in advance. The event coordinator was later told that nobody at the office saved any information from the booking, the employee who had booked the thing was long gone, the event would not be allowed there, and there would be no refund. AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! I am not the one who had to deal with this, but it makes me cringe just to think about it!

My struggle with this campsite is very minute compared to what some other facilitators have endured, but I am still pulling my hair out, and I will tell you why. It is because of three things that begin with the letter C. Cost, convenience, and most importantly, consecration.

Costwise, most of the campsites nearby my home cost hundreds of dollars. I wanted to offer a free camping event once a year in my hometown people could attend. This site costs only $48 to rent for 24 hours. Nothing would cost less unless somebody hosted it at their home, but that is not the best idea either. Sometimes, we like to invite new people along who would be more comfortable meeting in public than at a stranger’s house! So this is the least expensive way to do this.

This site is the most convenient one we found for lots of reasons. First, it is only ten miles away. Everyplace else is much much farther. Think ninety miles away! Next, it is private, and we can have all the fires we want. We do two fires that are blessed, and the people walk between the blessed fires. While we could get a metropark space that was nearby and allowed fires, they are much more expensive, and everybody has to clear out of there by 10 P.M., so no camping. WAAAAHHHH!!!!

Most importantly, we have had multiple Beltaines at this site. Beltaine is the event my Priest and I do best together. People really look forward to it, and I admit, I don’t think anybody looks forward to it more than I do.

As mentioned in previous articles, we have done raffles, workshops, and other groups have joined with us some years as well. The main attraction is the Maypole ritual and blessing we do.

Our tradition has a May King and May Queen to represent the forces of fertility that create new life.

We begin by the Priestess taking all the females to a spot, and the Priest taking all the males to a spot. The ladies select who they think best embodies the goddess in the form of the Maiden in all of her splendor. She is beautiful like the blooming flowers. She is strong, and fertile, a perfect vessel for life to bloom in. And once the ladies decide who will be May Queen, she is crowned with a crown made of real flowers and vines the people have created. I always have the children in attendance help create those crowns!

My Priest is a stickler for tradition. The flowers have to be fresh and real. He’s also thrifty, so he has us go find the flowers and vines in our yards and neighborhoods so as not to spend cash.

While the ladies are crowning the May Queen, the gentlemen are crowning the May King. He is to be the embodiment of the the father god in his prime. Sexy, lusty, powerful, and charismatic. He is full of energy and focused on….well…rutting.

Before I go any further, let me mention that our tradition does not do the Great Rite by having people actually engage in sexual intercourse- although some traditions do. I will never forget one year when I got a concerned e-mail from somebody who was planning to attend. He wanted to know if we were having an orgy. Of course not! But I have heard that some people absolutely do.

We instead, present the May Queen to the May King, and they do a little dance around the Maypole, and then everybody else joins in.

Some traditions may have set dances they do. Ours has my Priest choosing funny rock music with sexual undertones. Since my Priest is what we call an aging hippie and I was a child in the 1980’s, the glam rockers, and hair bands provide lots of material for us. Music like Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls, Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light, probably anything from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Unskinny Bop by Motley Crue, Whitesnake’s Slide It In, and even some pop songs like George Michael’s I Want Your Sex.

Here is a link to a really hilarious article that lists some great 1980’s songs about sex.

http://ultimateclassicrock.com/sex-songs

Obviously, if you want kids to attend your Maypole ritual, you can just keep it cleaner and do a nice, polite chant like the popular goddess chant, or even nice love songs. Of course, it won’t be as funny if you are playing nice, clean love songs, but I understand that not every group is the same!

The Priest and Priestess do not get to vote for who is May King and May Queen. They just lead the people in the coronation and show the “royal couple” how to become the goddess and god for the ritual. One year, the ladies all voted for a sixteen year old girl to be May Queen, and I about died. I asked the young lady’s mother if this was okay, and mom said okay! I was hysterically terrified the kid would wind up pregnant in the next few months- magic is funny like that. But the kid did not- and she was one damn good May Queen, too!

One year, our May Queen was actually the sister of a best friend of mine. Everybody sure liked her, and she was perhaps the oldest lady eligible to be May Queen. The gentleman who was voted May King that year pantomimed chasing after the May Queen, and the gal who was May Queen pantomimed “Come here, now get away!” She lead him on a merry chase. All the while, the hair band hard rock sex anthems were blaring on the boom box, and inbetween fits of giggling, we all danced along. I think that was the year I fell flat on my butt, was laughing so hard, I could not get up, and so two of the guys hauled me back up on my feet.

After the dancing and merriment is all done, the Maypole is danced. I use the same consecrated Maypole every year. I do not know if that is traditional, or if you are “supposed” to do it this way, but it just feels right to me. I suppose the Maypole might have a traditional amount of ribbons that belong on there, but I have never taken the time to find out. Our Maypole was a branch my Priest had seen years ago that he thought was calling him, and he went through nests of spiders to bet to it. Afterwards, it sat in his basement, forgotten for quite some time. Then, the year we decided to do our own Maypole, he gave it to me. I took it to a friend’s house, and with ribbons she had and that I bought, we used nails, tacks, and gorilla glue to create the most gorgeous Maypole on earth. It is short. A lot of groups have ten foot tall poles. Ours is about six foot tall. Every year, we have my husband bury it in the ground so it stays still, and it has never come loose of fallen during ritual. We have about 22 ribbons on it. One year we had less people who wanted to dance- many were tired after the hard rock music dancing, and some people took two ribbons in the dance.

And it was fun. Maypole dancing emulates the divine joining of the goddess- the earth- with the father sky god, represented by the pole being plunged into her. The people dancing the dance, weaving the ribbon represents us blending our magic with the magic of the goddess and the god, and it is also a form of adoration as well!

I share this one video from Glastonbury a lot. I love it. It shows the weaving technique used for the dance. OVER, UNDER, OVER, UNDER. And by the time the ribbon is all used up, it has created an absolutely gorgeous plaiting around the pole. Here, you can see what this group did!

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

After all that, the May King and May Queen have done their job and done it very well! Next, in our tradition, the Priest and Priestess bless each person. We bless cakes and drink- usually cookies and juice, and have each person approach for their own blessing. First, the person gets a cookie and are told “May you never hunger.” Then they get a sip of juice and are told “May you never thirst.” As our particular tradition is all about balance, if the person is male, they then get a personal blessing from the Priestess. If they are female, they get one from the Priest.

Not all traditions are this specific, and I admit, a couple people got very insulted by this. One was transgendered and said she did not appreciate being asked to join males based on being born with a penis. She identified as a woman trapped in a man’s body and said she did not feel the least bit male. Another person who complained stated they are gay and therefore do not understand a ritual that emulates joining of male and female to create life.

I told them our tradition does this because in the plant and animal kingdom, you need both male and female parts to create offspring. I also said I would never ask anybody to participate in a ritual that they were upset about or that did not serve them. But our tradition of Wicca really is appropriately referred to as a “fertility cult.” Maybe that is why Beltaine is so big for us!

The Maypole ritual and May Day as we personally celebrate it include things emulating the sex that everything has that makes babies. We use sympathetic magic to send energy out to the powers that be to ask them to make those things happen. We are not just gathering to ask to get pregnant. We want baby plants and animals made, too, for our foods! But also, we ask for the energy of birth and growth in what we need in our lives.

Maybe somebody wants to go back to college and wants the gods to help them make it happen. Maybe somebody has been ill and wants a new body and new life in the form of healing.

Our particular tradition focuses on the magic the god and goddess create together for this and all our Sabbats and workings, but I accept that not everybody finds that focus meaningful. I think each person has to celebrate the Sabbats in a way that is meaningful for them, and not worry aboutm other people’s traditions.

Having said all of these things, I realize that I usually discuss history first and then provide suggested working. I did it backwards this time. So here is some Beltaine history!

What is Beltaine?

It’s based on ancient Pagan practices. It was the beginning of the summer for the folks who raise livestock back in Pre-Christian times. They brought the animals from winter grounds to summer fields, and a purification ritual involving bonfires that were blessed was used. The people and animals were paraded between two blessed fires and it was believed this ritually purified them. I read recently that sometimes, a dough was made and cooked over the blessed fire into a bread and everybody was fed the blessed bread as part of the processions.

Can you imagine how happy the animals must have been to get out of those barns and into the summer grazing grounds? And the animals who were young who had never seen those fields must have been so excited- and relieved to pass by the warm fires and see, for the first time, all the land they had to run free in! How excited, too, the people were. Songs, dances, and feasting were part of it all, as well as thanks to the gods for making it through ANOTHER winter season.

The work on the foodcrops was at hand, and while I am sure the backbreaking labor was not exactly relished, the fact it was time to start production of such good things was eagerly anticipated.

Talk with any gardener, whether they grow flowers or food, and they will be bursting at the seams come Beltaine time. Here in Central Ohio, May Day is about the time when danger of last frost is past and EVERYTHING can be planted out of doors without worry.

Today, while I took a short break from writing this article, I made my timetable for what seeds I will plant when. It is March 21 today, and while a few things can be put in the ground earlier, I still have about five weeks before I can put it all out!

For us, we can just run to the grocery for fresh fruit and veggies- but our ancestors could not. They preserved foods and had something to eat, but preserved foods are not the same as fresh. I can only imagine how excited the ancient people were when planting season was in full tilt.

I also read the Maypole comes to us from the Germanics. I learned it was outlawed in the 1500’s when King Edward the VI came to power and was reinstated under Queen Mary when she took over the throne. Support and opposition of the practice changed with whoever was holding office, and it varied by region. The Presbyterians who ran Scotland were against it, and today, of course, it’s just used as a Springtime celebration because it’s fun and festive all over the world.

I will say, though, that we THINK the Germanics used it in connection with fertility rites, but we are not entirely certain. It might have represented the Yggdrasil, or the World Tree. In Sweden, Maypoles are used at Midsummer, not May Day.

Technically, in Germanic and Scandinavian places, it’s Walpurgisnacht- or the day Witches supposedly used to gather in the Brocken, or the highest peak in the Hartz mountain. What witches supposedly did while communing with their gods, I do not know. Perhaps the association with “witches” after Christianization is due to the fact that this region was once a sacred site for veneration of the Allfather, Odin.

The weather at The Brocken is extreme to say the least. It gets no warmer than about 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the Summer, and it gets more precipitation than anyplace else in Northern central Europe. Many months, the land is completely covered in snow. Being somebody who dislikes cold, myself, I have to wonder why ancient Saxons chose such a frigid place to hold sacred rites to Odin. But perhaps the very fact it was so extreme made it seem all the more sacred to them.

Today, some European towns have Walpurgis Night festivals still. They celebrate the feast day of the Saint Walpurga instead of honoring their ancestral gods. Some have music festivals and some do things more like what you see in Fourth of July celebrations where mom and dad bring the kids and the local auxiliary clubs put on concerts. I imagine back in Saxon days, the revelers behaved just as the people in this video I share did.

We sometimes imagine ancient Pagans as being somehow more wild and barbaric, but I seriously doubt they were. They were just ordinary people leading ordinary lives. Religion was an ordinary part of everyday life. While the bonfires might look big, what they did, even when there was human or animal sacrifice was not lewd, wild, exciting, or romantic.

It was just normal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs9wn9W2t60

People all over Western Europe still light bonfires around the last week of April or first week of May because cultures and practices may have changed, but basic human nature has not. There is some small part of us that still needs the sympathetic magic of the bonfires to emulate the lifegiving heat and power of the indestructible sun.

Seeing as people now celebrate this Saint Walpurga, let’s explore who she is a bit more.

She was born in either 710 in England, the daughter of St. Richard the Pilgrim, who was the brother –in-law to Saint Boniface. Saint Boniface was the first one to establish organized Christianity in the German lands, and recruited woman as well. He sent Walpurga to Germany as well.

Walpurga’s early portrayals show her as holding sheaths of grain and it is speculated veneration of her replaced worship of a grain goddess. Due to belief she prayed while on a voyage, which calmed a storm, she is the patron saint of fear of water, called on for protection from storms, and a matron of sailors.

In Antwerp, Belgium, a church was built and named after Walpurga. The church was confiscated and used as a warehouse by the French in 1798, then by the Dutch, who destroyed it shortly after. Little was salvaged from the church which stood as a sanctuary for about 700 years!

What little survived, including one of the painter Ruben’s masterpieces and a small piece of the original altar was taken to The Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp. Ruben’s painting can be seen here at this link to the Wikipedia article about it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elevation_of_the_Cross_(Rubens)

Whether the old gods, or a missionary to the Xtian god are being celebrated, one thing is for sure- all over the world, May Day is a big deal. People are so happy the days are warmer and the growing season is begun that they have to sing and dance and make merry well into the night.

However you celebrate, may your gods bless you, and may this season of new life bring many new things and joys into your life.

Blessed Beltaine!

Blessed Be!

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