Green Man Grove Beltane 2001 Ritual Report:

Hubris is not good; it pisses off the Gods. We’ve been bragging about our rituals, and while we’ve had three excellent ones in a row (brag... brag... what was that about hubris?), I guess we were due for a bit of a clunker. Actually, I can’t remember any really spectacular Beltane rituals we’ve done as a grove, although we’ve had some great Beltane parties. Beltane always seems to be a party with a ritual attached, rather than the other way around. We make up for our weenie Beltane rituals with lots of props and fun things to do: hobby horse, rag man, dragon, flower hair wreaths, belly dancing, drumming, maypole, labyrinth, etc.... The ritual was just one of many events at our Beltane May Faire, and everything else was great. Then again, the ritual was perhaps the most important part of the festival, as far as the religion goes....

We had several problems with this ritual:
First, Beltane has never been one of our best rituals. As I said, it’s always a great party, but never one of our best rituals. Most of the folks in the grove are well-balanced in their sexual personae— we don’t have a lot of ‘manly-men’ and ‘girly-girls’ in the grove— and we have quite a few gays, bisexuals, celibates (and others whose sexuality can only be termed “alternative”). We’re not big on that grunting, groaning “put the pole in the hole” thing (although Wandering Al did do a good job of grunting and etc. when we put the pole in the hole...).

Second, we picked a specific tree to be our World Tree, but when it came time to invoke the tree as a gate, we decided to make all the trees in the forest the gate. We also made the sun the sacred fire and all the water in the area the well... [Note from Senior Druid– we were trying to placate something in the space that was already unhappy... we did this so that anything that felt left out could be part of the ritual.] Good intention, bad result.

Third, when I went to invoke the outsiders, the place reminded me that we were outsiders compared to all the trees and plants and animals and bugs that lived there. We’ve used this site (Lewis Morris Park, Morristown) twice now for Beltane, and it’s a great site, but I think that if we used it more frequently, or made an offering specifically to it before the ritual (even days before), the site would have been happier. We can work on this.

Fourth, the way we do rituals, relying on inspiration and preparation over memorization and scripting, we are always open to stumbling invocations. It’s a wonder this hasn’t happened before!

Fifth, as Sean pointed out at the subsequent dedicants meeting, we were right next to the labyrinth, which had its own center and its own energy thing happening. He felt that the labyrinth space interfered with our creation of sacred space in the ritual.

Our less-than-wonderful Beltane Ritual:

The procession— Pattie and Norma leading us all in the Padstow May Morning Song, me leading the Hobby Horse (who was Erica), the Dragon (Jack, Lorinda and Madeleine), the Horned Rag Man (Al) and the rest of the grove down the hill and around the site— worked out fine, although we were all out of breath. Maybe we should have just sung the chorus and walked immediately to the site, then gathered and sang the rest when we weren’t walking. I’d like to try this again next year– maybe process with drums and then sing when we get there. Regardless, it was a colorful paegent and we’ve got some dandy pictures of it on our web site. We had over 40 people.

Erica and I danced the Hobby Horse “death-and-rebirth” part of the Padstow ritual. Then the ritual started. As soon as we sat down it seems our attention was scattered by the trees, the sun, the stream, the birds, the maypole ribbons swaying in the breeze....

Al started us off with a kick-ass Earth Mother invocation.

Norma’s meditation involved opening your hand slowly over and over again like a flower blooming.
I pointed out the horizontal directions, asking around the circle if anyone came from the North; if anyone came from the South; etc... “and where did you come from?”.

Pattie invoked the well– I poured in our ritual water and some stream water.

Deb invoked the tree, stressing how you can always remind yourself that your roots are in the ground and your spirit is moving to the sky by simply looking at a tree.

Brenda, invoked the fire nicely.

Norma invoked Manannan and opened the gates. She asked the grove if we’d like to try using all the water, all the fire (including the sun) and all the trees as gates, and we agreed “to see what happens”. When the gate opened, it was diffused far beyond the ritual space, and our attention and focus was diffused as well. Invocations tended to be halting and spacey and difficult to begin. The energy didn’t so much flow, as evaporate.

I honored the outsiders, pointing out that we were also outsiders in this particular place.
Marcia and Maria-Elena invoked Brigid beautifully and flawlessly. Good thing, too, because we really needed her.

Erica invoked the ancestors, asking us to hold our hands up and imagine holding the hands of our parents, and them holding the hands of their parents... on into antiquity....

Brenda invoked the Nature Spirits by telling us to listen to them. This was perfect in that spot, as they were all around us.

Sean gave us a lovely Goddesses and Gods invocation, comparing the presence of the Deities to a
beautiful song.

Pattie invoked Epona, describing her from old stories.

Erica invoked Belenos in the bright sunshine– a great rousing invocation that had us repeating his attributes and pounding our hands on our thighs. This was really cool.

I’d been lighting candles for each invocation, and now all were lit.

We offered praise; different people offering different things. Jenne offered stuff to the stream, Kim offered peacock feathers, Erica read a new web-coding poem about Arachne, I read an e. e. cummings poem, Marcia recited a poem, Zyalia read a wonderful God/Goddess Beltane poem that is used in her coven, Al sang his “Da Deer Run Run” song and Norma told us a cautionary Beltane tale about a kelpie. We ended with group drumming and belly dancing.

We used Erica’s “Celtic Greenwood Tarot” for the omen– a really funky thing– and after much discussion and vexation and consultation with the Senior Druid, our Diviners held forth:

Pattie: Protection (4 of coins)
Jenne: Jealousy (3 of swords)
Peggy: Endurance (5 of coins)
Kim: Death (yup!)

Norma pulled 2 cards to clarify the message:
Skill (8 of coins)
Balance (Temperance)

As we were told this last Spring Equinox, this will be a “working Spring”, nothing changed there. On top of that, we have a number of people dealing with major health crises– either themselves, or family, or friends. Still, this is a pretty sucky omen.

The next day, in an e-mail, Marcia told us that as she was drifting off to sleep, she had a strange experience: she couldn’t remember whether it was aural or eidetic, but it was an alternative interpretation of Beltane’s oracle. Our method is to read the cards separately, and then try to determine from the sum total. In her dream, she was told that the cards composed a sentence fragment: “Protection from poverty (or illness), heartbreak, and death.”

Either way you interpret it, we have the Protection and Endurance cards to help us.

We continued the ritual, catechized the waters, jumped the candles (fires not allowed) and ended the rite.
We danced the maypole– the new maypole worked fine, I think it’s the first time we haven’t had a maypole that sways and needs help standing up (thank you Danny!). We ate food and talked and played around.

Everybody helped clean up. All the kids were especially great– Erica nominated Lucas as “MVP for the day.”

Everyone seemed to have had a really good time, but I hope that our Beltane ritual improves somewhat. We’ll have to think about this....

—Edwin Chapman, Scribe

We’d like to thank Zyalia from Black Dirt ProtoGrove for the Glastonbury water that she brought us on Beltane. It was added to our well, and has also been given to friends and grove members who have been having health problems.