The wheel of the year turns, and where it was once snowy and cold, now it is rainy and not quite as cold. Hurray for spring in Michigan! And now our thoughts turn to the next High Day rite of our Grove calendar: Beltaine. (It would be more authentically Celtic, perhaps, to call it “Beltinne”, Irish for “Bel fire”, but we don’t because (a) we don’t honor Bel as the Deity of the Occasion for this rite, and (b) Beltaine is easier for people to pronounce correctly. >8) Beltaine is traditionally a time of boisterousness, a time to deliberate violate normal social conventions as a celebration of spring and warmth and fertility. Those who attend our rites throughout the year will notice that this is the only ritual where I don’t wear robes, as a sign of the uniqueness of this holiday.
Beltaine is on the opposite side of the Year Wheel from Samhain. As Samhain is the beginning of the dark half of the year, so Beltaine is the beginning of the light half, and we rekindle the Grove Flame anew at our Fire Watch ceremony the night before the rite. Since it’s the first outdoor rite of the year, we tend to have a lot more people attend Fire Watch – after being cooped up indoors for the winter, people are ready to spend the night outdoors!
Those who do stay the whole night – and those who are capable of getting out of bed at 4 in the morning – travel to Big Lake, the source of the Huron River, to perform our annual Dawn Beltaine rite. This is our own adaptation of an old Gaulish horse blessing rite, and maybe if someone brings a horse some day we can bless it there. (I shouldn’t say that, there are enough horse owners around here that someone might take me up on it!) We make offerings in the middle of the lake, collect water from there, then bring it to shore and hold it aloft to be touched by the first rays of the sun. This is the blessed water we use throughout the year at all of our rites.
That afternoon, after we’ve had a chance at a nap, we have the actual High Day rite. We honor Aren, a local god who we contacted through meditative work at our An Bruane sessions, and who identifies himself as a god of love and beauty and freedom, befitting the spring season. The rite includes choosing a May Queen or King (just one, we’re not dualists), a Maypole Dance, jumping a fire, and generally a lot of deliberate silliness. Those of you looking for a serious rite will probably want to steer clear, at least until our next ritual, but obviously I’d encourage you to join us and celebrate the season, in all of its joy and wackiness!
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF
SLG Dawn Rite FAQ List: http://www.shininglakes.bravehost.com/faq/drfaq.html