Daily Archives: May 2, 2003

On Privacy And Holidays


Yesterday morning happened to be my couple of hours in the store. It also happened to be May 1, which many Pagan-type folk know as Beltaine.

Which means that yes, the media got hold of us at the store and asked us (a) if there were any public rituals going on last night, and (b) what the staff was doing to celebrate when they got together.

Now, most Pagan-type folk still live in a world that doesn’t understand why they’ve chosen the path they follow, and what mankind does not know it generally fears, resulting in oppression and/or ridicule. Hence most Pagan-type folk don’t really bruit it about that they’re Pagan-type folk. Makes work environments safer, and family gatherings less violent.

What does this have to do with it being Beltaine? Well, it means that the media is decidedly not welcome at a ritual, because you never know what sound byte/camera shot might reveal your voice or face to those watching or listening. People’s lives have been ruined, jobs lost, their places in the family disowned because of this. Religion is the one undefinable thing that runs so deep that it causes brother to turn against brother and nations to go to war, all in the name of their vision of deity.

So I’m afraid I annoyed the media representatives who called by telling them that there was no ritual available from which they could gather material. I wasn’t lying, either. Most rituals are going on this weekend, and they needed material right away. (Pagan-type folk are practical people. They know that people are more likely to be free on a Saturday than a Thursday night.)

The whole popular misconception that the staff of a metaphysical shop worships together is amusing too. I must perforce shatter any romantic illusions my readers might have formed and say that in reality, we work together, and that’s it. I mean, really. Do you go out with your entire staff to synagogue, to church, to temple, to mosque? No, I didn’t think so.

As for the whole not celebrating on the actual holiday issue, I’m used to it. My father was an airline pilot, and when I was a kid he often wasn’t home on Christmas Day. No problem; we’d either celebrate early, or the first day he was home after the 25th. It’s just a day, after all. The important part of it revolves around family, and being together, and sharing. Ironically enough, that’s what most Pagan holidays are about too: community, being together, and marking the seasonal changes. Yes, the media representatives were miffed that no one was celebrating Beltaine on Beltaine. I’m just glad that Beltaine gets celebrated at all. In the rain, or otherwise.

Besides, I think they would have been a little taken aback to hear how I was spending Beltaine eve. Home-made chicken fajitas, a TV double-header of Buffy and Angel, a bottle of Taylor Fladgate First Estate port, a lap full of cats, and the company of my husband. Hardly the stuff of legend.


So what’s Beltaine?

Also celebrated as May Day, this festival begins at sundown on April 30. Traditionally, couples stay out overnight “bringing in the May”, or gathering spring flowers and greenery with which to create garlands, crowns and bouquets. It is a time of joyous celebration of the fertility displayed by the land as it further opens to the touch of the sun: trees have put forth new leaves and are now flowering, the new grass is lush and thick; the days grow ever longer and the rains nourish the new crops in the fields.

By extension, Beltaine is also a sexually licentious time. It is the beginning of the season favoured for marriages and handfastings, as well as for re-enactment of the Great Rite, the union between the God and the Goddess. Much poetry and folklore exists describing the abandonment with which dancing, singing and playing leads to lovemaking. Children conceived on this might are called “children of the Gods”, and are said to be blessed.

The Maypole is perhaps the most recognisable accessory to Mayday celebration. A dancing game in which men and women interweave ribbons attached to a high pole (passing one another with plenty of kisses!), this action is another form of the Great Rite, the pole representing the God and the ribbons which slowly enfold it representing the Goddess. Other familiar concepts at Beltaine include a bonfire through which people jump and/or drive livestock for purification and luck, and the Jack-of-the-Green, a man disguised in leaves who represents the Vegetation God or the Lord of the Forest. His elected consort is the May Queen, who will be presented with garlands and floral crowns.

This festival is opposite Samhain on the Wheel of the Year, and like that Sabbat is a night of divination as the veils grow thin. The Ancient Celts recognised only two seasons, summer and winter; as Samhain was the beginning of Winter, the dark half of the year, so Beltaine recognises the beginning of Summer, or the light half of the year.

Yeah. It’s all about life, the way Samhain is all about death. Two sides of the same coin, after all. It’s an essential part of the never-ending cycle: life, death; light, dark; summer, winter. Neither side carries more weight; both are equally important. We honour fertility and creation, and we honour the time of fallowness and destruction as well. It’s like an Oreo: it just isn’t an Oreo unless it has chocolate biscuits and a white cream filling. (Okay, and a glass of milk, too, but that’s beside the point.)

I can’t believe I just compared basic Pagan the(a)ology to a Mr Christie cookie product. Even worse, I can’t believe it made sense to me.

Oreos are very Beltaine, though, don’t you think? You know – gently pull apart the layers, to get to the… never mind.