There are worse conditions to be in than sore from too much dancing and leaping, hoarse from too much singing and howling, and just plain exhausted from just too much fun. Hey–it’s Monday after Beltaine weekend and as any Neo-Pagan can attest, Beltaine is less an event and more an experience.
It’s a joke in my Coven that every Sabbat is my favorite. Well, that’s because come every new Sabbat–that one IS my favorite. But if Beltaine isn’t in at least your top THREE favorite Sabbats….well…I don’t really know what to say about that. Beltaine–the Sabbat of Life. Six months on the other side of the Wheel of the Year from Samhain–the Sabbat of Death. There is moving. There is shaking. There is dancing and leaping and general hell-raising. How can it NOT be anyone’s favorite Sabbat???
But despite Beltaine’s seemingly carefree attitude, it carries with it a punch to the soul like a kick from a maniacal Satyr. I’ve often found that Beltaine takes the opportunity to release a lot of the toxic stuff we might have built up during the winter months when we were curled up inside. The weather is finally nicer. At least in New York, it’s usually the first time of the year when it’s warm enough outside to be pleasant for an outdoor Sabbat. People dance it out, and leap the fire, and get fresh air in their lungs and blood moving in their veins.
Back in the days of Pre-Christian Europe, it has been said that criminals or conquered enemies were sacrificed at Beltaine by being burned alive inside a giant man-shaped creation made of wicker called “The Wicker Man.” The intent could very well have been to purify the community of toxic elements. (The story of The Wicker Man also very well could have been an over-exaggeration by frightened Roman or Early Christian explorers. We don’t really know for sure!) FORTUNATELY, if these practices did exist, they are a thing of the past. But what we still can use from time to time is the opportunity to purge the toxic elements out of our own communities: resentment, jealousy, fear…the things that can build up into even uglier manifestations: hatred, bigotry, violence, and worse. We can use the tides of this season to purify ourselves of these things and build health and connection within the community.
I have a lot of blessed memories from this year’s Beltaine–but one I feel very important to share is the burning of the Wicker Man at Brid’s Closet’s Beltaine in Cornwall, NY on Friday night. Under that incredible supermoon, in a vineyard, under an enormous old tree, I gathered with many members of my Coven and our Cousin-Group. I was invited to perform the Wicker Man invocation. I invited the participants to come forward and scream their own nasties onto the Wicker Man created for the event. Unlike the Wicker Men of old, ours would not hold blood or sacrificed life–but it would carry the impurities of the community into the flames of the Beltaine fire. As the drums pounded and the people danced, one by one, those who were willing came up to the Wicker Man and bellowed their frustrations, hurts, furies, drama, and whatever else was clinging to them on to the man-shaped bundle of sticks. At one point, I could not even see the figure anymore as so many people leaned over it, crowing their nasties away. At the end of the raising, I carried the thing to the bonfire and ****WOOSH!**** It was gone in a puff.
I hope it worked. I think it did. 🙂
I think we miss an opportunity to really squeeze out all the blessings from the Sabbat when we focus on it solely as a holiday of revelry and do not take it as a time to allow catharsis for our community. Scream it out. Drum it out. Dance it out. Whatever you do, let the Beltaine fires burn, burn, burn away the gunk and leave us healthy communities.
How was your Beltaine? Did you celebrate? What did you do?