Dedicant Path Week 8 – High Day Recap – Beltane

1 05 2013
Beltane Panoram

Beltane (Photo credit: pyramis)

I did my Beltane rite at 5pm on Wednesday 1st May as an ending to the celebrations. I used the structure and wording from the Solitary Druid Fellowship’s ritual but with a few modifications e.g. incorporating a prayer to the Earth Mother I had previously written. I really liked the wording of the ritual, with its emphasis on affirming our relationship with the cosmos as the purpose of ritual. I wasn’t sure which deities to honour from the Irish pantheon for this rite, so I chose not to honour any specific deities but rather honoured them all generically. The gatekeeper was Manannan Mac Lir because I am finding myself developing quite a connection with him and am thinking he may end up being my Patron deity. I live on the coast and the ocean and fishing very much dominate our lives here so I feel it is right that he is honoured. I did the ritual alone in my house as I am to nervous to do things outside in public and I don’t have a garden. I enjoyed giving the offerings, however I mucked up with the offering to the fire as I poured the oil on the flame and it went out. For offerings I used oil for the fire and the gods, apple for the gatekeeper, seeds for the nature spirits, silver coin for the well, oats for the earth mother, incense for the tree and cider for the ancestors.  I will need to bring the offerings closer to me next time as they were on a desk which wasn’t close enough and trying to get them disrupted the flow somewhat. Also, doing it in the daytime had an effect on the atmosphere of the ritual as the candle didn’t really shine much (and I forgot to light two other candles). The ritual went well however I didn’t really feel any connection which disappointed me. I also got a strange omen reading. I decided to take three tarot cards (using Wildwood Tarot) – one for each kindred, asking “What blessings do the kindred offer me?” I received an upside down “The Seer” from the Shining Ones, the “Three of Arrows” meaning Jealousy from the Nature Spirits and “Ten of Stones” meaning Home from the Ancestors. Reading up what they meant, I’m not really sure what to make of the message as it doesn’t seem very positive. Putting together the messages, I think it might be telling me that there’s some negative emotions towards certain people that I need to deal with. However I’m not sure and am very confused.

The rest of my celebrations have included a big party with friends last night, making a maypole for my altar, decorating with flowers and hawthorn branches (Cornish tradition), going for a walk to nature to experience the beginning of summer, spending some romantic time with my partner and making summery foods like potato salad (vegan), flapjacks and homemade lemonade.





Happy Beltane – Nature Awareness Update 1st May 2013

1 05 2013

As its Beltane I decided to do my nature awareness hour today. It is warm and sunny today, with no clouds in the sky and very little wind. In fact it was warm enough to have no jumper on. When I arrived there were birds singing as usual. I noticed the horse chestnut had begun to flower and many of the trees buds had burst over the past week. In fact all the trees now had leaves or the beginnings of leaves on them. Sea gulls were flying overhead and there were a few wood pigeons in the trees.

English: Greag spotted woodpecker in Pyhäjärvi...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The moot swan was stood up on her nest for the first 20 minutes I was there. She was cleaning herself and then adding bits to the nest. She eventually sat down on it. I noticed that she has been alone since the first week I went out. The blue tit came to its nest box again and went inside for a long time. I saw a male blackbird and a crow/ raven/ rook (not sure which). There were quite a few small birds flying around and one was definitely a wren which was flying among the reeds. I saw a magpie and a great spotted woodpecker as I was leaving the conservation area.

Having talked to a horticulturalist, I discovered that what I thought were white blue bells last time are not actually bluebells (though the pink ones are) because they have a triangular stem. There are still some daffodils out too. There were lots of little insects in the pond and on top of it today, two of them appeared to be fighting. I saw a pond skater on the top of the pond too. There was a big bee flying around and a small one too. On the way home I saw four butterflies, two of which looked white but they were all too far away to identify them.

The sun was very bright today and I have sensitive eyes so I realised I need to bring sunglasses next time. I again forgot to take an offering too but I did speak to the nature spirits and spirit of the place. It was a nice relaxing hour and definitely felt like a festival of flowering.





Dedicant Path Week 7 – First High Holy Day Explanation – Beltane

28 04 2013
The bonfire lit to welcome Beltane morning. Ed...

Beltane Bonfire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beltane, meaning “bright fire” is one of the four great fire festivals of the ancient Celtic cultures. In ancient Irish culture it was the time when both the Tuatha De Danaan and the Milesians came to Ireland and was originally celebrated when the Hawthorns began to blossom. Half way between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice, it marks the start of the light half of the year and heralds the beginning of summer. According to historian Ronald Hutton, “the ritual of Beltane was found in all Celtic areas of the British Isles, but also in pastoral regions of Germanic and Scandinavian Europe.” The historical evidence for the celebration of this festival is much better than for others. The earliest references to it are from 900AD which state “lucky fire i.e two fires Druids used to make with great incantations, and they used to bring the cattle against the diseaseas of the year to those fires” and “they used to drive cattle between them.” Another reference says “a fire was kindled in his [Bel] name at the beginning of summer always, and cattle were driven between two fires.” Like the other three Celtic festivals, Beltane is mentioned in the Irish tale of Tochmarc Emire and the ritual of lighting bonfires at this time survived right up until the 19th century. Like Samhain, it was seen as a liminal time “when fairies and witches were especially active, and magical devices [were] required to guard against them.” To the welsh, it was one of the “spirit nights.”Hutton says that “rituals were conducted to protect…against the powers of evil, natural and supernatural, not merely in the season to come but because those malign powers were supposed to be active at this turning point of the year.”

Other celebrations in English areas at this time include “bringing in the May” and dancing around a Maypole. Bringing in the May dates back to at least the 13th century and refers to gathering flowers and foliage to bring home and celebrate the beginning of summer. Hutton says that there is no evidence for when the Maypole came to Britain but it was first recorded in a welsh poem in the mid 14th century and is also recorded in Scandinavia so probably originated from the continent. The May Pole was not a phallic or world tree symbol but was most likely simply a “focal point for celebrations” or something to hang garlands on.

Beltane marks the beginning of the pastoral season, the time when farmers traditionally moved their herds to summer pastures (driving them between two fires for blessing and protection first) and people could go outside because of the milder weather. The crops were in the ground by now and it was traditionally the beginning of calving season. There was lots of milkingto do and making dairy products like butter. It was the busiest time to visit water sources to collect water for healing and good luck. It was also a time for the renewal of rents.

Learning from historical practices, Gaelic reconstructionists celebrate this time by extinguishing a flame (ideally a bonfire) and relighting it. They eat a feast, usually including bannocks, decorate their houses with greenery and yellow flowers and collect dew or water in the morning (considered potent for healing and maintaining a youthful appearance). They also make offerings to the gods, carry out protection rites to sain their house and land while warding the boundaries, and make charms of rowan. Some groups also see this as a time to renew their bond with the land goddess (the nearest river) by giving her offerings at her river bank.

For norse reconstructionists and groups like Asatru, this festival is called Walpurgisnacht. It is a night when witches gather and magic happens. It is a time to honour Freya, the goddess of magic and love. Like the Gaelic reconstructionists, it is seen as a time of supernatural danger, and is celebrated with feasting, bonfires and protective rites.

ADF calls this day the Feast of Flowers, a time to celebrate fertility and reproduction, magic and love. It is also called the feast of the Sidhe or landspirits.

Beltane is a time for fertility, fun and flowers. By this time most of the tree buds have burst and they’re becoming green again, insects and bees are flying around and countless species of flowers are in bloom, including the beautiful bluebells. It is much warmer now and the land is fertile again. Summer has arrived. For me, its a great time to get outside and enjoy nature coming alive again. One can build a maypole to dance around, or decorate our homes with lots of flowers. It is a good time to eat seasonable foods and make lemonade. And it is a very good time to focus on the romantic side of life.

Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009.

http://www.gaolnaofa.com/festivals/

http://www.tairis.co.uk/

http://gaelicfolkway.webs.com/feiseannaomh.htm