Beltane Beltane Moon
May Day. Brings up cold war images for me. If you’re of a certain age, you remember black and white television with Kruschev or Brezhnev in the reviewing stands as long flat bed trucks pulled even longer missiles, whole large squares of soldiers trooped after them, some tanks, armored personnel carriers, probably some air displays, too, but I don’t recall those personally.
This was the worker’s holiday to celebrate the successful revolution, the now sad story of a mad man who killed millions and used a centralized state to justify it all, and those who came after him, company men with broad shoulders, craggy faces, phenomenal eyebrows and bad tailors.
If, however, you’re of a certain ethnic heritage, or inclined to join us on certain holidays like May Day, I can conjure a different picture. Fair maids dancing with ribbons, winding them around and around the tall May pole. In other spots women and men jumping over bonfires to quicken their fertility. Herds of cattle driven between two bonfires to cure them of disease.
On a mythic plane the goddess as maiden takes the young greenman for her lover, offering their fertile energy to the fields, to the animals and to the people. Villagers take to the fields at night for bouts of lovemaking.
A fair, running perhaps a week, finds persons contracting for field labor, trying out handfast marriages, and surplus goods being traded. This was a joyous time, the long winter lay in the past and the fields had seeds in them. The air was warm, there was milk and meat. A good time.
A mood much different than the other great Celtic holiday, Samain, or Summer’s End, which marks the end of the growing season, the final harvests before the fallow and the cold time began. In that holiday the dead got gifts of food and spirits in hopes that they would at least not do harm. Those of the fey might cross the barrier between the worlds and snatch a child or even a grown man or woman, taking them back to the sidhe.
These two, Beltane and Samain, were, in the oldest Celtic faith, the two holidays. The beginning of summer, or the growing season, and summer’s end.
In Beltane we have all the hope of fields newly planted, cattle quickened, perhaps wives or lovers pregnant, warmth ahead. This is the holiday of hope, of futurity, of anticipated abundance.
No missile laden trucks, no marching soldiers. No, this was a festival for rural people celebrating the rhythm of their world, a highpoint in the year.