Touching the Sacred, Part 3: Days of Beltane   Leave a comment

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

[To the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”]

On the second day of Beltane, the Old Gods said to me:

Dance round the fire, and then say what you truly long to be …

I always find Beltane lasts longer than a single day. This year I’m celebrating it over three days, from yesterday, the “official” May-Day, through tomorrow, with the Full Moon at its peak at 11:42 pm, Eastern Standard Time in the U.S. (that’s 03:42 Greenwich Time, May 4).

Do you carry a private moon with you? At times like these I feel I do.  It’s tucked under my ribcage, trembling like a small forest creature that’s heard an owl: I have a lunar heart. Or in place of my mouth, a moon. No words, just white shadow wherever I turn to speak.

I do the original moonwalk, following shimmering paths visible at no other time. Or I hold out my hands and each palm glows with a hemisphere of unearthly light. I clap them together and the blow sparks new planets all up and down my spine.

Loenid Tishkov:

Leonid Tishkov: “Private Moon”

Festival observances, like other rituals, can make us vulnerable to ourselves in powerful ways. Often we’re taught to leave dreams in childhood, as if adults don’t need to dream at all, let alone dream bigger than we ever dared as children.

Open myself to desire and dream, and longings I’ve shoved aside, sometimes for years, can rush back full-force. What I still dream and wish for are gifts my childhood has kept in store. Not just for the grown-up me, though it can feel that way. These gifts may have taken human or animal form, wandered homeless, raggedy and broken and weeping, or snarling, feral, wild things no child could understand. Things it runs from, things that hide under the bed, in the closet, that stretch and loom after the bedroom light gets turned off.

But the child also recognizes them as blood kindred, curls up with them each night, and each dawn they glimmer and vanish till the next twilight gathering. They reappear in that book you read and re-read till it fell apart in your hands, in the story no bedtime retelling could ever wear out. The childhood rituals that primed you for adult ones of deeper mystery: sex, death, creation.

What I do with them now are the gifts I give back to that younger self, some fulfilled, others still orphans. But I have brought them out and looked at them head on, and hugged them. I take them in even as I give them back. And in that circuit lies power.

Beltane pairs with Samhuinn across the ritual year, its opposite pole, and this Beltane-with-a-Scorpio-Moon I’m feeling it particularly strongly. No surprise, the astrologically-minded say:

The sun is now anchored in the sign of Taurus. Beltane occurs when it is precisely half way through the sturdy earth sign. The sign is symbolized by the fertile bull and, given its association with the fecundity of the springtime in the Northern hemisphere, Beltane in particular is a full-fledged celebration of life, creativity and the abundance of the upcoming summer season.  

But, its polarity, Scorpio, is not. 

Scorpios domain deals with matters that no one else wants to: the vile, the putrid, the petrifying, the intense, the rejected, the betrayed, the scorned, the scathing, the denied and the dead. Scorpio reminds us that we can repudiate anything for an eternity but that doesnt mean it will be resolved, it doesnt mean that it will be repaired, and it doesnt mean that it will go away. 

Ritual is one way to approach the difficult as well as the beautiful, to manage them in more bite-sized (ceremonial-sized) pieces. And sometimes, to discover the beautiful and the difficult, the deformed and the immensely powerful, amount to the same thing.

Beltane carries Samhuinn in its belly, or on its back. Or Samhuinn is Beltane turned inside-out. Both are fire-festivals, and fire does not always lie easily on the hearth. Sometimes it flames forth, blows past barriers and oppositions in its guise of wildfire.

More in the next post.

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

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Images: Leonid Tishkov/”Private Moon”;

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