Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beltane Ramblings

For my next Blog, I wanted to write a piece on Beltane.  Ah.  Beltane.  Arguably the second biggest festival of the Pagan year…and yet one of the few that really has no counter celebration in the mundane world.  (Even Imbolc has Groundhog Day…only Lughnasadh is as covert as Beltane.)  Imagine collecting spring flowers and putting them in small baskets to deliver to all your neighbors, or weaving them into wreaths to wear on your head.  Picture young, unmarried men going into the forest and returning with a tree that would be turned into the maypole.  Young folks dancing around that pole…with those colorful ribbons winding around and around.  Tables set with a feast and the laughter and dancing and music.

So why was it so difficult to write about this Sabbat?  Beltane is a fertility holiday, but unlike many other holiday and rituals that clearly mark fertility in agricultural terms, Beltane is often THE Sabbat for sex.  If you’ve been around Paganism long enough, you have certainly heard the stories of old of young couples disappearing into the woods on May Eve only to return the following morning wearing flowers…and apparently big smiles. 

Could it be that for those of us who are clearly on the other side of youth, Beltane seems to rarely live up to its potential.  Let me honest here.  I don’t care how many articles I read that the fertility of Beltane can apply to any creative project…it’s just not the same.  Beltane = sex.  It’s the Pagan equivalent of New Year’s Eve.  Goddess forbid you don’t have a date…you’ll be stuck at home watching Ryan Seacrest in your PJs with a bowl of chocolate ice cream – only in May it’s on American Idol instead of at Times Square.

Work schedules and weekday commitments usually push public ritual and private group celebrations to the weekend…leaving May Eve to my husband and I.   I absolutely despise “scheduled sex”.   I am much more the spontaneous type, and as a woman who reached menopause over 10 years ago, those moments of spontaneity are less and less frequent.  After arriving home from a long work day, we’re both tired.  So we have changed our own Beltane custom to one of romance.   Soft music, candlelight, great food, a bottle of wine…either out at a restaurant or in our own living room helps set the stage for a night that is about us.   We concentrate on the partnership aspect of Beltane.  Those wild nights of youth may just be a pleasant memory now, but we have each other and we can cuddle in each other’s arms, just enjoying the moment.

Unless of course, he whips out that leather Green Man mask….I said I was older, not dead.

What are your suggestions for celebrating Beltane for those of us who are on the other side of the hill…or for those of us who are currently not in a relationship?

Friday, January 18, 2013


How many of you actually own a besom?  Or must admit that it is the last ritual tool you either bought or made?

A besom is a broom made of a bundle of twigs tied to a handle.  The brush part of the besom is usually round instead of flat.  The bristles can be made of straw, herbs or twigs, and folks have used various woods for the handle.

Besoms are used mainly to sweep out negativity from a space…be it the ritual circle or your home.  Many also believe that if you keep your besom by your hearth, it will help in preventing negativity from entering in the first place.  It is often used in handfasting ceremonies, with the couple jumping over the besom during the ritual.

Despite these uses, I have found that often folks just aren’t fond of the besom.  It could be that it’s reputation with witches in a negative sense makes folks cautious in obtaining one.  They can’t get over the picture of ugly crones (or the Wicked Witch of the West) flying around on a broomstick…or are loathe to endure snide comments from non-pagan friends when they see the besom next to the fireplace.  I’ve experienced those comments first hand:  Do you actually ride that thing?  I knew you were a witch – there’s the broomstick!  Followed by chuckles.  It is such a stereotypical symbol that some shy away from it.  They don’t want to be a caricature of their spiritual beliefs.

On the other hand, why not?  It is thought that since the besom was an everyday household object back in the Middle Ages, it was an important tool used in witchcraft because it wouldn’t raise suspicion.  I like the idea of embracing our roots…of honoring those who have walked this path before.  An item can only demean your beliefs if you allow it too.  This year embrace one of the oldest ritual tools and acquire a besom.  You can find instructions on making one on the web…or purchase one you love at a county or Renaissance Faire.  Display it proudly and use it often.  Come up with answers to all those questions…answers that you can give with a wink and a mischievous smile.  It’s great to keep them guessing.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Have you ever been aware of the presence of a Goddess, but not quite sure who that Goddess was?  So was my relationship with Arianrhod in my teens…weaving my fate on her silver wheel and watching…yes, always watching (and usually shaking her head in dismay) as I often faltered along my spiritual path.

Arianrhod is a take no prisoners no nonsense goddess in my experience.  I was aware of her presence, but had no name for that figure with those eyes that could cut through all the BS.  I worked closely with Brighid back then…Brighid was patient.  Brighid was motherly.  Brighid would answer my questions with a smile.  But this one!  She made me nervous.  Observing from the corner, her quick fingers working with the thread on that beautiful wheel, I would catch her asking Brighid if I were ready yet.  The answer was always no.

I abandoned the Goddess path for many years once I reached college.  It wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that I heard the call of the Goddess once more.  I recall that Imbolc ritual back in the 90’s when I went to dedicate myself to Brighid again…and she was stern, making it quite clear that there was no room for doubts.  Be a Priestess, or don’t be.  There is no middle ground.  I assured Brighid that I was in…present…ready for wherever she led me.  And poof…almost like a magician act…Brighid was gone and there stood Arianrhod.

This Goddess had a job for me and we started down a very bumpy highway to get the task done.  I held a ritual dedicating myself to Arianrhod, and many of my friends still claim it was one of the most powerful rituals they have ever experienced.  Years later, her plan was completed and I knew my reason for working with Arianrhod was finished.  We were done…and since she was finished with me, I expected her to fade away into the cosmos.  But that hasn’t happened.  She’s still with me, though I only feel her presence in times of trouble - her silver beacon like a warning light.  I take heed.  She has embraced me as her child and watches over me.  Reward for a job well done?  Where once her ever watching eyes unnerved me, I am now comforted that she is still there in the distance.  Weaving and watching.  Weaving and watching.  Though her task may have ended, I am still an unfinished project.  Pick up the next piece of thread and spin that web and let’s see where the Goddess takes me.

Friday, January 4, 2013


I have read enough books that specify exactly how an altar should be set up…put the Goddess candle here, the chalice there…that I wonder how the authors miss the point.  An altar is a personal expression of the things that are most important to you at this moment, and placement of objects on the altar should be guided by your creativity and imagination.  If it energetically feels right, then it is.  Think outside the box!

An altar may be large or small – you are only limited by the space you have.  A side table, a windowsill, a mantle, a shelf on a bookcase or outside on the porch or in the garden – all work for an altar.  Before you begin, think about what you are trying to achieve by setting up an altar.  If you will be meditating at the altar, you will need to create it in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.  If you are going to leave candles burning on the altar, you will want to select a space away from pets and small children – as well as curtains and other flammable objects.  You may wish though to place a seasonal altar or one of remembrance in a prominent place in your home so that family and friends can see it often.  Be sure it blends well with the rest of the room…you want it to stand out in a good way!

Just about anything can be put on an altar…as long as it has meaning and is relevant to your goal.  Candles, statues, pictures, crystals, stones, artwork, incense, essential oils, small bowls or boxes, flowers or plants, shells, money, water and salt – all work beautifully.  You may also wish to keep paper and pen on the altar so that you can write things down after meditation for future reference.  But be sure to keep it simple…too many items and it will just look cluttered.  Watch the colors you use on your altar – as in chose colors that you like and are relevant to you.  If you are creating a spring altar, and you hate yellow, don’t use it!  Other pastel colors will work just fine.  Be sure to keep the altar clean and well tended.  An altar left to stagnate is of no use.

When you have achieved your goal, the season changes, or the altar just doesn’t “feel right” anymore, then it is time to make adjustments.    Be sure to remove everything off the altar, clean the surface as well as all the items you are removing…both physically and energetically, and begin anew.