There is, I think, an old, white-bearded man who has taken up a place in my soul, like a seed of light or a hermit's lantern held up in the surrounding dark. His staff is heavy, planted in the ground. His brow is bright. In his dark eyes, that have seen such sorrow, there is still a star, a gleam like wisdom or stubborn joy. And he is a leader of a people, and he would lead them into the wilderness, that they might make of themselves whole constellations with the patterns of their dancing. That darkness is my body. That wilderness is my spirit. That constellation is the soul-song rising, woven from the sound of my breathing and the blood turning through my gnarled, twining veins.
The significance of Beltaine reaches beyond merely being an agricultural festival focused on fertility and fecundity in service to the community, with romance acting as a bit of grease we can indulge in now and then to keep the Wheel turning. The holy day at the height of spring is also a day of ecstasy in the original sense, a day on which the attraction of life-force can pull us beyond ourselves and into communion with a larger Mystery, beyond tensions that might keep us too rigidly locked into unhealthy or hampering community bonds once they have outlasted their benefit. Along with Samhain, the other hinge of the year, Beltaine serves as a liminal time, a time of thresholds and permeable boundaries. The great ecstatic mysteries of sex and death dominate both these holy days.
More to the point for me is this question: why is the ancient "wheel" better than the modern one? For me, there are obvious flaws in the modern "wheel," the approach that most contemporary religions take in answering the basic questions about life, the universe and everything. The most important and obvious flaw being their denigration of the earth and the natural world, or in many cases the mere fact that they haven't much to say on the matter. They feel like "square wheels," so to speak, that at best make for a bumpy, uncomfortable ride, and at worst get us stuck in ruts, our hard edges jammed firmly into the yielding earth and unable to move. And so I turn to ancient religions to learn how to soften those edges, refining the square into a smoother circle ...
We consent to our own destruction, with the passing of time, with the changing seasons, with the restless intensity of living and breathing. Above the cold concrete and glass of the city skyline, sharp-wedged forms of birds wheel and tip in the dark, blustering sky. I find myself thinking again that it takes an awful lot of courage to live in this world sometimes, knowing that winter is coming, the dark is coming, and death, too, will eventually arrive to claim us. It takes courage to release ourselves, to enter willingly into the wild dance that whirls in this liminal space between life and death, creation and destruction. In my mind, the image of birds crashing through wind currents and swift-driven clouds commingles with the image of the warrior, poised in grace on the edge of chaos.