May Day~Beltane~

On April 30 into May 1st we Pagan types celebrate Beltane.  Beltane is a fire festival honoring the return of the earth’s fertile phase. Beltane is most usually celebrated around the fiery fingers of a robust merry bon fire and dancing beneath a colorful maypole.  I have read that “back in the day” the fertility celebrations depending on one’s personal tradition could be rather lascivious, but I will leave all of that to the reader’s imagination.  Solitaries like me don’t often have the appropriate spot or space for such an event so this last evening, I held my own modest solitary ritual as I walked across the rolling hills and into the dimmed forest with my little dog.  This is the joy of being a solitary witch; one does things one’s own way and that is that. Some of us are… shall we say… independent thinkers?

There was a golden country sunset last evening; the green carpet of plush grass was soaked in the last soft amber hues of what was a perfect spring day. With the exception of my loyal little fur kid, I found myself all alone wandering across gentle green hills and leafy woods.  Where I go to walk is a magical place of rolling hills, a lively frog pond, and a leafy forest that could have been plucked from a fairy tale.

The land is set on a green expanse of hill highs that lord over our little community. It’s free to go walk there, and I am often in awe that no one but me seems to go there with any regularity.  I call this place “My Church.”

I did not light any bonfires; I did not even light a candle for I had the warm glow of the setting sun on my shoulder. As I walked, I thought of the earth, and I thought of the gifts she gives, I thought of the seasons, the planting time that is upon us, and I looked ahead to the harvest time, the time to gather, I mused over the divinity of it all.  I reminded myself that my very life source comes from the dear earth, my one true mother.

I stopped and lay down for a time and ran my fingers over the carpet of grass and pressing my heart nearer to the heart of my Mother. I rolled over then to watch the cotton candy clouds drifting above me. I was very moved, very grateful, very aware of the life forces that was were coursing above and below my body.

I stood up then, planting my feet flat on the earth and raising my hands to the sky.  I felt the spirit of May wash through me, sunshine, fertile earth, colorful blossoms, leafy trees, moon glow, I felt it all! I felt everything so intensely that I was what the Christians call “slain in the spirit” for a moment…rapt, joyful, and grateful beyond words.  So mote it ever be.

Have a blessed and merry May Day.

May Day – Calan Mae – Beltane.

May Day is traditionally celebrated when the May blossom appears on the Hawthorn trees.

Hawthorn is an important tree spiritually – surrounded by myth and legend. Oak, Ash and Hawthorn are the three sacred celtic trees. The most famous Hawthorn in Britain is the Glastonbury Thorn. Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea arrived in Glastonbury bearing vessels containing the blood and sweat of Christ. He thrust his hawthorn staff into the ground where it took root and flowered. It flowers in May and on Christmas Day.

Stories abound of fairies and spirits dwelling in Hawthorn trees. To damage a Hawthorn could well bring retribution from them. In pagan times, priestesses planted sacred groves of Hawthorn. The great Witch / Goddess Nimue vanquished Merlin by capturing him in a Hawthorn bush. Many churches in Britain were built in existing ancient sacred enclosures. Even Westminster Abbey is built on a site that was once called Thorny Island.

As children we used to eat the new leaves and call them bread and cheese. We also gathered the oddly scented blossom but we were not allowed to take it into our homes – being told that to do so would herald sickness and death.

It has been said that at Beltane, Witches are able to turn themselves into Hawthorn trees. A hawthorn tree will protect the home from lightning strikes. It is a fertility symbol and is dedicated to Brigid. The leaves in a bed can also promote chastity.

I choose to focus my Beltane celebrations on the large Hawthorn tree in my garden. If she is not flowering on the first of May (she rarely is!) then I wait until she is ready. I tie ribbons in her branches and light candles and sweet incense beneath her. She guides my meditation and brings me joy.