Today is Beltane, and I am honored to be the one to light the fires and begin the fabulous dancing that will be done around this circle. My thanks to my darling Roxana Villa for the opportunity to play amongst such fabulous bards and what a month of May Flowers it will be. Be sure to check back at her Illuminated Journal every day to sees who is weaving our lusty May magic!
Beltane or Beltaine as the Irish speak of it is a lusty and passionate holiday full of surprises and all kinds of wonderful. None of us know what the Goddess has in store for us today, but I can promise you that if you are open to her magic you will enjoy every minute of it. Do be careful though…lots of sweet little babies are conceived today. That’s my only warning ,but you'd be wise to heed it....not that you'll really be able to control the outcome. Trust me she will always have her way!
I first became aware of the importance of the Beltane fires in my life through a dream. I awoke one morning , in the arms of my husband and he looked at me in surprise and asked me about the fires. “What fires “ I said… and then I remembered. In my dream we had been standing together in a place that seemed to be a castle of sorts. I was wearing some sort of night dress and he had come up behind me. I knew that it was him in the way that time and place meld together in the dream state , but he was blond with longer hair that was flowing back in the wind. He looked at me with the same deep blue eyes that he has now with a gaze that at that moment transcended lifetimes and said “they are lighting the fires and are in the fields…he wants the fires to be gone, he is sending them”. All I remember is the night falling and hearing the passion and sighs from the plowed fields beyond. I remember saying “Tell him that I said that he WILL allow the fires to burn” and shortly after that I remember falling into his arms and wandering out towards the pastures. I woke up naked and in a cold sweat. I knew that the mysterious “he” was someone of the church, who was trying to destroy my beloved “old ways”. I knew then that I’d known my husband in some other time or place where we’d been bound together by a spirituality that had its roots planted deep within the earth. I promised myself at that moment that for as long as it was in my power, the fires would never be allowed to go out.
May Day is the turning of the wheel in the Celtic year that we celebrate love and fertility, passion and life in all of its forms. Lambs and calves are born, trees are blooming, flowers and wild potherbs are appearing all over the fields and forests as if by magic. The honeybees have reappeared and are busy making love to the blossoms so that we can find our trees filled with ripe fruits come fall. We till our gardens and plant the seed that we’ve saved from last years harvest and we take long walks outside, grateful that the sun has finally come again and brought with it a deep rich warmth.
You needn’t go to far back into your imagination to see that centuries ago, these simple things would have appeared to be so magical to our ancestors. Sometimes, I think that science has destroyed the simple wonderment that comes from enjoying a life of following the seasons simply and passionately. For me, this time of year is marked by so many things that I look forward to , knowing that they will not pass through again until the wheel comes full circle again. The beautiful fragrant violets, the precious lilacs and vibernums…wild ramps with their deep oniony flavor and fiddlehead ferns. What about asparagus? I can’t think of anything more wonderful than a meal of fresh asparagus and a silky béarnaise sauce. Now with faster transport methods we can get so many different foods during times of the year when they don’t make any sense….Asparagus in September? Cherries in December? Fresh young lamb in January? Living as locally as possible and respecting the seasons and the presents that each one brings to us is not only a healthy way to eat, but a holistic way to live and when we are in touch with the earth’s rhythms it leads straight into the pathway of our souls.
For me one of the greatest joys of the month of May has always been the flowers that bloom in my parents gardens. So many of them like the asparagus and the wild forest herbs only come time each year and their fragrance is fleeting and beautiful. I think that if I could have them all year round it would be a disappointment to me, because the yearning is almost every bit as wonderful as the reality. Crabapple trees and their fragrant blooms can only come in May, but their fruits are August’s treasures. The old fashioned roses that bloom so abundantly produce generous rosehips for my tea in September. I live for the days that I am so present in this life that I know that everything and every season has its purpose and none are more precious than the other. The joy that spring brings is the renewal of life and passion. We do well to remember to make love and give love generously on this day. Gifts of flowers and bright May Baskets are traditional and gifts of passion are perfect. Grab your lover and dance....the possibilities are endless and I’ll leave it up to you to choose.
My parents grew many beautiful flowers in their gardens but none were more precious to me than the beautiful patch of lilies of the valley that grew back behind the terrace in a secret place that few knew about. Every year on the 1st of May I run into the back and there they would be pure little bells of white with strong green leaves just begging me to bury my face into the ground and inhale their sweet green scent. When my mother died we sold their home and this year was the first that I have not been able to see my beloved Lily’s. But today I was amazed to receive a truly precious gift from my son’s lovely girlfriend who had overheard me lamenting the loss. My father is in the hospital and Alex flew home to see him, so the four of us were going out to lunch. To my amazement, Cassie stopped me and said that she had a gift for me in her car. She ran back to me with the most beautiful bunch of Lily of the Valleys that I’d ever seen, nestled in a lovely bud vase and spring green tissue paper. She said that she’d overheard my sadness about my mother’s garden and that it would never do. I guess that she called all over the city to find the one and only bunch left. I was just so completely touched by her generosity and her passion for a love story that we can now share. These Lilies are my first ever May Basket, given to me by the women who loves my son. It is our connection to his grandmother whom she never knew and to me whom she does. My heart is full of the mystery of this lovely girl who shares his passions and our hearts. Life is sweet … so very sweet. The fiery circle is once again complete.
Today is the day that we light our fires once again with the intent to create life, celebrate our passion and ensure the fertile harvest not only of our fields , but of our souls. Feed each other juicy fruits and luscious things and make love with abandon, spend time in the fields, wander into the wilderness of your hearts and get lost there for more than a little while. Keep a little magic with you always and more than a touch of mystery. Remember that it’s the very things that we don’t really know that can bring us the most joy and above all remember to be glad...very glad to be alive. Life is juicy, fragrant and sometimes bittersweet. Life is also all about taking risks with your passions. Be a little naughty and enjoy your wildness. But remember what I said, because the Goddess WILL always have her way……..
All other pictures are courtesy of Beth Schreibman Gehring
Painting by William Waterhouse