Cylch Blodeuwedd

Druidic Grove in North-West Wales

Notes on Gwyl Fai

by gillian - April 4th, 2012.
Filed under: Wheel of the Year.

Notes Based on Glennie Kindred’s Ideas

Beltain is a celebration of the fertility and rampant potency of the life-force. All of nature is growing and manifesting now in a wild whirl of creative energy. This is the time to celebrate unions of all kinds, fertility and manifestation on many different levels, love, sexuality, and fruitfulness. It is a time to be in touch with the instinctive wild forces within and without, to be aware of the potency of the life-force and it’s power on the physical, spiritual, and mystical levels.

In the Celtic Pagan past, this was the night of the ‘greenwood marriage’ where the union between the Horned God and the fertile Goddess was re-enacted by the men and the women to ensure the fertility of the land. It was a night to spend in the woods, to make love under the trees, stay up all night and watch the sunrise, and bathe in the early morning dew. On this night, people walked the mazes and labyrinths and sat all night by sacred wells and healing springs who’s waters were said to be especially potent at this time. This was the ‘merry month’ when people dressed in green in honour of the earth’s new spring colours and the fairy folk, elemental and nature spirits, who are easier to meet at this time.

The Horned god, Herne the Hunter, untameable instinctive, wild man of the forest, becomes a white stag and chases the fertile goddess who becomes a white deer. The legend tells us he becomes the prey he hunts, and is magically transformed by his union with the Goddess. Since prehistoric times there have been many images of horned Gods; Actaeon the Stag, Pan the goat, Dionysus or Zeus the bull, Amen the Ram, Cernunos the horned god of the Celts. There is a connection between horns and male vitality through an ancient tantric belief that by the transformation of ejaculation, a mystic energy mounts up the spine, made visible by horns, and brings mystical power and wisdom. A composite of all these horned gods of the pagan religions became the Christian version of the Devil. His lustful nature gives rise to the modern slang word ‘horny’, but the word lust in old German meant ‘religious joy’ and holds a clue to the transformation which takes place in the horned God as he releases his seed and brings fertility to the land.

The Goddess is Grain, and Creiddylad, who rides her horse across the sky as Rhiannon, Epona, and Macha. A free and powerful Spirit of womanhood, she knows the power of love and the power of her own sexuality. She too is transformed by their union, becoming the Grain-Mother, carrying the fruit of their union. Together the God and Goddess represent the great circle of life and death through the seasons. Through their union at Beltain, their knowledge and power is shared. Through the blending of these opposite forces, they become the fertile force of manifest energy. Through their love and sacred union, they become transformed both physically and beyond the physical. Beltain is the celebration of this mystical and spiritual transformation inherent in sexual union.

May Day celebrations include dancing around the may pole, symbolising the interweaving and joining of the male and female energies. This creates a web of energy in a living matrix of power. It was common practice to bring a new pole into the village every year. Representing the year’s incarnation of the vegetation or nature spirit. Incorporated into the maypole dance is the Green Man who dances around the edge and represents the spirit of vegetation. All this is linked to a much older ceremony of fetching a living tree into the village every year. This living tree would still have its resident Dryad within the tree who would be central to the ceremony and danced around. It would have been asked for it’s help to ensure fertility of the land and a good harvest. The popular song ‘Here we go gathering nuts in may’ probably refers to the ‘Knots’ of May that were gathered for Beltain celebrations. It is entirely the wrong month for nuts! These ‘knots of may’ were used for decoration, but were and must never be taken inside the house.

Beltain is one of the four great Cross Quarter Fire Festivals. Beltân means Fire of the God Bel… A goodly fire! A special fire was kindled after all the other fires in the community had been put out. This was the need fire. People junped the fire to purify, cleanse, and to bring fertility. Couples jumped the fire together to pledge themselves to each other. Cattle and other animals were driven through the smoke as a protection from disease and to bring fertility. At the end of the evening, the villagers would take some of the need fire to start their fires at home anew.

The church changed the focus of Beltain eve from a night of revelry and sexual potency, to the May Day celebration who’s May Queen was a symbol of virginity, purity, and chastity, transforming the image of the wild sexually potent fertile Goddess into her opposite. Of all the things that the Church repressed, sexual expression and the sexuality of women was one of the greatest. Sexual pleasure and overt sexuality were serious offences while killing and Holy wars continued. With generations of deep disapproval influencing us, Beltain is one of the hardest ceremonies to connect to without causing embarrassment and offence.

At Beltain we can also direct our focus to the fertility of the Earth, especially now when there are large areas of land all over the land all over the world suffering and dying from man’s mismanagement, pollution, and intensive farming methods. Beltain energy is one of reverence for all of life, celebrating and honouring the fertility which grows from the union of opposites. It is about the sacredness and spirituality of love and sexual pleasure and deep connections of the heart. These life changing forces are not just the focus of sexual union, but unions of all kinds. Integrity of spirit and power brings the physical and spiritual into balance. This creates a strong life force energy which becomes the light and eternal love of spiritual ecstasy.

This is the beginning of the final and most actively potent of the waxing phase of the Sun’s cycle. All of life is bursting with fertility and the power of it’s own potential. Everything is in the process of becoming. This is the peak of the Spring Season and the beginning of Summer, the onset of the growing season when the Earth is clothed in green, the vibration of love and the heart chakra. Flowers are everywhere, birds and animals are having their young, the sounds of birdsong fill the air. It is a time of sunshine and rain, swelling and bursting, rising sap and fresh new growth. The Earth’s energies are at their most active.

Beltain, like it’s opposite in the wheel of the year, Samhain, marks a particularly potent transition in the yearly cycle. At dawn and dusk especially the boundaries between the worlds are thin, and we may find ourselves ‘spellbound’ by the power of the moment, touch the fairy realms or experience the paranormal. This will bring insights and understanding which will greatly expand our consciousness.

From here to the Summer Solstice is the peak of the sunlight and the conscious outward expression of ourselves. During this high energy time, we need to be aware of where we are and what we want and need. Create the most fertile and positive environment in which to grow the seeds of yourself. Reach out for what it is that you want and let the energy of growth whisk you along. It is a time to honour sex in it’s raw state, to see this as part of the cycle, to allow the extreme to exist which is part of nature and the expansive energy. Beltain brings the union of opposites; the rational and the intuitive, the active and the receptive, fire and water. Fertility comes from the blending of these two energies regardless of gender. Fertility is inherent in everything, everything is possible. Manifestation is reaching the height of it’s power. 

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