Beltane marks the beginning of the Summer season in the Celtic calendar. It is one of four cross-quarter fire festivals and customs to celebrate this delicious day are both plentiful and varied. There is, of course the ubiquitous maypole dance symbolizing the sacred union of the God and Goddess. Perhaps you are also familiar with the crowning of the May Queen or the Catholic counterpart of May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mother, which do include laying a wreath of flowers upon Mary's sainted head. At Beltane the Celts built bonfires and drove their cattle through the smoke as a blessing upon the herd as part of the festivities. Just as the veil thins at the waning of the year on Samhain and we are gifted with the presence of our ancestors, so too does it thin at Beltane and the blossoming otherworld of the Fey is very close at hand. We leave festive baskets of flowers upon our friends and neighbors doorsteps taking care not to be caught lest the sprite-like mystery of it be spoiled. And then there is The Hunt, a ceremonial dance depicting the Goddess and the God's pursuit of one another.
This year my circle was treated to an extraordinary ritual prepared for us by several members of our group. We met near Sun Prairie on the familial homestead of one of our members. I knew we were in for quite a show and I waited with excited anticipation. We even had to postpone by one week as our central Montana climate did not get the memo that Summer had started and instead dumped a season's worth of rain upon us in matter of a few days. Waiting was a necessary sacrifice and it made the final event so much sweeter. As we made our way to the ritual gathering hawks flew along side us and when we arrived a bald eagle flew overhead, gracing us all with it's presence. The magick had already begun!
No detail of beauty was spared. A delightful wreath of daises marked the rural road leading us to our site. Glass lanterns illuminated our paths. Ribbons hung on a branch flocked with blossoms served as a portal to our circle. The circle itself was enclosed in strand after strand of fairy lights. As soon as we arrived we were all transported into a magickal fairy realm. We feasted on a grand potluck of delicacies brought by everyone who came. I contributed cucumber sandwiches and lilac syrup, saving my decadent chocolate cake for the morning. The fete was off to a proper start and as soon as nightfall came, our Priestess, Sara announced it was time for the ritual to begin.
We were anointed with rose oil and asked if we were prepared to enter the circle. Once we answered we passed through the ribbons and into sacred space. There were branches laid out in a circle around the fire pit, one for each of us and we were instructed to stand behind the branch of our choosing. As soon as I took my place I was overcome with emotion. Surveying the scene: the pink sunset; the bend in the creek; and my beautiful circle sisters and brothers. I welled up with joyful tears. Sara led the ritual with such strength and beauty. We all focused the intention of what we wished to cultivate into the sticks we held in our hands and then went around the circle sharing what we wished to manifest. After each participant declared their desire, the circle would erupt in a resounding chorus declaring, "The time is now!" Once we had finished our sticks were collected, bound and set upon the stacked tier of the bonfire to be used as the kindling which would set it ablaze. The flames rose up instinctively as did my sense of awe. It was primal, ancient and bone deep.
Sara taught us the chant we would use to raise energy,"Circle of Life ● Circle of Sound ● Circle of Beltane ● Circle Around." We would add one voice after another and chant as The Hunt played out before us. As she began our God and Goddess appeared and started their playful chase. The sight of them took my breath away. They were stunning! The sound of our chant grew louder as the chase grew more intense. I drank in as deeply as possible the incredible beauty of the moment all the while feeling like I had been whisked off to another realm. This was magick! The chant and the hunt culminated in a powerful conclusion. The God and the Goddess exchanged vows of devotion, the beauty of the moment captivating all of us with its allure. The group, 14 strong let up a cheer loud enough for the Gods to hear and sent our wishes out on the embers and the breeze. We danced and drummed around the fire into the wee hours, our excitement for the season to come blossoming into fullness. Nestled into a tiny peninsula on a hairpin curve of Mill Coulee Creek we made stunning magic all night long.