My Ireland – Beltane

I’m feeling so inspired this Beltane season.

My personal craft points of reference and experience are solely US and UK based but I would be remiss to skip over the Beltane customs of the Emerald Isle (btw: I’m not trying to slight the Welsh, Manx, Cornish or Briton traditions, but I know nothing about them). I’m not even going to try and pretend that I’m anything but your classic American mutt. Branches of my family tree on my mother’s side trace back to ancestors who participated in founding of These United States, and I have enough First Nation heritage that I’m comfortable calling myself Métis, but my father’s side of the family is 100% Irish, from County Westmeath, as far back as anyone can remember – from what I understand the family is one of the oldest/longest established families in the County.

I can’t fault my father for jumping whole-heartedly into the American experience, but, unfortunately, it left me a little bereft of old world cultural heritage. So I decided to do a little poking around into the Beltane customs of the area and discovered some very interesting history. According to lookaroundireland.com

“Uisneach Hill is an historical site in County Westmeath located near the village of Ballymore, and is considered the omphalos (mystical navel) of Ireland, whereupon rests a great stone (Ail na Mreann, which means stone of divisions) marked with lines indicating the provincial borders of Connacht, Leinster, Ulster and Munster.

Tradition tells that Uisneach was a site favored for Beltane fires and Druidical ceremonies Archaeologically the site consists of a set of monuments spreading over two square kilometres and includes enclosures and barrows, a megalithic tomb and two ancient roads.

There was an excavation in the 1920s and this showed occupation evidence from Neolithic up to the medieval period.

The Hill of Uisneach was the ancient seat of the Kings of Meath.

Uisneach has also been famous as a meeting place in pre-history as a place of cattle rituals and other May Day assemblies, and in more recent times as the meeting place for an important twelfth century synod.”

And philipcoppens.com and Turtlebury.com provide some very interesting information on the mythic history of the place.

I think it’s time for me to do some exploration of the deities associated with where this side of my family hails from.

P.S. The following picture is considered a Sheela-na-Gig from Carne Castle, County Westmeath – now in the National Museum, Dublin. Here is further information on what the author calls “exhibitionist figures on mediæval churches”.

“NO-one forgets their first Beltane Fire Festival.”

A great article about the annual Beltane festival on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill — Sparks of pure genius.

My sweetheart and I had a blast when we went 13 years-ago (seems like a life-time). Though I have to say (and this is from a girl born and raised for the most part in the great, white north) it was friggin freezing! I was in awe of those running around with barely a stitch on! I’ll have to see if I can dig out the pictures to share.

Have fun all you revelers — I’ll be with you in spirit.

Dancing in the day, dancing in May…

Although there is little (to no) historical evidence associating Morris Dancing with historic pagan celebrations, for centuries Morris sides throughout England have gathered at dawn to dance in May. Morris dance sides are now a common feature of pagan festivals in the UK. I used to enjoy watching Wolf’s Head and Vixen when I lived in London. So in order to help you dance in May I present their 1 May 2009, 5.30am performance.

Links to: Rochester Sweeps Festival 1 May 2009 Blue Bell Hill 5.30am Wolf's Head & Vixen Morris on Youtube

P.S. You may be interested in this article “Goths and pagans are reinventing morris dancing.”

Homecoming…

Hello “Pagan Blog Project” readers, nice to meet you. I’m very glad that we have a second week on “H” as I’d every desire and intention of posting last week, and then, well spring happened. See I’m an avid plant person and come spring I have tunnel vision and there is nothing else in my life but plants and digging in the dirt.

There are so, so many subjects that “H” come to mind, and if I were a bit better prepared I would (and may in the future) discuss magical horticulture; in the end though I settled on “Homecoming”. Right now I feel that I’m having a spiritual homecoming and I sat down the other day to write about it.  As so often happens when you put something out there the universe decides to send you materials to work with and that’s what happened to me this week.

Unless you were raised pagan (and I’m happy that we now have a couple of generations that are being raised pagan) you can probably clearly remember that feeling of coming you had when you started on your spiritual path. Although I think I now officially qualify as an old-timer (definitely middle-ager) on this path, I too remember that feeling. For years I was quite active in the community and to this day I remember a beloved elder of mine saying “one day you’ll make a great elder”; perhaps he should have qualified that with a ‘someday soon’ because a decade and a half on I’m still at 1*. I’ve been pondering this situation for a while and then the other day someone on the Amber & Jet list asked a question about how long it usually takes to progress through craft training. As with other aspects of life it’s no surprise that the rate of progression through craft training varies from person-to-person. Some people get on the fast track and are elders and running groups before their 30’s, others, like me, take the scenic route.

I started on my path in my early 20’s and was blessed to study with a number of elders from a number of traditions, and was then invited to join one particular group in my mid-20’s. Then, well, I fell in love, got married and moved half way around the world. Ironically enough I moved to an area that also had a very active craft community but I discovered that I had a lot of mundane growing-up to do (further degrees to earn, a career to pursue, a new home and marriage to negotiate and for the first time in my life I was far enough away from my genetic family to get a sense of who I was apart from them). So I went into what I refer to as “hibernation”. Even when we moved back stateside I remained in hibernation. We moved to what many refer to as the buckle of the bible belt and I thought it was only temporary so I didn’t bother pursuing too many contacts here. When I found that we were here for the mid to long-term I put out feelers and discovered I was (as far as I’ve been able to determine) the only BTW practitioner within about 4 hours driving distance. Now it is often said that one should be willing to travel for training if it’s available, but unfortunately the distance involved inhibits truly being part of a community and the price of gas and my family obligations makes traveling impractical. So I find myself living the adage “it’s possible to be alone on the middle of a million people”. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a vibrant pagan community where I live, a community that has spawned at least two active pagan traditions, and I have been privileged to attend some of their open circles but they just don’t feel like home to me. The best analogy that I can come up with ties back to my genetic family – I literally have cousins all over the world, we know we’re family, we look alike, we have a certain amount of shared family history, but we didn’t grow-up in the close-knit family in the same culture. So when we do get together it’s nice and I’m happy to see them, but not smooth, easy, free-flowing – it’s disjointed and a bit awkward. That’s how I feel here where I live.

The situation has been weighing on my mind for quite a while. I’m not an elitist, it’s not that I think my practice is any better than that others practice, but I don’t feel called to work within another tradition. However, being a solitary BTW is counterintuitive and I yearn to work a group again. Now they say that when the student is ready the teacher will come, and one day I had a light-bulb moment. I realized 1) sometimes you are that teacher you’re looking for and 2) maybe there is a reason I’m here in this place in this time. I’m still working on the “how to” of progressing my training, but writing this blog is a starting point (an opening of the door, an awakening from my slumber) and my spiritual homecoming.

MM, MP & MMA -anon

P.S. If you’re interested in learning about BTW and have not yet visited the A&J group please do; you will find a great number of articles and resources, and a group of dedicated practitioners and elders interacting in lively discussion with seekers.