Beltane 2002 Ritual in Morristown

A strange beautiful rush of color and smiles. What a happy Beltane! The best Beltane ever!

We had 35 people at the ritual. Somewhere around 40 for the whole day— not counting a few innocent bystanders. There was rain in Hunterdon County, a few miles west, but it was clear and sunny in Lewis Morris Park. Warm enough to go barefoot if you wanted to.

We blessed the site at 10am. (We’d done a site blessing the week before, honoring the spirit of the place and the nature spirits.) More and more people came and immediately started making flower wreaths. It seemed like everyone had a camera, and most of the pictures were of one-year-old Sean, or Brenda’s kids playing in the stream or in the maypole streamers. (Check Out Our Beltane Photos) Mark sunk our maypole with a manly thunk and without a lot of fuss. I set out the flour labyrinth, and Pattie and I drew chalk hill figures: the Uffington Horse and a rather squat long-man. We all somehow got all the food up to the pavilion. Nearly everyone wound up with a flower wreath, a fern wreath, or—in Erica’s case—a dandelion wreath. Al wore antennaes with nuts on the ends. Everyone looked beautiful, the sun was shining, people were smiling.

We managed to herd everyone together for Pattie’s Hill Figure lecture. (She is known in the small towns of southern England as “that American Hill Figure Enthusiast.”) Her lecture about Gogmagog and other figures was amusing and informative, especially the ancedote (told by Erica) about how Pattie shamed a British town council into funding the cleanup of one of the white horses.

Marcia of led us in an intense drumming workshop—getting us to drum interconnecting African rhythms. Not only did we all have fun, Marcia enjoyed herself so much she volunteered to do a full workshop. (Right Marcia?)

Peg the dancer arrived, and with Amy’s help, introduced us to American-style Tribal Belly Dancing. Lots of us enjoyed watching the dancing, and it looked like the dancers enjoyed it, too.

A debt of gratitude to Peg and Marcia and Pattie—their workshops kept the Beltane energy hopping.

We got ourselves into a clump for Erica’s pre-ritual briefing. She explained that she was going to lead the ritual so that we didn’t contain the energy of the season or the site— we would just let it flow and sort-of surf on it. Erica thought a lot about how our Beltane rituals usually go, and came up with a way to make the most of the ritual: brief, spontaneous invocations; a light and informal meditation; inappropriate praise discouraged— all to keep the energy from binding up or slowing down.

After the briefing, where we all heckled her unmercifully— an odd experience for Erica, who is usually part of the pre-ritual heckling— we headed for the bathrooms and masks and costumes. Justin led our 3-person dragon puppet, with Betty and Jack behind. Al got up into the hobby-horse. I pulled the horned rag-guy over my head. Cheap plastic animal masks were distributed to everyone. Pattie and Norma started Hal-an-Toe and off we went processing around the site. We circled and sang and pranced and discarded our masks and costumes, somewhat, and sat in a clumpy circle on the grass around the maypole.

Greg chimed the chime (it’s really, really time to buy a new chime!) and Erica announced that we were here to honor the Gods... Josh invoked the Earth Mother very well, but in keeping with our usual Beltane “buh?” spirit. He had a stick with leaves on the end of it.
Erica led us in a short light meditation, just as she promised, that felt so good we did the breath thing twice. I did the horizontal directions, under great duress, enduring a pelting of bad puns. However, I believe I finally did accomplish it. Deb invoked the well, and the ocean, too, with water from the stream. Betty invoked our fire, mentioning how our ancestors lit it in times past, while Peg lit it and acted as fire-tender. Daphne kept the maypole ribbons from catching fire throughout the entire ritual, for which we are very grateful.

Jen Micale invoked the Bilé by having us look up at all the trees. She talked about our roots in the earth, our branches in the sun.

Nej invoked and offered to Manannan Mac Lir. Manannan and Erica and the grove opened the gates (like a wicket gate in a picket fence). Nej later reported that Manannan was a little cranky that we didn’t sing to him this time. We will be working on a special Manannan song.
Norma, who has led us in ritual but hasn’t offered to the outsiders in quite a while, offered to the outsiders. She was reluctantly coaxed back into the circle.

Brenda invoked Brigid, our muse, asking for immediate help, and we sang “Fire Us Up!”
Jenniforensic invoked our ancestors—who have been through this all before, who stood up on Beltanes in times long past and said “Buh?” and lit fires and made offerings and had fun.

Al gave us a spirited nature spirits invocation, starting with a joke and his “Deer Run Run” song and progressing to the heaviest, most soulful rendition of “Fur and Feather” that I think I’ve ever heard.

Hillary hooked us up with the Goddesses and Gods, talking about how Nature is such a mystery—that is, if you know nothing about Biology or Environmental Science—and going on and on in perfect English with perfect diction and precise vocabulary until Erica pointed out that this was Hillary’s way of going “Buh?” Hillary made her offering.

Pattie and I began our GogMagog invocation by singing “And did these feet in Ancient Times walk upon England’s mountains green?/And was the holy lamb of God on England’s pleasant pastures seen? Well, actually, no. All that stuff happened in the Middle East. Not in England at all. However, at that time, there were other Gods and Goddesses in England....”

We traipsed around the maypole, invoking Gog the fertile father, the guy with the sword whose real name we don’t even know, and Magog, the moon-faced primeval mother. We asked them to look over at us, across the sea, from their hilltop in Cambridge, and come across and bless our little Beltane and accept our offerings. I remember anointing the pole and the well, but I don’t remember what happened next, although Norma told me later that at one point she turned to Erica and asked when they should intervene to recover their respective spouses. I don’t remember, really. Everyone seemed happy with it, tho.

Praise included a great Beltane limerick by Nora, more 60s songs by Josh and me (a short funny “Buh Buh Ann”; T-Rex’s “Ride a White Swan”), Norma’s recitation of a Michael Ranauro song, Erica’s reading of Amy Lowell’s “Canterbury Bells” and Jen Micale’s magical world-stopping “Summertime” that actually did stop one of our innocent bystanders, watching from the path, and hold him entranced. (The site is a natural ampitheater—a fact we should take into account and use in the future!) There were other offerings of poems and vows and stones and flowers and stuff. Erica sent our praises and offerings up “on the wings of eagles, on the shoulders of the wind...”

After Imbolc and the Equinox, we decided to draw our omens for Beltane by either A) continuing with our mass reading of omens and then letting the omen readers battle it out until only one omen remained, or B) having only one omen reader. We chose B, and Norma, who tranced most of the ritual, gave us our omen, commenting that “since we allowed the energy to do whatever it was going to do, and not impose any constraints on it: the planes overhead picked up and for the first time in this site, we had outsiders on both sides of us. Last year, we were the outsiders; this year we were the insiders in a happy Beltane bubble. The day, the weather, and the spot were with us. The wind was playing with us the whole ritual—switching directions and chiming in as people were invoking, and teasing Peg as she kept the candles lit. (Norma finally put a loose tie on the wind until the end of the ritual.) She gave us our omen from the “Cabbage Patch Deck” which was actually the Golden Dawn deck: the 3 of cups (Abundance), the 4 of coins (Power). Good Beltane omens, and certainly fitting for the day: abundance of people, food and happiness; power of spring and the shining sun and
the land.

The ritual was like a kite in the wind: we played it out and did tricks with it. We did a small magical act for rain—Nej led us in a children’s rain rhyme— and we shared the Waters of Life with the land and each other as our pourers poured and our passers-out did that. Some of us jumped the fire, the ritual ended and we thanked Gog and Magog and the Kindreds and Manannan and Brigit. We danced the Maypole (twice is nice!) and Marcia and I got into a spontaneous stag dance. Micki and Allie lured several of the adults into the mucky stream. Erica and Norma got into a ritualistic stick fight. Folks climbed the hill and feasted and walked the labyrinth. The bystanders were invited over to join us and eat some food. The biker dudes south of us said the maypole was “really beautiful” and they walked the labyrinth.

Deb mentioned that it was “one of those days when you can read everyone, and everyone could read you so easily, and everyone was happy!”






Beltane Eve and
Beltane Dawn

The next Tiu’s Day, April 30th, traditional Beltane Eve, six of us (Hillary, Betty, Nej, Norma, Ed and Margaret) stayed over at Ed & Norma’s (joined for a while by Jen Martin), and five of us stayed up all night. We all took turns frying up fairy cakes, watched a video of Alan Lomax’s Padstow May Day featuring Padstow’s big furry fertility horse, and talked and told stories until just before sunrise when we took a Guinness and fairy cakes and offered them in the back yard. We then woke up Margaret (Margaret—it was such a treat to see you again!) and, joined by Sue W., took off for Princeton!

We got to the Battlegrounds just as the light was rising through the mist-—greeted by the Morris Dancers, who had us scheduled in their program—met up with Pattie and Erica and Marcia and Maria-Elena. During a break in the dancing, Sue from Handsome Molly introduced us and Pattie explained that in Padstow, England, at this very moment—even allowing for the time difference—they were doing just this and had been since dawn. And we danced our hobby horse, Erica as the horse, me as the pirate/fool/tumbler, while P & M & ME & B & M & H & N & S & N all sang their brains out like a flock of morning birds in the dawn air.

Tumbling around proved pretty strenuous this year, and I managed to set loose a kidney stone (I found this out about a week later) but Norma said that the crowd loved us. It was so cool to see a crowd out on a cold field at dawn on Beltane! We did the magical “death and rebirth” part (which is probably a “get down and boogie and poke at the ground and fertilize the earth thing) and rose again. One Englishman there later mentioned to Erica that we had a very “church and school” hobby horse— meaning, I think, PG rated.

It all went very well, better than last year, and the sunrise was absolutely beautiful and the air warmed up and the mist disappeared. The dancers finished up and danced off... and we drove out to a diner in Hillsborough for breakfast—10 of us.