Crow in a birch tree shakes rain from its wings...
We hear the song long before we reach the pond itself ― the rolling, rhythmic voices rising up from among the grasses all around us as if we have entered the halls of some vast monastery during evening prayer. The thrum washes over us in the darkness. We step carefully, sweeping our flashlights back and forth across the path. The kids are tense with eager excitement for the hunt, whispering questions at each unfamiliar noise, flicking their flashlights over every stray stone or lump in the grass hoping to catch a glimpse of movement ― the flexing muscular limbs or the bulging throat of a frog. But there are too many of us. By the time we've reached the water's edge, the low chanting voices have dropped away and the whole place has fallen into silence.
A Pagan friend of mine mentioned recently that Beltane isn't really a holiday they celebrate; being single and not all that interested in sex, they don't connect with a lot of the symbolism associated with the holiday. I can totally relate. Surely, Beltane isn't just a holiday for horny lovers. As part of the ever-spiraling dance of the seasons, there are a lot of blessings that this time of year brings that can be enjoyed by those of us who are chaste, single, or otherwise just not that interested in turning everything into a metaphor for girl-parts and boy-parts. So in the spirit of the season, here are seven things to love about a sex-free Beltane!
However you celebrate the vernal equinox, may the many blessings of spring be with you today!
Now it is the end of autumn, I lay my body down. A hush. The hill is still humming with the day's warmth, the sun sinking into the far shore of the lake. For a moment, I can see it, as though with other eyes, submerged, rippling beneath the waters in arcing liquid wings of flame and dusk, flexing, alternating, a thousand of them, wings sprouting from the round, warm body settling into the depths. Then the vision is gone. I creep silently along the shore, my bare feet numb and rustling through the long, dried grasses of autumn. The mud is moist and rough on my soles, each step sending echoes of energy sliding up my calves.
Another gray, rainy day here in Pittsburgh with a week of similarly chilly, damp weather to come, and while it may be good for our newly planted garden, such a wet, cold spring weighs heavy on the soul that longs for the warm touch of sunlight. (And of course, I worry about the Allegheny and the Monongahela joining the Ohio to swell the Mississippi River still further...) Still, the azalea bush is finally blooming in front of the house. That burst of color brings a bit of relief to the dull, gray days. What cheers you up in the midst of chill doldrums?
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.
In my latest post over at No Unsacred Place, I talk about my mixed reactions to the news of the hydro-fracking spill up in northern Pennsylvania last week, and my struggle to stay grounded in my love for the local landscape as a living, holy presence while I confront the injustices and ignorances that cause such saddening destruction. I also highlight some of the inspiring news coming out of local communities in Pennsylvania, where citizens are standing up against pressure from oil and gas companies and working together to protect the lands they love from harmful development: "Local communities are fighting back, resisting the enormous pressure from gas and oil companies (and the politicians they've financed into office) to take advantage of the Marcellus Shale deposit that lies beneath nearly two-thirds of the state's mountains, forests and fields..."