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Sunday, May 5, 2013

STARTALK Beltane 2013 May 4/5

The Sun at 15° 00’ Taurus marks the cross-quarter day.

There is a distinction between the calendar accident of May Day, May 1, and Beltane,  a seasonally dated holy day. It occurs this year at the Spring/Summer midpoint at 8:43 AM UT/GMT May 5, 9:43 AM BST, 4:43 AM EDT, 3:43 AM CDT, 2:43 MDT, 1:43 AM PDT, all May 5; and May 4 in Hawai’i at10:43 PM HST.

Back in the day, all the hearth fires would be extinguished on Beltane eve. A new fire would be lighted made of four sacred woods. The fire would be started with oak wood, by friction. The Druid would then hand torches lighted in the sacred fire that were carried back down the hill (the fire would be lighted at the highest place) to restart the village hearth fires. A happy party would carry on all night at the sacred fire. The Druid would make sure this happened when it was supposed to, at the true cross-quarter. He'd scoff at a calendar determined date. "What is this calendar that is so inaccurate that a day must be added every four years? What? Do you think that Beltane is Thanksgiving or something?"

This time in the year has been celebrated for thousands of years with holidays, holy days, and festivals. I can remember in my toddler-hood walking around the Maypole holding a ribbon and not having a clue about what was going on, but enjoying the color and chaos.  May Day in this country became associated with workers rights and labor unions until, in the Fifties armies, tanks, and rockets, with red stars, came this way on TV, and in Life and Look magazines to show the Soviet “hijacking” of May Day.  May Day festivities fell off in the U.S.A. lest we be affiliated with the godless communists.

Doc Rowe writes in his MayDay: The Coming of Spring:  “Today, Mayday for many is associated with Anti-capitalist demonstrations; however, Mayday originated as a pagan festive holy day celebrating the first spring planting. The Celts and Saxons celebrated May 1st as Beltane, which means the day of fire (Bel was the Celtic god of the sun). [No, May 1st is a result of the calendar change; the true Beltane date is astronomically based. The 1st has become the popular date; it is not true to the season cycle roots of tradition.]

“Celebrations began on the eve of Mayday with feasts marking the end of winter and the return of the sun. These celebrations continued in Britain until the 1700's when they were outlawed by the church.”

For the ancient Gaelic holiday, Beltane, the astronomical day is usually May 5. On the night of May 4, the sacred fire of four holy woods is put together to be lit with a friction fire started with oak. The bonfire is assembled at the highest point in the area, and all hearth fires are extinguished. All fires are snuffed out. The people assemble and the Druid (priest) lights the fire. From the sacred fire torches are lit and the new fire is carried back to the homes. In some areas fires might be lighted and livestock walked between the fires to purify them that they bear healthy young. Then, there’s a bit of carrying on, dancing, partying and ... well, see the end of the quotation from the grumpy puritan, Philip Stubbes, that follows.

To Philip Stubbes in his Anatomie of Abuses (1583), holidays such as Beltane licensed immoral behavior. His is a puritan’s nightmare of revelry and debauchery.

“Against May, Whitsunday or other time, all the young men and maids, old men and wives run gadding overnight to the woods, groves, hills and mountains, where they spend all the night in pleasant pastimes, and in the morning they return, bringing with them birch and branches of trees, to deck their assemblies withal, and no marvel, for there is a great Lord present amongst them, as superintendent and Lord over their pastimes and sports, namely Satan prince of hell. But the chiefest jewel they bring from thence is their Maypole, which they bring home with great veneration, as thus: They have twenty of forty yoke of Oxen, every Ox having a sweet nosegay of flowers placed on the tip of his horns, and these
Oxen draw home this Maypole (this stinking Idol rather) which is covered all over with flowers, and herbs bound ’round about with strings from the top to the bottom, and sometime painted with variable colours, with two or three hundred men, women, and children following it with great devotion. And thus being reared up, with handkerchiefs and flags hovering on the top, they straw the ground ’round about, bind green boughs about it, set up summer halls, bowers and arbors hard by it. And then fall they to dance about it like as the heathen people did at the dedication of the Idols, whereof this is a perfect pattern, or rather the thing itself. I have heard it credibly reported . . . that of forty, threescore, or a hundred maids going to the wood overnight, there have scarcely the third part of them returned home again undefiled.”

A more friendly appreciation of the ancient rite was offered by the great Rudyard Kipling. This from his poem, A Tree Song.
Oh, do not tell the Priest our plight,
  Or he would call it a sin;
But--we have been out in the woods all night,
  A-conjuring Summer in!
And we bring you news by word of mouth-
  Good news for cattle and corn--
Now is the Sun come up from the South,
  With Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!

Today the Sun is in the center or the Fixed Earth Sign, Taurus.  In his book, The Pulse of Life, Dane Rudhyar writes:  “‘Production’ is a key-word with Taurus.  Everything which Taurus touches should be productive if it is at all to be considered as significant.  But production depends upon the control of the basic energies of human or earthly nature.  . . . Taurus insists on making energy productive. . . . Productive energy—energy which is controlled and formed—is power.  Thus Taurus is a power-Sign of the Zodiac. It is one of the four great moments of the year-cycle when life operates definitely and creatively in terms of power and purpose. [Taurus is one of the] gates through which power and purpose are released and experienced.”

Enjoy our path to Summer, friends. Remember, Tim is available for personal appointments. Just drop an email to Mahalo.


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