Beltane with Bells On!
The four seasons have their distinct characters, but who is subtle enough to see what is between the four seasons? ~ The Lunar Tao
The first time I took acid, I was 19 years old, on a full moon night with some hippie friends out in the country, on a farm edged by forest.
It was late summer, and I spent part of the warm evening rambling over the fallow field, the great dry pieces of turned-up earth gleaming silver like the surface of the Moon.
Between forest and field…there was no clear delineation. The edge of the field was gently ragged. On that bright night, it was easy to walk amid the random trees. As I went deeper into them, I realized that at some point I had arrived in forest, and had ceased to be in field.
But when and where did one become another?
Beltane, the great magical high day that heralds the green summer, is a time like that place between field and forest. As the gateway to Summer, it is neither Spring nor yet is it Summer, but it partakes the characters of both.
Beltane is one of the great hinge high days of the pagan Wheel of the Year, a mandala which contains all the processes of the Universe. Those hinge days are called Cross-Quarter Days, because they cut the year into quarters, and all mark the transition of one season into another. Lammas is Summer turning to Autumn. Samhain is Autumn turning to Winter. Imbolc, Winter turning to Spring. And Beltane: Spring transforming itself into Summer.
My 19-year-old acidified realizations may or may not have been profound, but they did touch on the truth of Cross-Quarter Days, which mark a transition that is essentially impossible to pinpoint. They are all mysterious and subtle gateways.
To understand Beltane, understand a little of Samhain or Hallowe’en, directly opposite the first of May on the great Yearwheel.
Here is a Beltane-mythos download for your brain: as life is to death, so Beltane is to Samhain. Beltane is Eros, lusty life-giving life, to Samhain’s Thanatos—death. Both are fairy moving days, when the Sidhe are in a procession between the Winter and Summer encampments (since fairies are nature spirits, you can liken this to the full emergence of plant and animal life from the ground, and at the end of Autumn, it going back underground). The ancient Celtic agricultural calendar marked only two official seasons, Summer and Winter, so both Beltane and Samhain end one and begin another.
Both life and death high days are highways of spirit traffic, but Beltane, being of life, and sex, is about the moment that spirits enter this world from another. Samhain is about when they leave this world for another. Samhain is the last of the three harvest festivals of the Fall, and Beltane the climactic third fertility festival of the Spring.
And climactic is right!: Beltane is Natura naturans: it is life life-ing! All Nature is growing and manifesting right now in a wild whirl of creative energy. This living matrix of power is recreated in the traditional Maypole, its red and white streamers the Tantric colors of menstrual blood and semen.
Like snakes coming up from the rocks to breed, the energies of Earth emerge from the ground to meet with the sun and air. They weave and plait together, polarically and valiantly attracted, a sexy exchange of wills, two wholes joining to make a synthesis, a new consciousness of a third—a harmonic synergy greater than the sum of its parts, whether that be a new baby life or a couplehood.
Think also of the diagram of the heart chakra: a downward-earthing triangle intersecting with an upward-soaring triangle to create a six-pointed star of radiant greenfire!
Beltane is truly about growth, about life coming into its own. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the first of May is the day Aragorn is crowned. Samwise Gamgee marries Rosie Cotton on a May Day, as the golden mallorn tree flowers over the party field.
The high days are all hinges, at which one thing becomes another. So use the rampant, gorgeous energy of Beltane to become your best self at this moment. You came into being on this planet, in this dimension, but Why? What for? What did your soul enter this life to do? What were you born to be?
That is what you can truly celebrate at Beltane!
This season of life is about life. So go with it! You are living, so live alive.
The Universe wants you to create, to bring new, exalted things into this dimension: new life, new contributions of art, new travels, new acts of service, new love. Sink your roots down in your greatest shining values and aspirations to grow the richest, most vibrant vision of your life possible. Where will the fairies lodge, in their Moving Day? Where will they set up camp? Where will be their Summer Kingdom? They want to lodge with you. Make your life the most worthy home for them!
What season is are we in? It’s at last definitely clear: it is Winter no longer. Let go, and open your heart to Summer! Hal-An-Tow!
Bud, Blossom, and leaf! Namaste, and love,
The image of a fairy moving day is ‘The Fairy Procession’ by the great fantasy illustrator Charles Vess. ‘Balance’ is a card from the Wildwood Tarot deck: illustration by Will Worthington, deck by Mark Ryan.