May 1st marks the ancient Celtic Festival called Beltaine. The word Beltaine means the magic of flowers. It is the season where nature’s life force reawakens from winter’s deep slumber, bringing us the budding and blossoms of spring. We feel the vitality of summer approaching, its greening energy courses through our veins. Fecundity abounds, making spring, and Beltaine, a natural season for lovers.
Beltaine is also named for the ancient Celtic god named Bel – the bright one. And -tane stands for fire. The Celtic tradition honors a god of brightluminosity as the male force that is one half of the cosmic act of creation.
|Hawthorn Blossoms, special to Beltaine|
“And bind your prayer to the magic of the apple tree with your ribbon.” She helped Sharay tie a silken knot around the branch above.
She softly sang along with the memory of her mother and Rosheen.
“Rosheen taught me about Beltaine,” Sharay had said, proud she remembered Rosheen’s teachings.
“And what did I teach you?” Rosheen asked.
“Beltaine’s one of our holy days,” Sharay had replied dutifully.
Rosheen beamed. “That’s right, Sharay. Beltaine is a special time of the year. It’s the time of year when the star formation called the seven sisters rises low on the western horizon. Remember, we showed them to you last night?”
Sharay nodded yes, recalling how she’d marveled when the seven sisters twinkled and pranced across the night sky.
“Beltaine is when the first white hawthorn flowers bud, just like this one.” Her mother plucked a cluster in full bloom from the bush next to her and lifted it to Sharay’s nose for her to smell. Its many blossoms tickled Sharay.
“We celebrate the fullness of the flowers and the fullness of being a woman,” Rosheen said.
“It’s when the well waters rise high. The young men and women make their plans for the passionate Beltaine holy day,” Sharay’s mother added.
Sharay’s attention drifted from her mother’s voice and was drawn to a shiny black beetle crawling through the delicate white bloom of the hawthorn. It fell upside down on the rock she sat on, its legs wiggling wildly as it tried to upright itself. She touched her finger to its feathery legs and it lay still. She tried to help it stand.
“I remember my first Beltaine,” her mother reminisced, turning to face Rosheen. Her back was to Sharay, which usually meant adult conversation.
“I wasn’t with Jarred, but I was taught the pleasures of the Goddess.”
Sharay wanted to be included, wanted her mother and Rosheen to teach her some more. “What does that mean…the pleasures of the Goddess?”
Her mother smiled. “It means the depth of sexual union offered up in Her name. Something I’ll teach you about later.”
She picked up the hawthorn bloom, tickled Sharay’s nose, and turned to Rosheen once more. Sharay watched the beetle crawl slowly across the valleys and hills of the small rock enclosure around the font of the white spring.
“Jarred certainly benefited from what I learned on that Beltaine,” her mother said to Rosheen, her rich, lovely laughter punctuating her words.
Rosheen sighed wistfully. “And I remember my first Beltaine.”
Her mother grew serious. Sharay looked up from the beetle when the tone of the conversation changed. She wanted them to laugh again. She pulled eagerly on her mother’s skirt. Her mother reached down and stroked her hair, tucked a lock of it behind her ear, then turned to face Rosheen.
“I’ve heard from Dillon. We received a note this morning.”
“How nice. What news is there?” Rosheen’s voice was high and bright, almost forced.
“He says his grandson’s magical training is coming along nicely. That the boy is talented. Quick to learn.”
“I’m not surprised.” Rosheen looked down at her hands. “Will he visit us?”
“He didn’t mention that he would.” Her mother paused.
Sharay carefully pushed the black beetle away from the spring water where she was sure it would drown without her help.
“Oh, Rosheen. I take it Dillon stopped writing you?” her mother asked.
Rosheen nodded. “There’s really nothing more he can say, Blanche. We took each other as Beltaine lovers to honor the Goddess. That was a long time ago. You know there’s no more to it than that.”
“Don’t minimize the power of your union, Rosheen. You honored each other in the Beltaine ritual. That’s a very special bond.”
“Yes, I know. And he’s always been extremely dear and kind since then. It’s just that…” Rosheen wiped a sudden tear from the corner of her eye. “It’s just that I managed to fall in love with him, and he managed to fall in love with another.” She shook her head and smiled. “Look at me. Years gone by. Me married to George. I really do love George, you know. Yet I still shed tears over Dillon.”
Sharay traced her finger along the rocky crevices of the White Spring well’s enclosure where the beetle had crawled that day long ago. Conversation that had little meaning back then, suddenly brought her new understandings. Dillon and Rosheen. The true meaning of Beltaine.
Jodine Turner is the award winning, best selling visionary fiction, fantasy author of the Goddess of the Stars and the Sea series about young priestesses who have lived in Avalon down through the ages to today. www.jodineturner.com