With Spring Equinox behind us we move forward on the wheel of the year, and as April foolery winds down, Beltaine is approaching. Also known as May Day, Beltaine is a celebration of the union of Masculine and Feminine energies, and traditionally falls on or around May 1st, within the sign of Taurus the Bull, which is the Fixed Earth sign of the Zodiac.
This is the time of the establishing of the roots in the earth. The seeds of our new endeavors are planted and beginning to sprout. They must not be disturbed, but need to be nurtured and fed. Perhaps using the energy of Taurus in the form of steer manure for our gardens would be one way to honor Beltaine’s fertility magic!
This is the time to celebrate fertility, through the blessing of the masculine seed as it enters the feminine earth. This sacred union was once celebrated symbolically through the act of making love in the furrows of the newly ploughed fields. This ritual of sympathetic magic was thought to bless the fertility of the crops, as well as that of the community. This time of year would also correspond with the bringing of the bulls and other animals to stud.
Each year around May 1st there is a gathering of men and women of all ages in my garden. A Maypole is decorated with colorful ribbons and hidden by an old Gary Oak tree across the road from my home. The Maypole is of course a phallic symbol, as well as representing the Tree of Life or World Tree. It is traditionally crowned with a circlet of flowers, which represents the Wheel of the Year, as well as being a symbol of the yoni, or vulva.
Once the sacred space is created for the celebration, the men will leave the women and gather at the pole. There they conduct their men’s mysteries which I, alas, cannot comment on, as I have never been privy to them! All I can say is that that when they return carrying the pole, they are well prepared with a variety of bawdy songs with which to encourage the women who are awaiting their return.
The women, meanwhile, have been preparing a hole that has been opened in the earth for the arrival of the pole. The hole is decorated with flowers and well lubricated with water, and the women prepare to call the men flirtatiously when they are good and ready. The women gather around the hole and hide it from the men as they return, and teasingly refuse to allow them access to the hole until the men have sung their bawdy songs.
The pole is then erected in the prepared hole, accompanied by assorted comments and encouragement’s. (Here you can use your imagination as to the possibilities.) The “crowning” of the pole is performed by a designated “maiden” who enlists some of the men to lift her aloft so that she might place her crown of flowers atop the pole.
The ribbons of the pole are then woven in a dance, the men weaving deosil (clockwise, or with the sun) and the women dancing widdershins, or counterclockwise. Decorating and dancing around the May pole is an ancient pagan celebratory ritual, and this is just one example of how it might be honoured.
The Maypole, thus entwined in its interwoven strands of colour is like the Tree of Life or the spine, and the ribbons are like the spiralling DNA of life, or the spiralling movement of universal growth. Our much celebrated pole now has many layers of ribbons wrapped around it, one for each year of its use. I let the Maypole stand in my garden for a few days beyond the ritual, as I love looking out of my kitchen window and seeing it there. I am convinced that it blesses my garden with its fertility magic. This way of celebrating Beltaine has become a yearly event for the Wiccan community of which I am a part. It is one of the most popular celebrations, drawing many revellers.
We always follow the dancing with a feast and in ancient agricultural pagan societies this would also have been an opportunity for the celebrants to go off into the fields and have sexual relations with whomever they fancied. Children conceived at Beltaine were considered magical, and blessed by the gods. In fact these children would often be given names like Robin’s son or Jacks’ son to indicate that they were fathered by the potent “Green Man” energy that prevails at this time of year.
Nowadays we make do with flirtations and bawdy jokes, but as the day turns to night, and the revellers return to their homes, perhaps the revelries of the day exert their influence on us more than we may admit. Whether you are called to celebrate the fertility of May through your body, through the land or through any creative endeavor, may Beltaine bless you with joy and good humor and may the Green Man be with you.
“Earth Day 2010” alicepopkorn @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
“Magnolias” John Hayes Photography @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
“Maypole” A Mothers Heart @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.