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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

Brighid’s Flame

Saint_Brigid's_crossIt is a cold Imbolc day in the countryside, and wintertime restlessness has made your feet wish to wander. Bundling yourself up against the chill, you don thick socks, warm long underthings, a heavy jacket, mittens, boots, and a hat. Bidding farewell to your warm home, you venture forth into the cold afternoon air, and begin your journey.

You are newly come to this area, and have not had the opportunity to explore much beyond your own yard. The harvest kept you busy, and the snow set in early. Heading west, you set an easy pace, enough to keep you warm but not enough to wear you. There are small clouds, some which seem to threaten snowfall, but the ground is nearly bare in places due to a January thaw.

Continuing for some time, you wander past stone walls and open fields, past small forests and frozen streams. Then ahead, in a meadow, you spy a building standing alone. It has begun to snow lightly, and the wind has picked up, so out of curiosity and the desire to rest from the cold, you venture forth.

It is a stone building, a small chapel-like structure with a thatched roof. The path to the door is wide and well kept. The windows are of stained glass, and the door is heavy oak hinged with large iron pieces. Seeking respite from the wind, you grasp the large iron handle and pull the door open.

You enter a small antechamber and pull the door closed against the elements. The noise of the wind is greatly muffled here, and it feels good to be out of the cold. You shake the snow from your shoulders and move forward through the archway into the larger chamber.

The light from outside makes the stained windows glow with a multitude of color, spilling a rainbow on the stone floor. Low wooden benches line the walls, inviting rest for the weary traveler.

On a wooden table in the center of the room, there is a stone lamp, lit. The flame is bright and warm, and dances in the slight breeze. Also on the table, you see flowers – white roses, daisies, lilies, all fresh and alive despite the winter’s cold. It is then that you realize that you are relatively warm in here, not just the simple warmth that comes from being out of the wind, but almost comfortable enough to remove your outer layer. You wonder at this, since there is no visible heat source other than the small flickering flame of the lamp.

You move from the table to one of the benches and release a sigh of contentment as your feet no longer bear the full weight of your body. You adjust a little, finding the right spot to relax. Now at rest, your mind wanders to events in your life that have been troubling you; frustrating situations, difficult decisions, and painful processes. The dancing flame catches your gaze again, and your eyes are drawn to its glowing presence. The flame waves gently, back and forth, like a shining fish’s tail through calm water. It lulls you into a state of well-being, and your lips form a half smile. Your eyes grow heavy but do not close, though your lashes cause the candle flame to soften and blur.

Then, between one breath and the next, there is a shimmer of tiny bells, and you realize that a white-clad figure, a woman, is standing beside the table, looking at you. Your eyes open fully, but you are not startled. Indeed, Her presence is calming, gentle. You wonder how She came to be here, for you did not hear the door open, and it is the only entrance into this small stone building. Then you notice that Her feet are bare, and She has on no warm outer things, only a white gown and a garland of green gracing Her head. A question forms on your lips, and She smiles, drawing a breath to speak.

“Welcome are you, child, to this sacred place, on this holy day. Here does My flame ever burn; here do I hear those who beseech Me.”

In wonder and awe, you realize that you are in the presence of the Goddess Brighid, and She smiles again at your expression. You rise quickly, and stammer an apology for your intrusion.

She laughs gently. “Indeed, fear not, for this is a place of safety and rest for those who are weary. Ever is this a sanctuary for those seeking rest and hope. Though you spoke not, I heard the storm within your heart, and I respond.”

“Oh my Lady,” you cry out, “how is it I can bear the troubled times facing me? There seems to be no hope, no answers. I’m lost.” Your voice breaks on that last word, and tears come to your eyes.

Brighid comes to your side on silent feet and takes you within her arms. She lays a hand upon your head, bringing it to rest on her shoulder, and She strokes your hair.

“I am the promise of Springtime. Within Me lies the purpose and power of new life coming and dark times passing. Though at times your strength is truly tried, keep My flame alive in your heart. Balance your actions with compassion; keep words of love in your mouth, for truly do I listen. You are never alone, Beloved; you need only call to Me, and My light shall shine forth from the depths of your darkest night. The flame into which you gazed is as constant as My love for you, and never shall it be extinguished. You are precious to Me, dear one. It is through your own acts of love that you draw strength, so love and love well, even when it is hard to do so.  Every act of anger brought against you is an opportunity to be answered with love. I say that not lightly, for it is those times that shall surely try you, but in those times will you gain your highest power. Answer anger with grace, hatred with compassion, fear with light, and always shall you be borne by My flame.”

Your breathing slows as you listen to Her words, and the tension drains from your body. Though your troubles are still present in your mind, you can see more clearly now, and feel that you have the strength to endure, if not succeed. You expel a deep sigh that seems to lighten both your spirit and your physical form, and you lift your head from Brighid’s shoulder. Smile answers smile, and you drop your eyes, feeling a bit shy in such a sacred presence.

“Return here when you wish,” She says, “for this door is always open to you. Bring your troubles and your joy; come in calm or in turmoil. Here shall you ever find peace.”

“Thank you my Lady, with all of my heart,” you say, and slowly, She fades from view.