Wednesday, 31 May 2017

May Recapitulation

The May Queen is crowned and Bel, Celtic god of Fire, the Sun and of Summer has arrived, at least temporarily! It's from his name that we get the word Beltaine. 

By his side walks Bridgit, Bride; she has reclaimed the year from The Winter Hag, The Cailleach, and will rule over the light half of the year. She's here, in the flowers, and the smiles of the bearers of those flowers. 

Perhaps it's him in particular that we honour with this symbol of the masculine. 

May's blossoms have been spectacular, the orchard has been drenched with the smell of fruit trees in blossom, it makes my heart sing and a small corner of my busy little human mind has already started plotting all the delicious things that can be made with fruit and stored for winter, whilst another corner of that same mind mutters about counting chickens and hatching. 

And speaking of singing and hatching; there have been some strange and beautiful and sometimes sad sights here recently. The strangest has perhaps been this young female blackbird who took up residence on the bench and was not to be moved. She was there for some of every day for a week, standing her ground. She's gone now, hopefully having found less obvious places to sit. There are plenty of cats here, each of my three neighbours has three cats, so sitting on a bench in broad daylight is probably not the wisest course of action for any avian. 

There has also been one VERY successful male blackbird strutting about the garden; every time I've seen him he's had his mouth full. I'm pretty sure that he's been one among many, but perhaps they've all been successful at different times and I only notice each of them when they are emanating pride and 'look at me I'm a savage hunter feeding my babies with my trophies' vibes. 

There have clearly been some nests that will not be producing any more birds this year; always a poignant reminder of the tiny tendril of light that is life, so easily extinguished.

As are empty eggs with yolk marks in them, a sure sign that they were emptied by a predator, rather than the emergence of a fledgling. Although obviously if this was a blog read by badgers and foxes this would be a delightful sight telling tales of happy full bellies and a good night's endeavours.

I found a blackbird fledgling by the side of a wall, a bit discombobulated after his first flight. Luckily the cat's hereabouts didn't find him before he remembered he could fly. 

Perhaps this was his egg? It's broken open on the side you can't see and as clean as a whistle inside. 

All month the hedgerows have been full to bursting with good things to eat for everyone. 

Sorrel (above) and Wild Garlic (below) being two of my absolute favourites. 

They make a wonderful addition with Pansies, primrose flowers and Violas to a really beautiful and delicious salad. 

 At the end of May Day's celebrations here, when everyone has gone home and the quiet comes back to the valley

After the hilarious duck race, 

Fergus and I bimble home, up thought the woods. 

past the Wray brook on it's way to join the River Bovey, 

along a well worn path, by bluebells, taking care not to offend the fairies by picking any. 

Under the roof bosses of the cathedrals of trees. 

 Past the unspiraling of Spring in all her glory. 

Out into the yellow and green fields of summer. 

And then home. 

Where there always seems to be a reminder - that there is so much to love in the world, so much worth protecting, so much worth taking into consideration with every choice we make. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

May Day Fire Festival

Beltane blessings to you, and "Up The May!" - the cry goes out across the land, the fires are lit, the flames are jumped and the wheel of the  year turns.

I brought cakes

and managed to get in quickly enough to actually eat one before the many children saw them, at first feeling slightly triumphant but that was followed by feeling just-plain-mean as it was clear that I hadn't made enough to fill every belly that had a cake-shaped hole in it.

It poured with rain, hailed, and nearly put the fire out. The word Beltane means 'bright fire', so it was a close run thing, but the day was saved!

I've been thinking about fire a lot lately.

To the Celts the clearest way to convey the 'shaman's map' was (is) to say that our world is made of three realms; Land, Sea and Sky.  These are often expressed (all over the world) as being like a tree: the Trunk is this world, the Middle World, The Land. The branches spread out into the Upper World, The Sky, and the roots delve down into the Lower World, The Sea.

This idea is also very beautifully expressed in the Triskele. This potent ancient symbol carries many meanings simultaneously, but more than anything else it expresses the Triple Nature of all of reality as the Celts saw it and continue to see it.

In fact the image of the triskele is far older than the culture that we call the Celts. One of the earliest examples of it in the west is carved into the stone at the entrance of the passage tomb at New Grange in Ireland - about which I have many stories, but I think I'd better save them for another time, as I've already somehow strayed from the point.

So - Fire - first out of the Void I'm told; the creative spark, the beginning of everything. Our world is a place between two great fires - the Sun herself and the fire at the centre of the earth. Why is it not present in this map? Where is fire in the world which is Land, Sea and Sky?  It seems to me that it's everywhere, because it is inherent within everything - it is the heart of the matter. Strike flints or crystals together and you will get a spark, turn a hard wood inside a soft wood and you will soon kindle a flame. Fire is perhaps the clearest metaphor we have for Spirit. When we want to invoke the sacred we light a flame. So when we light the fires at Beltane, we are bringing the Fire that is inherent within everything, bringing The Spirits, right into the heart of what we are doing.

May heart and heart align and bring forth the Spirit Fires, may these enlighten the bright half of the year for you. Happy Summer, Happy Beltane.
Up the May!