“Rise up, rise up, all hands together gonna rise up”
Wednesday, April 30, 2008, is Beltane; 4th spoke on the Wheel of Life and second only to Samhain in spiritual importance. Also known as Walpurgisncht and May Eve, this festival celebrates the union of God and Goddess. It is a fire festival and a fertility festival, aspects which form the basis for the decorations and activities associated with this event. Wednesday is Odin’s Day, and certainly god-energy is an important feature of the celebration.
All colors of the rainbow are good to wear on this day, but white, red, and dark green are the most usual. Regardless of what colors you and your guests choose to wear, use red, white, and dark green to decorate your altar and table. Braid your hair, too. Bearded gentlemen should braid their beards, if possible. Braiding and plaiting represent the union of god and goddess.
Serve your guests dairy foods, red fruits, green salads, breads, cereals, sweets, and pink or red wine. This could mean that your menu would include custards and quiches, salads, strawberries and cream (or ice cream), oatmeal cookies, whole-grain breads, and sangria. This is the last of the three fertility festivals, reaching its climax with the wedding of god and goddess. Toasts are appropriate, as is honoring all household guardian gods. Weather permitting, at least some of your activities should take place outside: in the Long Ago, this festival marked the beginning of summer, when folk rejoiced at being able to enjoy the outdoors once again.
May baskets* make good decorations, place cards, and party favors. Instead of lighting a fire in your cauldron, fill it with vines and spring flowers and use as a centerpiece. Roses represent the spiritual dimension of the soul; lilies can also be used to represent the goddess in your decorations.
If you have a large enough group, choose a man to represent Lord Sun/the Green Man/Robin Hood and a lady to represent the Goddess/the White Lady/Maid Marian. Crown them with wreaths of ivy/flowers/ribbons. They will preside at table, beginning with a ritual kiss and a toast to all present. If you build a fire outdoors, throw some healing/protective herbs such as rosemary on the embers. Give Maid Marian a fan or branch to use to waft the smoke over your guests as they process through the smoke. Animals also can receive this blessing. Small pets (gerbils, birds, snakes, cats) may be carried. If you are able to build your fire at ground level, guests may opt to jump over the embers and through the herbal smoke. I suggest that, before doing so, they make sure there are no trailing ribbons or fibers that might catch on fire.
Decorating and dancing around a May Pole is another familiar ritual. Affix an even number of red and white ribbons to the top of your pole. Men take the red ribbons, women the white. Dancing and singing while weaving the ribbons in an “over and under” pattern can be much fun! “Summer Is A’Comin’ In” is a traditional song to sing at this time.
Don’t forget elves and faeries. Red carnations attract to your garden faeries who enjoy healing animals, lobelia attracts winged faeries, heliotrope is enjoyed by fire elementals, and all faeries enjoy the pleasant sound of bells. They like shiny things, too, so placing small mirrors or crystals in your garden will be beneficial.
* Note: to make a May basket: to a ready-made basket add ribbons and vines woven through the basket material. Small bells may be affixed to the ends of the ribbons. Fill the baskets with fresh flowers and greenery.
Kate Braun / The Rag Blog