So drum beat and flute sound
Once more we’ll circle ’round
For the world turns and the wheel spins
And all ends that once begins.
This green hour, the heart knows,
Is brief as the budding rose.
Though wheel turn and bloom fade
The heart sings the birth of May.
Beltane Night by Jaiya
Blessed May Eve to One and All
The Wheel turns, no matter what.
First, a bit of an editorial, if you will bear with me:
I was given this message a few years ago, but it has been pulling on my sleeve, whispering like an ancestor song in the wind, fresh and more urgent than ever. I am being reminded and reminded again:
As you go a-Maying, as you bow to the unfurling oak leaves, dance the ancient steps with the Shining Ones this night, revel in the sweet, swelling blossoms that will bear the fruit of Autumn long months from now… As you wash your face in the early dew tomorrow, and listen to the call of the wood thrush, the robin, the fussy jays and wrens squawking to chase you from their nests, remember this:
Beltane returns each and every year. It may be have been borrowed, for a while, by human agendas, to honor labor, or as a holiday to rattle sabers, and show off military might.
But tyrants rise and fall. Governments, wars, whole civilizations, and even existential challenges to Life itself have come and gone many times before this. In fact, for millennia.
We have been viscerally, dramatically, uncompromisingly reminded of this fact in the months since Imbolc and Ostara.
Despite vast heartache unimaginable, despite terror and pain across every continent, here in the Northern Hemisphere, the magic of May Eve and Beltane arrive just the same.
They come as an ancient, sacred blessing to all who receive them with grace, joy, and the ecstasy of the Earth Herself.
We are at an unprecedented moment in the history of humankind, with a most ominous future for civilization as we have known it, as well as for the living land and all who share this planet together.
Yes, that is all true. But now, at this sacred threshold, even with so much death and ruin, the life force that calls to us now from the living land is irresistible. If at all possible, I urge you to pause during this holy time.
I mean REALLY stop: the social media, the escapist distractions, the compulsive hyper-vigilance, the endless rehashing of everything that is happening in the human realm.
Put aside for a little while the accumulated baggage of these bitter weeks of fear, hurt, and frustration, and receive the restoration that can only be given by the hand of the Holy One(s).
This year, our celebrations of Beltane, and Samhain in the Southern Hemisphere, will be bittersweet. We will not be able to join hands, spiral dance or dance the Maypole, leap the fires, or honor our beloved dead in our communities.
But listen closely and know that our Faery kin still dance nearby this night. The dew beads up on the grass and flowers tomorrow morning, promising its magical elixir (keep reading for more about all this).
Although we cannot gather in our covens and groves, we know we are blessed by countless ancestors and Mysterious Ones in our solitary or family rites. They have seen all this before, and are here with us now.
While there is no guarantee who among us will still be on this side of the veil when the Wheel returns to this place next year, the horrors we are enduring will change, and change again.
So remember this: even passing across the gates of Death itself, these shadows have no real power against the love that is the beating heart of Beltane.
The Wheel of Time endures. The divine conspiracy of Love abides.
They always have, and we, the children of the Wise, know they always will.
Today is May Eve, Walpurgisnacht, or Beltane Eve!
The name Beltane means bright fire, bale fire, or Fire of Bel, referring to the Sun God, Bel or Belinos.
One of the most magical nights of the year, in Germany, Walpurgisnacht begins at sunrise on this date and ends at sunrise tomorrow, the first day of May.
At the Great Sabbat of Beltane, the young God is in the fullness of His manhood, and in love, gives Himself to the Goddess.
At this time, we honor the Horned God of the Celtic and Teutonic peoples. He embodies the vitality of animal life, in the ways that the Green Man embodies the vitality of all plant life.
Traditional bonfires and torches of rosemary and juniper are lit, bringing sweet purification and protection to all. Birch boughs are also placed on all doors and windows to protect the home from evil spirits and sorcery.
In days of old, when sexuality was joyful and without shame, the young people went out “a-Maying” into the woods and fields on May Eve, celebrating their pleasures with each other throughout the night. They would return home in the morning, laden with flowers and green branches.
Not only were these trysts tolerated, they were blessed, for they were rites of sympathetic magick that ensured fertility in the growing season.
Children born from the Maying were often called Jack, Jackson, Hodson, or Robinson since they were the children of the Jack in the Green, Hod (a woodland sprite) or Robin Goodfellow (or Robin Hood, another form of the Green Man).
While you might or might not be able to make love to someone out in the woods, fields, or back yard tonight, you can still bring the May into your life by bringing home green branches, flowers, and branches of flowering trees. (Be sure to ask their permission first).
Better yet, avoid cutting living plants, and plant your garden so that over time, you will transform your house into a garden bower. Make a wreath to hang on the door or to crown your Goddess images.
The Veil is Thin
Like the more somber Samhain, which our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are now preparing to celebrate, this is a time when the veils between the worlds are most thin and we may truly experience the quantum wave of other realities.
Pay attention, and you may find that other realms bleed through into ours, making divination strikingly clear, and encounters with non-ordinary beings more likely.
Traditionally, Samhain-tide is the season we can expect visitations with the Ancestors. But they might also come calling on this night as well, especially the ones with whom you have the most light-hearted relationships.
It’s more likely, however, that at this time of the year, the Otherworlds that open are those of the Good Folk, who are now very active and close to us.
It is said that on this night, the Queen of the Sidhe rides out on her snow-white horse, at the head of the Seelie Court, possibly looking for mortals to lure away to Faeryland for seven years.
Folklore says that if you sit beneath a tree on this night, you will see Her or hear the tinkling of Her horse’s bells as She rides by. If you hide your face, She will pass you by but if you look at Her, She may choose you.
Please keep in mind that as attractive as this may sound, the lands of the Shining Folk are not the wee, quaint places depicted by Disney or the Victorians.
Yes, the Faery lands are intensely beautiful, but they are not human places and can be quite perilous for those who are not respectful or learned in the ways of the Lordly Ones.
Even if you don’t stay up all night a-Maying, at least remember to get up early tomorrow, and wash in the magical dew of Beltane morn:
The fair maid who, the first of May
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be.
Other sources suggest using the dew found under oaks or on ivy leaves. My teacher, the famed author and Celtic tradition expert RJ Stewart, suggests that this centuries-old tradition is the basis of modern-day Flower Remedy healing.
Similarly, you might make a special wish as you wash your face in the gathered dewdrops, or as you drink from a well before sunrise.
All Acts of Love and Pleasure Are My Rituals
For most of us, the actual cross-quarter day (that is precisely halfway between Equinox and Solstice) will be May 4 in most of North America (and the 5th in much of Europe).
Of course our ancestors did not limit their Beltane festivities to only one day, nor were they reckoned by some number on a calendar. They celebrated based on observation of the heavenly bodies, the cycles of their crops and animals, and a feel in the air. So you need not curtail your celebrations only to May Eve, or May Day, by the modern calendar.
Beltane’s energy, to those who are open to it, is warm, magical, sexy, and inspiring.
The doorways between our mundane, human realm and the real, primal worlds are open. Answer the call to explore the hidden paths of enchantment that our ancestors knew.
Let us take deep pleasure in this beautiful time of year, and let it be a healing balm to a world of hurt.
And tonight especially, go out and allow the beauty of this lusty time to make your blood dance. Include an intimate loved one in your rites, if you are blessed with such a person and it is safe to do so.
Most of all, enjoy the lovely finery that our beloved Gaia has cloaked Herself in, and let yourself be seduced by Her.