Beltane 2002 Ritual
A strange beautiful rush of color and smiles. What a happy Beltane! The
best Beltane ever!
We had 35 people at the ritual. Somewhere around 40 for the whole day
not counting a few innocent bystanders. There was rain in Hunterdon County,
a few miles west, but it was clear and sunny in Lewis Morris Park. Warm
enough to go barefoot if you wanted to.
We blessed the site at 10am. (Wed done a site blessing the week before,
honoring the spirit of the place and the nature spirits.) More and more
people came and immediately started making flower wreaths. It seemed like
everyone had a camera, and most of the pictures were of one-year-old Sean,
or Brendas kids playing in the stream or in the maypole streamers.
(Check Out Our Beltane
Photos) Mark sunk our maypole with a manly thunk and
without a lot of fuss. I set out the flour labyrinth, and Pattie and I drew
chalk hill figures: the Uffington Horse and a rather squat long-man. We
all somehow got all the food up to the pavilion. Nearly everyone wound up
with a flower wreath, a fern wreath, orin Ericas casea
dandelion wreath. Al wore antennaes with nuts on the ends. Everyone looked
beautiful, the sun was shining, people were smiling.
We managed to herd everyone together for Patties Hill Figure lecture.
(She is known in the small towns of southern England as that American
Hill Figure Enthusiast.) Her lecture about Gogmagog and other figures
was amusing and informative, especially the ancedote (told by Erica) about
how Pattie shamed a British town council into funding the cleanup of one
of the white horses.
Marcia of led us in an intense drumming workshopgetting us to drum
interconnecting African rhythms. Not only did we all have fun, Marcia enjoyed
herself so much she volunteered to do a full workshop. (Right Marcia?)
Peg the dancer arrived, and with Amys help, introduced us to American-style
Tribal Belly Dancing. Lots of us enjoyed watching the dancing, and it looked
like the dancers enjoyed it, too.
A debt of gratitude to Peg and Marcia and Pattietheir workshops kept
the Beltane energy hopping.
We got ourselves into a clump for Ericas pre-ritual briefing. She
explained that she was going to lead the ritual so that we didnt contain
the energy of the season or the site we would just let it flow and
sort-of surf on it. Erica thought a lot about how our Beltane rituals usually
go, and came up with a way to make the most of the ritual: brief, spontaneous
invocations; a light and informal meditation; inappropriate praise discouraged
all to keep the energy from binding up or slowing down.
After the briefing, where we all heckled her unmercifully an odd experience
for Erica, who is usually part of the pre-ritual heckling we headed
for the bathrooms and masks and costumes. Justin led our 3-person dragon
puppet, with Betty and Jack behind. Al got up into the hobby-horse. I pulled
the horned rag-guy over my head. Cheap plastic animal masks were distributed
to everyone. Pattie and Norma started Hal-an-Toe and off we went processing
around the site. We circled and sang and pranced and discarded our masks
and costumes, somewhat, and sat in a clumpy circle on the grass around the
Greg chimed the chime (its really, really time to buy a new chime!)
and Erica announced that we were here to honor the Gods... Josh invoked
the Earth Mother very well, but in keeping with our usual Beltane buh?
spirit. He had a stick with leaves on the end of it.
Erica led us in a short light meditation, just as she promised, that felt
so good we did the breath thing twice. I did the horizontal directions,
under great duress, enduring a pelting of bad puns. However, I believe I
finally did accomplish it. Deb invoked the well, and the ocean, too, with
water from the stream. Betty invoked our fire, mentioning how our ancestors
lit it in times past, while Peg lit it and acted as fire-tender. Daphne
kept the maypole ribbons from catching fire throughout the entire ritual,
for which we are very grateful.
Jen Micale invoked the Bilé by having us look up at all the trees.
She talked about our roots in the earth, our branches in the sun.
Nej invoked and offered to Manannan Mac Lir. Manannan and Erica and the
grove opened the gates (like a wicket gate in a picket fence). Nej later
reported that Manannan was a little cranky that we didnt sing to him
this time. We will be working on a special Manannan song.
Norma, who has led us in ritual but hasnt offered to the outsiders
in quite a while, offered to the outsiders. She was reluctantly coaxed back
into the circle.
Brenda invoked Brigid, our muse, asking for immediate help, and we sang
Fire Us Up!
Jenniforensic invoked our ancestorswho have been through this all
before, who stood up on Beltanes in times long past and said Buh?
and lit fires and made offerings and had fun.
Al gave us a spirited nature spirits invocation, starting with a joke and
his Deer Run Run song and progressing to the heaviest, most
soulful rendition of Fur and Feather that I think Ive
Hillary hooked us up with the Goddesses and Gods, talking about how Nature
is such a mysterythat is, if you know nothing about Biology or Environmental
Scienceand going on and on in perfect English with perfect diction
and precise vocabulary until Erica pointed out that this was Hillarys
way of going Buh? Hillary made her offering.
Pattie and I began our GogMagog invocation by singing And did these
feet in Ancient Times walk upon Englands mountains green?/And was
the holy lamb of God on Englands pleasant pastures seen? Well, actually,
no. All that stuff happened in the Middle East. Not in England at all. However,
at that time, there were other Gods and Goddesses in England....
We traipsed around the maypole, invoking Gog the fertile father, the guy
with the sword whose real name we dont even know, and Magog, the moon-faced
primeval mother. We asked them to look over at us, across the sea, from
their hilltop in Cambridge, and come across and bless our little Beltane
and accept our offerings. I remember anointing the pole and the well, but
I dont remember what happened next, although Norma told me later that
at one point she turned to Erica and asked when they should intervene to
recover their respective spouses. I dont remember, really. Everyone
seemed happy with it, tho.
Praise included a great Beltane limerick by Nora, more 60s songs by Josh
and me (a short funny Buh Buh Ann; T-Rexs Ride a
White Swan), Normas recitation of a Michael Ranauro song, Ericas
reading of Amy Lowells Canterbury Bells and Jen Micales
magical world-stopping Summertime that actually did stop one
of our innocent bystanders, watching from the path, and hold him entranced.
(The site is a natural ampitheatera fact we should take into account
and use in the future!) There were other offerings of poems and vows and
stones and flowers and stuff. Erica sent our praises and offerings up on
the wings of eagles, on the shoulders of the wind...
After Imbolc and the Equinox, we decided to draw our omens for Beltane by
either A) continuing with our mass reading of omens and then letting the
omen readers battle it out until only one omen remained, or B) having only
one omen reader. We chose B, and Norma, who tranced most of the ritual,
gave us our omen, commenting that since we allowed the energy to do
whatever it was going to do, and not impose any constraints on it: the planes
overhead picked up and for the first time in this site, we had outsiders
on both sides of us. Last year, we were the outsiders; this year we were
the insiders in a happy Beltane bubble. The day, the weather, and the spot
were with us. The wind was playing with us the whole ritualswitching
directions and chiming in as people were invoking, and teasing Peg as she
kept the candles lit. (Norma finally put a loose tie on the wind until the
end of the ritual.) She gave us our omen from the Cabbage Patch Deck
which was actually the Golden Dawn deck: the 3 of cups (Abundance), the
4 of coins (Power). Good Beltane omens, and certainly fitting for the day:
abundance of people, food and happiness; power of spring and the shining
The ritual was like a kite in the wind: we played it out and did tricks
with it. We did a small magical act for rainNej led us in a childrens
rain rhyme and we shared the Waters of Life with the land and each
other as our pourers poured and our passers-out did that. Some of us jumped
the fire, the ritual ended and we thanked Gog and Magog and the Kindreds
and Manannan and Brigit. We danced the Maypole (twice is nice!) and Marcia
and I got into a spontaneous stag dance. Micki and Allie lured several of
the adults into the mucky stream. Erica and Norma got into a ritualistic
stick fight. Folks climbed the hill and feasted and walked the labyrinth.
The bystanders were invited over to join us and eat some food. The biker
dudes south of us said the maypole was really beautiful and
they walked the labyrinth.
Deb mentioned that it was one of those days when you can read everyone,
and everyone could read you so easily, and everyone was happy!
The next Tius Day, April 30th, traditional Beltane Eve, six of
us (Hillary, Betty, Nej, Norma, Ed and Margaret) stayed over at Ed &
Normas (joined for a while by Jen Martin), and five of us stayed
up all night. We all took turns frying up fairy cakes, watched a video
of Alan Lomaxs Padstow May Day featuring Padstows big furry
fertility horse, and talked and told stories until just before sunrise
when we took a Guinness and fairy cakes and offered them in the back
yard. We then woke up Margaret (Margaretit was such a treat to
see you again!) and, joined by Sue W., took off for Princeton!
We got to the Battlegrounds just as the light was rising through the
mist-greeted by the Morris Dancers, who had us scheduled in their
programmet up with Pattie and Erica and Marcia and Maria-Elena.
During a break in the dancing, Sue from Handsome Molly introduced us
and Pattie explained that in Padstow, England, at this very momenteven
allowing for the time differencethey were doing just this and
had been since dawn. And we danced our hobby horse, Erica as the horse,
me as the pirate/fool/tumbler, while P & M & ME & B &
M & H & N & S & N all sang their brains out like a flock
of morning birds in the dawn air.
Tumbling around proved pretty strenuous this year, and I managed to
set loose a kidney stone (I found this out about a week later) but Norma
said that the crowd loved us. It was so cool to see a crowd out on a
cold field at dawn on Beltane! We did the magical death and rebirth
part (which is probably a get down and boogie and poke at the
ground and fertilize the earth thing) and rose again. One Englishman
there later mentioned to Erica that we had a very church and school
hobby horse meaning, I think, PG rated.
It all went very well, better than last year, and the sunrise was absolutely
beautiful and the air warmed up and the mist disappeared. The dancers
finished up and danced off... and we drove out to a diner in Hillsborough
for breakfast10 of us.