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Beltane Celebration

You are sitting in a small meadow, waiting with many others for the Beltane ritual to begin. Your feet are bare in the grass, a soft, green carpet, and you run your soles over the smoothness. A grasshopper bounds away from your intruding paw, and you render it an amused apology. The sun is fine and warm, a welcome thing after the cool, wet days of April. The air smells fresh and clean, full of the droning of bees and chirping of birds as the liveliness of spring emerges.

Across the green, the drummers gather, chatting animatedly, readying their instruments to add music to the day. A consensus is reached, and the big, deep voice of the djun djuns booms out, setting the pace. Djembes and ashikos quickly follow, adding rhythm and counterpoint. Shakers are taken up and make the music more full. Someone begins to play a lively tune on a flute, picking up on the drummers’ beat. Several people, men and women both, begin to dance; their movements are graceful and energetic. Feet stomp, skirts swirl, and arms wave in joyous abandon.

The music is entrancing, and you find yourself drifting. The murmur of voices creates a drone that relaxes you further, and you ease yourself back on the grass. Your breathing deepens, and your back conforms to the contours of the soft ground beneath you. You close your eyes and see the red of the sweet May sun behind your lids. Your heart twins the beat of the deep drums, and you slide away into dreaming.

You open your eyes to find yourself lying in a different meadow, the drumming a distant sound. You sit up and look around you. Tiny yellow butterflies chase one another over the waving grasses and birds sing in the nearby trees. No one else is present, and you feel the desire to return to your own meadow and the drumming. But as you get up, two people emerge from the trees, a man and a woman; she in a gown of pale blue with a crown of ivy, he in deep green with oak leaves twined in his hair. They smile at you and beckon you forward, and you join them at the center of the green.

Welcome are you on this Beltane day,” the Lady says to you, the blue in her eyes intensified by the color of her dress. “You are come at a special time, and glad are we that you shall witness this rite.”

Indeed, welcome,” says the Lord, reaching out to grasp your shoulder and giving it a friendly squeeze. “This is the day that my Lady and I join as one, to further the turning of the Wheel.”

You feel quite honored to be a witness to such a special occasion, and you step back a bit to give them space.

The Lord turns to face his Lady, and the love between them is nearly palpable. The glow of affection in their eyes radiates beyond their bodies and includes you in the love. He takes her hands in his, and begins to speak.

Greatest of my heart, the Wheel has turned yet again to Beltane, and on this day, once more I ask you to join me in the never-ending dance of life, death, and rebirth.”

Her voice is like a bell, clear, and full of emotion. “My Beloved, we have walked this road together for ages uncountable, and shall walk on together for eternity.”

My love for you is immeasurable,” he says. “Brighter than the sun, richer than the most beautiful music, deeper than space; this is what I feel for you.”

She replies, “As infinite as grains of sand are the days I shall love you. Unmovable as a mountain is my faith in our love, and pure as the crystal waters that flow deep in the belly of the earth.”

I would give my life for you,” he offers her.

And I for you,” she says.

Will you again handfast to me, my love? Will you once more join your path with mine, that we may share all that the future brings?” asks the Lord.

With all of my heart, I accept your hand, sweet husband,” she replies. “Never shall I part from you, not even in death.”

They embrace and share a long kiss. You drop your eyes to give them a private moment, and when you look again, they have turned their faces toward you. The Lady speaks.

Here you have seen us pledge ourselves, one to the other, as we do here at every Beltane. Since time began, we have made this yearly promise, that the land shall be fertile and life shall continue.”

We are seed and soil, fruit and tree,” says the Lord. “We are the warming sun and the nourishing rains. Without our love, surely would the earth perish and all life cease.”

You, too, are part of this cycle,” the Lady says to you. “By your actions are others affected, and by your love do they heal and grow and flourish. Temper all of your actions with compassion and answer anger and adversity with love.”

She strokes your hair lovingly and the dream begins to fade. But the feeling of being touched lingers and grows. You come back to yourself, open one eye, and find that a dear friend is sitting beside you, petting your head.

It’s time for ritual, sleepyhead” she says fondly, and stands, holding out a hand to help you up. You rise and join the forming circle as the leader calls out a Beltane greeting to all.

©LSG 2015

Faerie Tidings: The Seeds of Imbolc

Seeds of ImbolcFaerie Tidings: The Seeds of Imbolc
by BlackLion and Starcat

Nestled in the cozy cottage, though the cold, wintry winds still blow, we enjoy the hearth fire as our cat friends curl nearby. We sip our late-morning cups of chamomile tea with honey. A cauldron of white bean and rosemary soup already bubbles on the stove, while happy loaves of dough rise into bread in the filtered sunshine. Imbolc has arrived, a blizzard is coming, and it’s a day-dreamy kind of day.

Visions of a big garden expansion dance in our heads. Layers upon layers of green plants, shrubs, and trees will be exchanged, moved, and combined for the optimum growth for our plant friends. We are creating a design that not only benefits our plates, but also the plants, critters, and earth as well. A joyful and yummy garden indeed!

We scribble down notes about which seeds to claim at the upcoming seed exchange at the Browns’ farm, as well as discussing all the brown-paper packets of seeds to share that we have carefully saved from last season’s garden.

Before too many moons, we would be rearranging window seats on the south side of the cottage, making room for seedlings. We’ll need to remember, of course, to leave sunny sleeping spots for the cats. As if on cue, the orange stripey cat wakes from his slumber and leaps into the cardboard box we had strategically left for them beside the couch, drawing the casual attention of the two black cats. All felines soon settle back to their snoozing.

By afternoon, the sky has clouded over and the expected snow begins to fall. We check the barn and make sure everything is secure. The day wanes towards dusk, and we light the candles on the mantel, along with a pair of lanterns. We settle in to dream near the fire while the bread, now shaped into braided rings, does its final rising.

Our inner visions sparkle with the delights of seasons to come. Besides the bountiful and brightly-colored gardens, our reveries include barefoot hikes into our beloved mountains, crafty creations at the big oak table, dance and revelry at the bright sunny beach, community celebrations with the folk of the vale, and a new friend for our donkey pal, Maude. Later, after the bread and soup is safely placed in our bellies, we’ll assemble our dreams and intentions onto our Imbolc vision board.

In the meantime, we bustle into the kitchen and collect our aprons and bowls and flour and the big rolling pin and a myriad of whimsically-shaped cookie cutters. We add nuts and dried fruits and chunks of chocolate as decorations to adorn the gingerbread cookie parade. It is soon comprised of prancing kittens, swirling spirals, shooting stars, plump hearts, dancing birds, covered wagons, and an assortment of wild animals – elephants, mustangs, giraffes, antelope and lots of big cats. Lions, tigers, and leopards, oh my!

In a few days, when the snowstorm relents, we plan to deliver our menagerie of cookies to our neighbors at the seed exchange. As the baking proceeds into the evening, the frigid winter air is temporarily left at the door. The seeds of Imbolc have been lovingly planted in our minds and hearts for the year to come.

Faerie Tidings: Midsummer’s Full Moon

photo by mgstatton

photo by mgstatton

Faerie Tidings: Midsummer’s Full Moon
by BlackLion and Starcat

We pick up our baskets, getting ready to forage for berries and herbs. Before we leave, we make a last check of our ocean-side encampment and its midsummer decorations. Maude the donkey seems happy in the shade near the pavilion, munching on hay and the local grasses. Our pavilion is set up near a hedge of beach roses. Their beautiful scent wafts over us each warm night.

Flowers adorn the walls in streams. We hung flags of vines and leaves attached to hemp rope atop each peak. Colorful ribbons flutter from every wooden pole. Inside, we’ve covered the ground with canvas and piled pillows upon pillows, all shapes and sizes. Low tables hold lanterns, books, crafting supplies, and in one corner, the kitchen.

Crushed shell paths lead from the pavilion further down the beach, where our stone-lined fire pit is full of driftwood, surrounded by the larger logs for seating. The tide is low, smelling of seaweed and brine. We can see that it will turn soon and be quite vibrant and close for our nighttime ritual.

We set off on a path away from the beach into the forest. We miss the companionship of our cat friends, who decided to stay back at the cottage, yet we have noticed a pair of red squirrels trailing not far behind us. The meadow up ahead is one where we first noticed the blossoms of wild strawberries. After a few weeks we are excited about returning to collect a harvest.

Giggling and skipping, we pause occasionally to collect mushrooms and baby greens for a salad for the feast. We plan to make a berry pie if we find as many strawberries as we saw blossoms. Our fire brick oven is our latest addition to the encampment. Steps from the kitchen is our baking and cooking area on a wide stone ledge. Lost in a reverie of pie, we almost miss the split in the path to the strawberry patch.

Opening up in the forest is a bright, sunny meadow filled with green and juicy red. Our floppy hats protect us from the sun as we start picking. The Berry Faeries have been quite busy – we fill our baskets and still see more. Once in a while we pause for some stretching: cartwheels, backbends, and handstands. The red squirrels chitter-chatter around the edge of the meadow, laughing at our playful antics.

At length, it is time to return. We put in a good afternoon’s work of strawberry picking for our feast. Leaving plenty of berries for the other critters, we bless the area and head back down the path toward the beach. Off in the distance we can hear a cadence and a playful melody. We hurry our steps, knowing that our musician friends will soon join us. With uncanny timing, we meet at the split of the path and greet one another enthusiastically. As usual, their gift for the feast is mead, music, and merriment – all welcome additions.

The miles seem like moments as we regale in the beauty of the land, the rhythm of nature, and the empowerment of open spirits. We discuss the forthcoming preparations each of us will make. Our musician friends agree to draw the labyrinth in the sand above the high tide line, while we prepare the feast.

On our voyage to this beach encampment, we had stopped along the way at a friendly farmstead. We stocked Maude and the cart up with a full load of vegetables, fruits, and grains. So along with the berry pie, our feast will include millet stew, onion flatbread with cucumber yogurt sauce, huge salads of fruit and greens, and hand-made sushi.

Feeling quite hungry, we spare a few strawberries as we finish our journey to the beach. We hear the roar of the ocean as the tide begins to come in and the sun settles over the trees. When we arrive, Maude brays a greeting and we offer her some of our foraged greens. The musicians explore our encampment, exclaiming excitedly. They rave about our decorative flair. Making themselves at home, they unpack their bedrolls (and swim suits) in an open area since they will be joining us for several days. Then we all merrily set to work.

Stoking the oven, we bring her back to life and begin our baking excitement. The flatbread is prepped, flattened, and baked at just the right temperature. Meanwhile the chopping, slicing, shredding, julienning, and mashing of the fruits and vegetables proceeds apace. When we finally wipe our hands on our aprons and look up, twilight is beginning to fall and it is time for the ritual to begin.

The musicians have been quite busy. As the other guests arrived, they were guided to different areas of focus for creating the sacred space. Whether beachcombing, setting up trestle tables, lighting the fire, or completing the labyrinth, each of the attendees shared their energy in the spiritual process.

The stars and fireflies twinkle and the waves roll louder and louder. Some of the younger guests are already frolicking in the water. We step out of the pavilion to raucous cheers as we encircle the fire. As the Full Strawberry Moon appears over the watery horizon, we all join hands and dance as we joyfully celebrate the Midsummer Full Moon.

Faerie Tidings: A Feast for the Faerie Kin

The rain sounds like a thousand footsteps, all around the edges of the clearing. Fog drifts through and among the standing stones. We can feel the tangible presence of our ancestors. Finishing our rites, we carefully pack up our baskets and satchels; there will be no stargazing this Samhain Eve. It’s cold, wet, and windy, and our cozy cottage beckons us back down the hill.

We spy some moistened mushrooms at the edge of the path, gleaming in our lantern light.

During our meditative communion with our ancestors, we were inspired to create a delectable feast for them. As we crunch our way back to the cottage, we eagerly imagine all the delicious dishes and desserts we’ll be making tonight to honor our faerie kin.

We spy some moistened mushrooms at the edge of the path, gleaming in our lantern light. We harvest a few as accents for the feast, leaving a shiny silver coin as an offering. Nearer the stream, we find patches of fresh greens still poking their heads out amongst the copper pine needles and brown oak leaves. As we near the cottage, we gently pluck bronze pears from one of our favorite trees, thanking it for the pie we’ll soon create.

The three cats are huddled in the barn door, mostly out of the rain, awaiting our return. We share a pear with Maude the donkey, making sure she’s all settled in for the night. Then we open the cottage door for the rain-bespeckled cats, who twine happily around our feet in greeting, wiping their damp fur on our legs. We give thanks that we remembered our water-resistant cloaks, as we shake them off and set them by the newly-rekindled fire to dry.

We put on hot water for steaming mugs of vanilla tea, and then begin to take an inventory of the pantry, preparing for our marathon in the kitchen. We nibble a few roasted nuts as we merrily discuss our plans. We have apples and honey for pie, and plenty of squash, potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and beets. It sounds like a root stew is in order! We’ll also bake some bread, as we know our ancestors love to break it with us. And we’ll crack open the new wheel of cheese that Farmer Brown brought us yesterday, cutting through its beeswax shell.

We start chopping the veggies and sliding them off the wooden cutting board into a big black cauldron. Flour flies as we prepare the crusts for the apple and pear pies. A stray rolling pin slips off the table and makes its way across the floor, startling the orange cat into licking his paws in surprise. The greens and mushrooms we found will be sautéed into a wilted salad and dressed with our own apple cider vinegar and dried chives, fennel, and walnut.

Our bellies rumble, so we slice off a wedge of the cheese to share. As the dough rises and the pies bake and the stew bubbles, we prepare our dining space. We pull our best table linens from a nearby trunk and shake them out. One of the black cats finds a comfy spot inside the trunk, so we decide to leave the lid open for now.

Placing the tablecloth on our long table, we add place settings, napkins, and our centerpiece – Great-Aunt Eleanor’s crystal ball. Next, we add an arrangement of colorful candles and a garland of yellow mums. We put out our best fluted glasses, to be filled with some honey mead we saved for just such an occasion.

Soon, as if by magick, the fantastic feast is ready to eat! We serve out generous helpings onto each plate and pour the mead. There are no lively musicians and excited neighbors joining us this time; this feast is to share with our ancestors beyond the veil. As we sit down at our places, we can hear a distant haunting melody as if coming from the hills around the cottage.

We propose a toast to the ancestors and offer them their places at this Samhain feast. With blessings said, we quietly enjoy our own portion of the delicious meal we’ve prepared. The cats are all asleep by the fire, and we too soon begin to drowse. Dimming the candles, we make our way upstairs to bed and say a fond goodnight to our faerie kin. We leave their plates full, to be enjoyed at their leisure.

As morning dawns, we hear noises from downstairs. The cats are all snuggled up with us, sleeping soundly. Deciding to investigate, we tiptoe down the stairs. All the plates on the table are empty now, and sparkling clean. Noticing a gleam on one of them, we discover a bright shiny silver coin. We laugh in delight – the faerie ancestors have enjoyed their Samhain feast!