May 01, 2007

Blessed Beltane/May Day!

May 1st is probably the best example of a christianized pagan holiday, one that has additional meaning around the world for workers who struggle. Traditionally, Beltane was celebrated by the Celts in Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man in order to mark the beginning of summer. In Modern Irish, MĂ­ na Bealtaine is Gaelic for the month of May. Celebrations to mark this day included the lighting of bonfires, purification rituals, and fertility rites. Maypoles were used (and adopted by Christians) to symbolize the fertilization of the land. Many communities elected a virgin as their "May Queen" to lead marches or songs. To the Celts, she represented the virgin goddess on the eve of her transition from Maiden to Mother. Depending on the time and place, the consort might be named "Jack-in-the-Green" or "Green Man," "May Groom" or "May King." The union of the Queen and her consort symbolized the fertility and rebirth of the world. Some Neopagans today still mark the day with sex magic.

As a personal aside, my first-born daughter was conceived during my own May Day festivities, eleven years ago. After visiting Laurie Cabot's shop in Salem, Mass and fondling a beautiful fertility goddess sculpture made from Gloucester clay, under the light of full moon — I experienced the most powerful magic in my lifetime so far. Uncannily, I knew I was pregnant within moments. Some things are just meant to be, I guess.

So, yeah, I've got a fondness for this holiday, that actually started in my childhood, when we celebrated at my Catholic school with a May Crowning. Some lucky girl (um, virgin?) would be selected to "crown" Mary with flowers, and the rest of us would bring as many flowers up as the altar could hold. We'd sing, "Oh Mary we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May...." Clearly rooted in those same fertility rites of the ancient Celts.

And of course, today, workers around the world unite and celebrate May Day -- which originated right here in Chicago with the fight for the 8-hour workday. Today in Chicago and around the country, immigrants will be taking to the streets to demand their rights and unite against rascist laws that seek to deport undocumented workers, seperating them from their families. If you have time today, put on your white t-shirt and join one of these marches and show your solidarity.

And if you're looking for another way to celebrate the day, I suggest getting together with someone you love and taking advantage of that special aura of May Day magic. Light some candles, (or a bonfire if you're not in the city), drink some really good wine, and um, well, I'm sure you can figure out the rest. Sexual chemistry is said to be most powerful on this day, so enjoy!

1 comment:

Jami said...

That's a really great picture on the top! Wow.

And yes, very interesting how Christianity and Paganism intertwine in this way. I've never celebrated May Day, but it certainly does seem like a nice way to spend the night with a lover.