Celebrating The Old Ways In New Times for April 2020
Before we know it, Beltane will be upon us, and many will be going to gatherings where Maypole is danced, and emphasis on sexuality, and the union of the Mother Goddess and Father God are celebrated. Talk about fertility, union, and all things about growth will abound!
I’ve gone to multiple celebrations, all of which often have a focus on the union of things to reproduce.
But the older I get, and the more people I meet, the more I realize, THIS, in particular does not apply to all people…
Now, sure, we all celebrate the fertility of the earth, but the way it is often represented is in the sex rites of Goddess and God.
Interestingly enough, Pagans who are not heterosexuals, those who do not want children, and Pagans who are asexual follow along in these rites for the sake of community. But there has to be a deeper meaning than just this right?
The original Beltane celebrations were not sex based, and were not veneration of one mother and one father whose spirit created all things. This is our modern take on the Sabbat.
So, just what was done before differently, and how can we apply those practices to today’s Pagan rites to be more meaningful for more people?
The Old Days
Beltane was widely celebrated in The Isle of man, Scotland and Ireland. It was the beginning of the Summer for these people, and when the livestock were brought from the barns into the Summer grazing grounds. Special blessed fires were lit, and at times, they were simply bonfires, and at others, twin fires were lit, and the livestock as well as the people walked between the two fires, for protection and purification.
For more specific information, we look to what the writings and what archaeology tells us about a sister site to The Hill of Tara- Uisneach.
The two sites were connected by a road, and while the Irish royalty was connected to both, it is said Uisneach was a spiritual center.
Mentioned in many writings including Deirdre of the Sorrows, in the Dindsenchas, and in the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Various facts about the site are fascinating. Twenty counties of Ireland can be seen from the top of the hill, and it is called the navel of Ireland due to its importance. It is said the god Lugh, and the goddess Eriu are both buried onsite. According to stories, every seven years, a big event was held, and it was at Beltane.
You can read more about this heritage site at their website here. Note this heritage site hosts a huge Beltane gathering each year, although this years event is canceled to avoid spreading the contravirus:
A great bonfire, as you can see, is still lit at Uisneach for Beltane. And it is said the bonfires both at Uisneach and elsewhere included not only driving the livestock nearby, or having them jump the flames to be blessed, but people did this as well.
One thing I will point out is that the Dindsenchas stated a druid lit a fire onsite that blazed for seven years. This could have been why the gathering was simply every seven years. Beltane saw the tradition of all fires within the home being extinguished before the gathering, and a torch taken from the fire lit at Beltane to relight the fires at home.
I have attended more than one gathering where a fire was lit, and people were given a small candle so they could take the flame with them. This is where this comes from. Called a bonfire- meaning bonfire. Indeed, animal skeletons that were burned have been found at Uisneach.
So the purpose of Beltaine in ancient times was to mark the beginning of Summer, bless the animals, and people, and create a blessed communal fire everybody could take home with them to take the community unity back with them.
In my reading about this site, I did not find a thing about sex.
While I would never, ever disrespect our Wiccan traditions, I am fully aware these are new traditions there is no historical evidence of.
So, looking to the older ways, I have ideas for modern people who do not want to include sex or sexuality in their Beltane rites.
Saoirse’s Old Fashioned Beltane
Light two fires of some type. If you are lucky, you can do BIG bonfires! If not, two candles will do. Bless the candles in the way that feels best for you. I like to call the Mother Goddess and the Father God, and have both of them bless the fires. The fires will be to bless, purify, and protect the people. In the warmer months, we go more places, and do more things. So this blessing at the beginning of the warm times when we are out and about more is perfect. To create sacred smoke, throw in fragrant wood or incense. I like to put sticks of incense next to the fires. My go to for everything is Nag Champa. A mix including sandalwood, It has been described as relaxing, warming, and sandalwood is said to prepare the temple space. I can’t claim to know all that everybody says Nag Champs does. All I know is there is no more intense spiritual and psychic vibe raising incense I have found.
Next, have everybody walk between the fire, taking as much time as each of them need to absorb the blessings and feel protected and cleansed.
Next, each person will be given a candle. A birthday cake candle or a tealight works best, as they are small, and inexpensive. Take a stick from one of the blessed fires, or hold a match to it to light it. Then light the first candle. The next person will light their candle from yours. Somebody else lights their candle from theirs. Continue until everybody has lit their candle, and then say:
” Take the light from these blessed fires into your homes, and light them once more. May the blessings, protection, and love of the gods, and community see you through the season, and may we come together many times before the next Sabbat for fellowship, and joy. Blessed Be. “
Then, let everybody pinch or snuff their flame. Transporting flames places are not always safe, and the celebration is just starting anyhow. The candles would burn out before each person gets the chance to go home.
Next comes the gifting. Give gifts to the gods and the earth. As we all have our own deities, you will know what gifts are appropriate for your personal gods. For earth gifts, you can give birdseed, or suet. You can feed ducks or raccoons by leaving them treats where it is appropriate. You can also do some planting, do some cleanup of a community garden, or even pick up trash someplace. I do highly recommend trash pickup as a gift for the earth. You can also make a donation to a local wildlife center or give supplies to people at a community garden.
Next is the feast! For blessing it, if the fires are close by enough, fan the smoke from the fires onto the food as blessing. If not, take a final candle, lit from the blessed fires, and walk in a circle around the table where the food is, and ask the gods to bless the food.
Of course, the first plate and drink will be FOR the gods. Drink can be offered as libation, poured into the earth, and the food can be buried or just left out if it is something that wildlife will come and eat.
Then, eat, and enjoy your fellowship!
May you and yours have a Blessed Beltane!
About the Author:
Saoirse is a practicing witch, and initiated Wiccan of an Eclectic Tradition.
A recovered Catholic, she was raised to believe in heaven and hell, that there is only one god, and only one way to believe. As she approached her late 20’s, little things started to show her this was all wrong. She was most inspired by the saying “God is too big to fit into one religion” and after a heated exchange with the then associate pastor of the last Xtian church she attended, she finally realized she was in no way Xtian, and decided to move on to see where she could find her spiritual home.
Her homecoming to her Path was after many years of being called to The Old Ways and the Goddess, and happened in Phoenix, Arizona. She really did rise from her own ashes!
Upon returning to Ohio, she thought Chaos Magic was the answer, and soon discovered it was actually Wicca. She was blessed with a marvelous mentor, Lord Shadow, and started a Magical Discussion Group at local Metaphysical Shop Fly By Night. The group was later dubbed A Gathering of Paths. For a few years, this group met, discussed, did rituals, fellowship, and volunteering together, and even marched as a Pagan group with members of other groups at the local gay Pride Parade for eight years.
All the while, she continued studying with her mentor, and is still studying for Third Degree, making it to Second Degree thus far.
She is a gifted tarot reader, spellworker, teacher, and was even a resident Witch at a Westerville place dubbed The Parlor for a time.
Aside from her magical practice, she is a crocheter, beader, painter, and a good cook. She has been a clown and children’s entertainer, a Nursing Home Activities Professional, a Cavern Tour Guide, a Retail Cashier, and a reader in local shops. Her college degree is a BA in English Writing. She tried her hand at both singing and playing bagpipes, and…well…let’s just say her gifts lie elsewhere! She loves gardening, reading, antiques, time with friends and soul kin, and lots and lots of glorious color bedecking her small home!
On the encouragement of a loved one several years back, she searched for a publication to write for, and is right at home at PaganPagesOrg.
She is currently residing in Central Ohio with her husband, and furbabies.
Saoirse can be contacted at [email protected].