Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Wish for Beltane!

Woo-hoo! It's Beltane 2012, and it's time to party!

Beltane is celebrated across the northern hemisphere on May 1, and has been celebrated by Celtic/Druidic and Pagan races for thousands of years.  It is seen as both a celebration of the coming Summer sunshine and warmth, banishing the dark and cold of Winter, and as a fertility ritual bringing about the Season of Growth.

The word 'Beltane' is derived from the Irish Gaelic term for 'Bright Fire', and was celebrated with bonfires and other traditional celebrations.  In modern times, the Christian religions usurped many of the pagan festivals that occur around this time of year to their own purposes.  Thus we have Ostara becoming Easter, and celebrations such as Dancing round the Maypole (a fertility rite), the May Queen Processions, and Holy Days dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus, representing the Goddess as the Mother, all deriving from celebrations around the time of Beltane, and what was seen as the start of the growing season.


Wiccans, and those who celebrate the early European religions, venerate the God and Goddess in the forms of The Green Man and The Green Woman at this time of year, both of which symbolize the power of renewal and fecundity that the Earth brings in the returning Sun and warmth, which, if plentiful and nurturing, repays us with a bountiful harvest later in the year. In many places, a symbolic representation of The Green Man is burnt in effigy on the Beltane bonfires, in much the same way that a relatively modern Guy Fawkes is burned on bonfires in England on November 5th - he is actually yet another usurpation of the Green Man that allowed 16th century English folk to still have their pagan festival under the guise of a secular celebration of the saving of King James I and the English Houses of Parliament.

Of course, there are numerous icons of Fertility and Fecundity associated with these pagan festivals across Europe that represent the pagan predilection for celebrating the power of the Goddess and God to provide them with the abundance of Nature in many forms - food, water, heat, light, love, and, of course, sex!  One of the most famous of these effigies is known as the Giant of Cerne Abbas - a 180 feet high carving in the chalk bedrock above the village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset, England.  A representation of this carving is shown here, as the Five of Bows from the Wildwood Tarot deck. (All of the Tarot cards in this post come from that deck.)  As can be seen from the picture, the Giant is very well endowed, and legend has it that a woman seeking to get pregnant should sleep in the area of the Giant's phallus, and she will be blessed with a child very shortly afterwards!  This representation adds a bow to the outstretched hand of the Giant, which is not actually part of the original.  However, recent archeological work done on the site of the Giant shows that he used to carry a cape or net draped over his arm, and that, below that there was a disembodied human head!  The cape/net, along with his nobbed club, identifies him as a hunter, but the authorities are split over the symbolic meaning of the head!
Naturally, many neo-pagan religions continue to celebrate these festivals, and many groups exist that enjoy these celebrations to the fullest in the freedom and enlightenment that we enjoy in our modern world!

So, let's celebrate Beltane fecundity in kind, everyone, and let's have a wonderful Summer!

Blessed Be!


A couple of May Queens celebrating Fecundity

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