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Episode 15: Beltane and Calan Mai

May Day and Beltane (Calan Mai in Welsh) is not just celebrated at May 1, but throughout the Season of welcoming winter. Every region blossoms and blooms at different times, so the rituals and festivals are never constricted to one specific day. The themes of these celebrations are very universal. We are taking time to notice the shift from the dark half of the year to the light. This Celtic holiday is more important to them than the Solstice or Equinox because the year was split in half, Dark and Light. Samhain was seen as the start of Winter and the Beltane is the start of Summer.

There are two main themes that come to mind when I learn the histories of this festival: Fertility and Cleansing. In this episode, I talk about the fertility rites and symbols of the May Pole, the May Queen and the Green Man (aka. the Horned God), the Morris Dancing, and other fun festivities that are still alive in traditions across Europe today. In Cornwall, they have a funky festival when a giant dark Hobby Horse is a bunch of men in one horse costume that parades through the streets. Beware any young ladies that get caught under the curtain of the horse, she may wind up pregnant the next day!

The cleansing rituals have a very practical element from farming and livestock raising. The cattle and sheep needed to be brought out and sent to their Summer pastures. The people lit two bonfires and led the livestock through the smoke to cleanse their fur of any mites and bugs. The fires of Beltane became a well known symbol and part of the rituals from then on. The elements of the season are incorporated in the festivities: flowers, herbs, planting seeds, fire, water, and youth.

I like to take the Calan Mai as a time to reflect on the point of the year that emerges from Winter. We are coming back into the "light" and we've been given time to face our shadows and give birth to new ideas. I am no longer a Maiden, but I will forever be a part of Maiden as I move through stages of Mother and Crone. We are all things, and all things are one.

No matter your gender or physical phase of life, we are all in the stages of production. We are creators of our own world and fertile with possibilities of that creation. Beltane marks a moment in the year to consider the possibilities of what is next for the most productive time of year. What projects are you personally working on? What would you like to see happen in the next 12 months of your business/relationship/family/life? We take measurable steps toward those goals by becoming "pregnant" with those ideas and set to task at "giving birth" to them when they go from our imagination into the physical world.

The May Queen and the Green Man are a great way to symbolize the Sacred Union of Masculine and Feminine energy within you. Design a wedding of balance within yourself. I am particularly fond of the theme of Sovereignty Goddesses from Irish or Welsh legends, the archetype of the Woman representing the very land itself and she tests the King to find his worthiness of ruling and protecting the land and people. When the Woman and the King enter into sacred unity together, she has found him worthy and he upholds his oath. I love the idea of each of us having both elements of these archetypes within our own selves, we are tested and found worthy of putting on our crown of sovereignty.

Ask yourself, what am I reclaiming for myself during this time of the year? What ideas and identity am I proclaiming for myself? What passions or ideas are blossoming inside your mind that spark creativity, enthusiasm? During the festivals of fertility, we can "conceive" of the lifestyle we wish to create for ourselves.

Most importantly, we are not SEPERATE from the world around us. As the cycles of the year turns the plants wake up from the Winter sleep. We are waking up from being in deep rest (depressed), our Winter shadows having been faced, confronted, and integrated. It is time to celebrate surviving the cold and scarcity once more and welcome the season of abundance.

To listen to the episode:


The Book of Druidry: A Complete Introduction to the Magic & Wisdom of the Celtic Mysteries by Kristoffer Hughes

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