Note from Dana: I’m happy to have as my guest blogger, the talented poet and shaman, Jane Galer. Her intimacy with the natural world makes her the perfect spokeswoman for this cross-quarter holiday.
If you’re paying attention at all you by now will have noticed that about every six – eight weeks, roughly dividing the year into eighths, we are asked to clean house, mentally and physically. In the context of the indigenous Bronze or Iron Age dweller this was logic manifest by necessity as surely things were getting a bit ripe around the hut after weeks of hucking bones and fish guts out the doorway, not to mention the ‘necessary’ elimination process. Inside the ashes would be piling up creating a bit of a fire hazard. What better way to convince the more slovenly among us to keep up with our housekeeping but to make it into a religious event?
And so we find what we like to call the cross-quarter days, the mid period events between the solstices and equinox markers which have important and specific rituals attached to them. Samhain (Halloween) is dedicated to honoring the dead, while its flip-side, Beltane is about the fire of life. After a long winter of seclusion and meager food stores, the last great fire of the season is lit, not inside the hut, but out on the highest hillside proclaiming life with a capital L. There may be a ritual union of the maiden and the Green Man signifying the fertility of the season when lambs are born, plants are pushing up through the earth, chickens are laying again, while migrating birds are beginning to return to their summer quarters, unions are forged and pledges made. Taking the fire outside is sort of like cleaning out the fireplace and cleaning up the BBQ. In the old ways, fire cleanses. The serious side of warming by the fire, sinking deeply into the stories of winter gives way to the camaraderie of the camp fire, the seasonal trek, meeting new people, reviving friendships.
The message of Beltane is ‘Come out and play’– be on and of the Earth. Get up early on May morning and lie in the grass soaking up the dew. Dig in the garden, squish your feet in freshly turned soil, turn your face to the sun and thank him for inventing fire. With the house in order, open your door and step out into the world in the way of The Fool, the tarot card of the innocent and playful, the risk taker who knows nothing of risk. The Fool is always pictured with a companion dog at his heels, walking the edge of Life. Where is your edge now? Who will you take with you on your journey to the Summer Isles?