Beltane

Last Sunday the Grove of the Summer Stars celebrated Beltane, or what the Maori call Whiringanuku. To the Maori it is the 5th month, when ka whakaniho nga mea katoa o te whenua i konei (‘all things now put forth fresh growth’) and a good flowering of ti kouka (cabbage tree) is said to be a sign that a long, fine summer will follow.

We started our Beltane celebration by starting a fire. Beltane is a celebration of Bel the god of light and fire, and we used this fire to cleanse us of things we no longer want in our lives and to bring a spark of beginning to our future endeavours.

For our ritual we built twin fires. During our ritual we spoke this poemeach saying a line each.

Light of the sun warms the earth,
Quickening the pulse of the land.
The sleeping giant rises,
To answer the call of the king
And I saw the Kowhai with its myriad yellow lights
And many plants
I saw leaves of kaka beak tree as they want to sprout
I saw branches equally laden with flowers;
I saw the attributes of a most generous king
And I saw the lady Papatuanuku smile as she passed by

Mine are the riches of the land of Aotearoa
Mine are the bounty,
Mine are the kindliness,
Mine the cloth,
And mine the victuals.

Lost in creation they are undisturbed by my presence,
for I am from them.

Skyfather Earthmother
the old people were right.
For I see the union
of sun and earth
and hear their songs of fertility
pregnant with life.

Adapted from two Taliesen poems and from Apirana Taylor – Thoughts on the Road, Eyes of the Ruru

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At the end of our ritual we danced around the Beltane fires on our way out of the circle. A couple of years our beautiful Storyteller, Moria, wrote this song for us to sing as we dance:

Dance to the Beltane Fire,
Dance to the Beltane Fire,
In, out, turn about,
Dance to the Beltane Fire,
Earth and Air, Fire and Water,
We are Papatuanuku’s
Sons and Daughters,
Dance to the Beltane Fire.

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After we had a feast we shared stories and poems. Les read the following poem by someone called Brook, that he found on Hello Poetry.

Beltane

Day breaks over a sleepy village
Morning absolutions completed
An excited buzz is in the air
Everyone is a buzz with cleaning
Hundreds gather wild flowers in the fertile fields
Many were in charge of raising the fires
Soon the whole town had bright blooms weaved from one end to the next
The horizon alight with smoke and power
Goddess and God rights invoked within circles round
Pulsating, rhythmic energy racing through each dancing body
Gyrating to the cosmic beat of life
Couples jump merrily together over cauldrons ablaze
High hopes rise and give way for dreams of children
Lovers round and round they twine
Maypole ribbons rainbow hued passing through hand to hand
As dusk falls the Queen is crowned
Mead flows freely through the jubilant worshippers
The moon hangs round with fullness above their heads
Lighting the way for love into the night

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Pamela shared this addition to the song from The Wicker Man that she wrote.

The rendition sung in the climax of the 1973 British film The Wicker Man is a mixed translation by Peter Shaffer:

Sumer is Icumen in,
Loudly sing, cuckoo!
Grows the seed and blows the mead,
And springs the wood anew;
Sing, cuckoo!
Ewe bleats harshly after lamb,
Cows after calves make moo;
Bullock stamps and deer champs,
Now shrilly sing, cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo
Wild bird are you;
Be never still, cuckoo!

 Summer is a’coming in
Find the tonic, grab the gin
Sing, o keruru!
Plant the seed and sip the mead
Less in haste and more in speed.
Sing, o keruru!

Lambswool beats the pallid cider
Milky vodka’s in the larder
Light the lamps and pour the champs
Now crilly king sheroo

Shekoo, kreshroo
Bild wird are ewe
Me too!

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Our Angela shared this poem she had written that morning.

Beltane Fire…..

My great passion
leapt
as a sudden spring eddy
swept up the dry old leaves
of unrealised dreams
and flung them to the fire.
The sound of the wind
briefly but beautifully amplified
as the flames consummated
the sacrifice.
Tears of release
sizzled and spat
as they danced wildly
with the rings and spirals
of the Tree of Life
now split asunder
in a final glorious blaze
of colour and heat.
I surrender to this moment
full of love and empty of fear
delighting in the eternal process
of one season
transforming
into another.

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Beltane this year was very inspiring and I am looking forward to seeing what develops from the sparks of inspiration that we all got.

– Mary

 

Beltane / Whiringanuku

Beltane flowers, 2015

Ah, spring time. It’s a tempestuous time of the year in Wellington, but the days gradually get warmer and you know it’s only going to get better.
Last weekend the grove celebrated Beltane. Below are a few thoughts on what we did for the festival this year.

The Beltane Fires

Brazier, Beltane 2015
Last year we started a new Beltane tradition of keeping a Beltane fire (or fires, if we use the twin fires in the ritual) burning during the day. While Beltane is one of the four fire festivals, fire has typically been more a feature of our Samhain ritual. The warmth of the Samhain fire in the middle of winter and act of gathering around it to share in stories and food resonates strongly with all of us. It’s a time when we seek the comfort and warmth of community; when we’re all a bit weary from the dark cold winter. It also serves as a beacon fire as the veil grows thin, calling the spirits home. The veil also grows thin at Beltane, but with the warmth of the returning sun, our Beltane fire has often been more symbolic than real. Last year, one of our grovers had the idea of using the Beltane fire as more of a focal point in our ritual. Our ritual fire is now a focal point: for its ritual purification purposes, as a beacon like at Samhain, but also as a specific ritual tool.

We light the fire around midday, tend to it through the afternoon, and those who wish to can come prior to the ritual with offerings for the fire. The purpose of starting the fire early is to burn things we need or want to be rid of, items which have significance to us, but can’t just be chucked out with the ordinary. Some of the things in past burnings have included old photos, letters, legal papers, toys, items of clothing, books, art works. In this way we combine the ritual power of the Beltane fire with the wider for a slightly more practical focus: marrying the celebration and joy of Beltane with the purification of fire for the release of pent-up energy, letting go, and moving forward.

The spring winds that dominate Wellington’s spring meant we decided on the day to use the braziers rather than the bonfire: nobody wants their robe to catch fire! But there were many things to burn, dancing around the fire, and the sun was warm enough that we weren’t all huddling in front of the brazier! Later during the ritual, the braziers were used for grovers to walk between, and to burn mugwort for the purification aspect of the ritual.

Brigid’s Well

Brighids Well, Beltane 2015
The two elemental symbols for Beltane are fire (destroyed the powers hostile to humankind, purified the air, and allowed human and beast and vegetation to thrive and become fertile) and water (healing and the time of the first swim).

As the time of the first swim of the year, a small group who arrived early set off into the forest to visit Brigid’s Well before lighting the Beltane fires.

Ribbons at Brighids Well, Beltane 2015

We took with us a ribbon to tie next to the well, with the names of people we sought healing or blessing for. The forest walk was full of activity, with kakariki echoing through the trees, curious piwakwaka flitting so close you could almost touch them, and a frog leaping out of the stream as we were leaving offerings for Brighid! It seems everything was out enjoying the sun.

Eisteddfod

Our eisteddfod continues to grow, with several poems, songs, and stories shared. In the days before Beltane, I came across the poem The Sun by Mary Oliver. For me, this is a fitting celebration of spring, and also a reminder that as things get busier as we head towards Christmas, we should remember to focus on what’s important in life.

Our eisteddfod also saw the introduction of a piece of grove history – an Eisteddfod Chair! This beautifully carved chair (or bench, to be specific), made of native macrocarpa with kowhai carvings, was donated by one of our grovers. While we’re still deciding where it will be placed in the long term, it was a fitting addition to our eisteddfod and a perfect example of the productivity and creativity of Beltane.

– Nicola