Bringing in Beltane…Magical May Eve

Today, 30 April marks the beginning of May Day celebrations, ushering in the month of May, the festival begins at dusk on 30 April. These celebrations were, and to many are known as Beltane, and is matched by its celebratory European counterpart, Walpurgis Nacht or St Walpurga’s Night in Germanic tradition.

The month of May is named after the Greek goddess of spring and new abundance, Maia, (also called Flora) the oldest of the seven sisters known as the Pleiades. Maia was the mother of Hermes (Mercury.)

Flora, or Maia by Botticelli

The name ‘May’ has been used in English since about 1430. Before this time the name of this month was spelled Maius or Mai. The Anglo- Saxons called it Tri-Milchus because all that lush new grass meant cows could now be milked three times a day.

May Day has its roots in astronomy, celebrating the halfway arrival point (at least approximately) between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. It has been celebrated in the British Isles and through much of Europe as a fertility festival since the Dark Ages, and probably before that, with many stories and superstitions attached.

Like Halloween, May Eve and May Day is a magical time of year, liminal, when the veil between different worlds and realities is thinner than at other times of year.

This is a time for ghosts but this is also the time of year when folklore suggests you are most likely to meet a supernatural being from the realm of ‘faery.’

Such an encounter might be friendly, but probably it won’t be. Such encounters are dangerous and are best avoided – or you may never be seen again. Do not, whatever you do, go to sleep on a fairy hill at any time, but especially not on May Eve or May Day. Especially beware of going to sleep under hawthorn bushes.

Beltane

The two greatest Celtic festivals were Samhain (Halloween), marking the start of winter, and Beltane (April 30/May 1) marking the start of summer.

Beltane ‘the fires of Bel’ began as an ancient fire festival celebrated since at least the Dark Ages if not long before. The celebrations began at dusk on April 30th when great bonfires were lit to welcome the height of spring now associated with the zodiac sign of Taurus the Bull, representing the fertility of spring in full bloom.”Traditionally,” writes Glennie Kindred (in Sacred Celebrations), “all fires in the community were put out and a special fire was kindled for Beltane. This was the ‘balefire’ or the Teineigen, the ‘need fire.’

Bel or Belenus (Celtic: possibly, Bright One) was a deity associated with pastures, meadows and animal husbandry and other agriculture. He was a fire god rather than a sun god as such, though the sun was used as a common motif in religious imagery.

The cattle were walked between two bonfires in a symbolical purification ritual, to be protected by the smoke from Bel’s fire before being put out to the open pastures for the summer.  Bonfires were lit on sacred hills too, and the smoke was considered a magical blessing on the fields, animals, and community, and was also supposed to maintain a fragile balance, keeping up a smokescreen, literally, between the human and faery realms.

The Christian church made several attempts throughout history to ban May Day festivities because of its overtly pagan nature and “lewd” context as an open celebration of male and female sexuality and fertility ‘a heathenish vanity generally abused to superstition and wickedness.’ 

May Day meant drinking and fighting, another reason for the church’s disapproval, but this in itself harks back to the ancient traditions of the sacrifice of ‘The Green Man’ – a mythical figure representing the eternal battle waged between summer and winter, feast and famine. Many pubs in England are still named The Green Man.

In Padstow, Minehead and some other places in the UK, mischievous hobby-horses (‘osses) roamed and still do roam the streets in search of unsuspecting young ladies to ‘carry away’ for nefarious undisclosed purposes.

Image: Morris dancers with hobbyhorse up to no good, Richmond embankment,1620

Men disappointed in love would make straw men representing their rivals and stick them on bushes. These depictions were needless to say, often deeply unflattering, and fighting might well follow once they were discovered and identified and the maker was known.

May Day harks back to the ancient traditions of the sacrifice of ‘The Green Man’ – a mythical figure representing the eternal battle waged between summer and winter, feast and famine. Many pubs in England are still named The Green Man.

The Puritans banned it altogether under Oliver Cromwell but Charles 11 brought it back into custom after the Restoration.

Recorded evidence of Maypole Dancing goes back at least to the 14th century, the texts suggesting the custom was very old even then, although the dance as we know it today, so pretty and decorative, children dancing in village squares, is probably an innovation of the Victorians, rather than ancient tradition. The maypole is generally assumed to be a phallic symbol, but the Norse had another story for it, connecting it to ancient tree worship. This connects the British with the Germanic tradition and before that, a shared proto-germanic culture which is part of the common root culture in British life even today.

Walpurgis Night/Walpurga’s Night

In the Germanic tradition, Walpurgis Night, on April 30th, is a moon festival sacred to the goddess Freya.

“Walpurga” is another one of Freya’s names. The re-dedication of the holiday to “St. Walpurga” was a later Christian addition.

Freya (Old Norse, Freyja, and “Lady”) is one of the pre-eminent goddesses in Norse mythology, also known as Freyja or Frigg, but almost certainly the same deity. She was the goddess of love and beauty in Norse mythology, the goddess of marriage and family and a great prophetess – a seeress. She taught her husband Odin how to read the runes, and like Odin, had a darker aspect as a patron deity of war and death in battle.

Freya wears a cloak of falcon feathers and a magical gold necklace called Brísingamen, and rides in a chariot pulled by two cats with a sacred boar called Hildisvíni running alongside. The boar is not present in this picture, and the cats, it has been speculated, were two male kittens found by Thor. Their mother had abandoned them apparently and he took them and gave them to Freya. We understand the kittens were grey-blue in colour, and it has been speculated they may have been Russian Blues. I can’t be the only one who would like to know how Freya taught them to do this….but she was after all, a mightily knowing goddess, and clearly a cat whisperer extraordinaire.

The Maypole dancing which so upset the Church and especially the Puritans with its overt phallic symbolism, and the associated misbehaviour by the time the dancers had downed a few drinks, comes down to us from the rites of spring dedicated to Freya.

The maypole originally represented a living tree, in particular the giant ash tree Yggdrasil, the great “world tree” of Norse myth, linking the nine worlds of the Norse cosmology including Asgard, land of the gods, heavenly world, Midgard or the earth and Hel, the underworld.

“Ygg” means terrible. The image and Music below, suitably ominous, is shared with permission from composer Sam Marks. It was on this tree that Odin chose to hang nine days and nights, thirsty and fasting in exchange for the knowledge of the runes. The Norns sit beneath it and when every new person is born, carves their names into its bark…and with it, their destiny, although this can change. The Norns will allow us to rewrite it, unlike the destinies woven by the three Fates of Greek mythology.

Yggrasil Music by Sam Marks

British  May Day Folklore…bringing in the May

I washed my face in water

That had neither rained nor run

And then I dried it on a towel

That was never woven or spun

  • The rhyme suggests go out barefoot very early on May morning, wash your face in that magical dew (or late snow) Your complexion will instantly improve.  Let the wind and sunshine dry your face and you’ll have good luck all year. Well, you can if you want to….depending on the weather, very early morning this time of year can be utterly wonderful
  • Bringing in ‘the may’ is considered lucky, and means gathering cuttings of flowering trees for magical protection of the home. Bring in branches of forsythia, magnolia, lilac, or other flowering branches. Decorate the doorway to keep unfriendly fae and other spirits away.
  • Make garlands or decorate a basket or a ‘May bush’ with flowers and coloured ribbons. This would often be a hawthorn bush but it doesn’t have to be.
  • If you need to move a bee hive, May 1 is a traditional day for doing it, hopefully clement for the bees.
  • Turnips are traditionally planted on May 1. Plant now, lovely mashed turnip later. What are you waiting for?
  • Fishermen expect to get lucky with catch on May Day.
  • It’s a powerful day for spell-casting…any spells to do with bringing in health, wealth, and abundance. Light a red or pink candle for love or passion…but be careful what you wish for, and it is unlucky to try and take what is not rightfully available to you.
  • Traditionally less lucky is to get married in May. But not to panic if you’ve got the date already booked. The writer of this article was born May Eve, Beltane and got married in May – 28 years ago this May- and has had mixed luck in life like all of us, but so far is still married.

Until next time 🙂

Candle safety

Never leave a candle unattended

Snuff candles out with a spoon rather than blowing on them

Tea-lights can melt certain surfaces e.g., TV’s. Use heat resistant surfaces.

Light candles at a safe distance from curtains etc

Heat rises. Be careful of leaving candles on shelves with other shelves above them.

Halloween and ‘Alfblot’ Runes

Did the Norse celebrate Halloween? Plus a message from the runes for you…

The word ‘rune’ comes from an old Norse word ‘runa’ meaning a secret. The runes were the 24letters of the ancient Norse alphabet, known as the Elder Futhark, but the runes were also used for psychic divination and in magical work.  Many words in modern English (eg: Fee, Day, Answer, Need, Lake, Hail, Ice)  derive from these ancient letters, which in turn came from language roots shared with ancient Greek.

Elder Futhark.png

Public Domain: The Elder Futhark Alphabet

What we know of Norse Mythology comes largely from the Eddas, two collections of writings from assorted anonymous writers, dating around 1250 CE.

According to the elder of these, the Poetic Edda, the greatest god, Odin, obtained the secrets of the runes via Yggrasil the Great Ash Tree which connected the Nine Worlds of the Cosmos. Odin hung upside down nine days and nights on Yggrasil, not eating and drinking, tormented by thirst and a self-inflicted wound in his side, until at last he received a vision of the runes, and reached inwards to seize them.

He studied further with his wife, the goddess Freya, pictured here driving her chariot drawn by cats. Freya was the most powerful practitioner and teacher of shamanic Norse magic, just as in real life Norse society, a war chieftain’s wife was given the job of being a veleda – prophesying the outcome of any military action, and performing magic to help her husband succeed. One does not like the imagine the rows that might have followed when he didn’t.

Freya.jpg

Public Domain: Freya

All Hallows Eve, Halloween or Samhain is a Gaelic custom, not Norse.  The Norse peoples did mark this time of year although in a different way, with Álfblót – the Elf Ritual.  

Elves were associated with burial mounds (also known as barrows) as it was believed that they lived in or around them, and more than this, elves were associated with the souls of the dead. Since the dead were sometimes referred to as ‘elves,’ Álfblót was rather like a pagan Day of the Dead.

Like the modern Halloween, Álfblót originally marked the general end of autumn, although it may technically be celebrated on any day around this time. However in recent years, it has been predominantly practised on or close to 31st October (Halloween/Samhain). 

Traditionally, Álfblót almost certainly involved an animal sacrifice, (blood) Records suggest this may even have been a (highly valuable) bull. It was intended as a sacrifice to the elves, asking for protection from the ancestors. Connected with this, the elves were also associated with fertility. 

A chief difference here is, unlike Halloween/Samhain, Álfblót was not a community celebration. It was a private ritual performed at the homesteads. Only local people were welcome, and strangers were not permitted to take part or even watch.

How Is A Rune Reading Done?

There are various ways of reading the runes but our reader has used one of the oldest known methods. The reader has drawn a small circle on a piece of black cloth. The runes (pieces of polished, engraved haematite) are placed in their protective pouch, and shaken. The reader asks her question, “what is the message from the runes for the subjects of the cardinal Fire Sign, Aries?’ and so on, repeating this process for each sign of the zodiac. Then she scatters the runes across the cloth. Which rune or runes have fallen within the circle? If more than one has landed there, which has landed most centrally? These are the runes containing your message for this mysterious time of year, All Hallows Eve – Halloween when the veil is thinnest between worlds.

It is important to note, as a matter of historical accuracy, the Norse rune seers did not work with the signs of the zodiac. They thought in terms of natural forces and creatures, the mystic power of the natural elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water, but our modern rune reader will here do both.

Runes for the Earth Signs 

Taurus – your rune is Ehwaz (Horse)

Ehwaz.png

Advice:  This is a positive rune of steady, if gradual progress, and indicates changes for the better coming up around the end of October if not actual travel.  Ehwaz urges physical movement. Go walking or running or dancing. Whatever you like, but move that body. The horse represents a vehicle, and that vehicle is you, but may refer to your means of transport, a car, bus, motorbike. Pay all due proper care and attention to vehicle maintenance. This is a time for teamwork, pulling together as one at work and at home, but you may also feel a need to start something new on your own, to expand your horizons and make new contacts.

Virgo – your rune is Uruz (The Auroch)

Uruz.png

Advice: The Auroch is an ancestor of the first domesticated cattle, a fearsome animal known for its courage and great physical power. Here, the Auroch is you.  You must take action if you want to turn cherished hopes into reality. Do not underestimate yourself, and your power to forge ahead and overcome obstacles. Show you really mean business, a way is cleared. An extra application of willpower will pay off dividends, and you also excel at detail. But- there is a ‘but’…you need to pace yourself. Coughs and sneezes spread diseases. Avoid crowds. Take proper care of yourself this month. 

Capricorn – your rune is Kenaz (Beacon)

kenaz.png

Advice:  Seize the day, set the alarm a little earlier, be a morning person if you aren’t already, and see how that works out for you. Kenaz is a fire rune, and the rune of sunrise. It brings a steady light and heat to bear, with change for the better. Kenaz shines a new light on things and is THE rune of study and learning. Learn something new. This is the rune of artists and craftspeople, welding inspiration and skill, and regarding romance. Kenaz is a masculine rune with charisma. You may meet a new man or make a fresh start with an ‘old’ one. Kenaz is a positive, protecting rune.

Runes for the Air Signs

Aquarius – your rune is Laguz (Water, Lake)

Laguz.png

Advice:  Change is happening in you, deep down and hidden, maybe even from yourself, though you may remember vivid dreams and feel these contain a meaningful message, and probably, they do. Work with the flow as far as you practically can.  Don’t fight it and try not to over-think things. Do what you need to do, but without over-working, and for optimum performance, stay adequately hydrated. Nutrients in sea salts, bath salts and sea-foods may be especially beneficial to you at this time.

Gemini – your rune is Perthro (Sanctuary)

Perthro.png

Advice:  This rune is about mysteries and secrets, occult abilities, sometimes a religious or spiritual belief. You may have vivid dreams or psychic experiences. There may be some strange experiences this month. Hidden things may come to light, which you may not entirely welcome.  Your home is your sanctuary, a place in which only trusted friends should be invited. Guard and protect its security, comfort, happiness and privacy. But don’t hide in there. No hiding from an inconvenient truth, either. If something isn’t working, then it hasn’t been working for a long time. Face it. What have you been refusing to face? How can you make it work better?

Libra – your rune is Eiwaz (The Yew)

Eiwaz.png

Advice:  The rune of the Yew tree is a symbol of age, endurance, death, and eternal life. The path is hard at times, but do not fear the future. You are strong and adaptable, and an honest man can be relied on for help. The evergreen Yew is about transformation and testing, stripping away that which is worn out, making way for strong new growth. This is a good time to review what is nourishing to you and what is not. Aches and pains? Investigate, hydrate, perhaps adding bath salts to your bath, adding extra oils to the diet, fish oils, olive oil, flaxseed oil etc. But above all this month, get rid of junk, review and renew.

Runes for the Fire Signs

Aries- your rune is Gyfu (Partnership, Gift)

gyfu.png

Advice:  This rune is about give and take, love and romance leading to marriage, or partnership and contract. X marks the spot and the symbol of the kiss comes from this rune. You honour your obligations and tend to be generous. But you too, are owed obligations. Watch those who don’t keep their end of the bargain, and if they give less, then you give less. People depend on you, and it is not lazy or selfish to keep up your own strength, and rest when you need to.

Leo –your rune is Ingwaz (Earth God)

Ingwaz.png

Advice:  This is the rune   of all things masculine and also the warmth of home and the hearth fire. Stay close to your roots. It is a good idea to keep things simple as possible this month, avoiding any unnecessary complications, and no upping the ante. This is a good time to tie up a few loose ends on something, and get ready to move on. There’s a lot on your plate, and a lot of work to do, but you need to put your feet up at home, and in the longer run that is a necessity, not a luxury.

Sagittarius – your rune is Dagaz (Dawn or Day)

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Advice:  A new day dawns. Look and you will see opportunities as well as hurdles. This month looks like a good time to embark on a new enterprise, or a journey. There may be a major shift or breakthrough of some kind,  and it is almost certainly for the better, especially if you have been stuck in a rut, or unwell, or struggling with a stubborn problem that just won’t go away. It can be resolved. Research brings new and useful information to light. Dagaz promises brighter times not far ahead.

Runes for the Water Signs

Pisces – your rune is Mannaz (Mankind)

Mannaz.png

Advice: Mannaz is the rune of human intelligence and the rational mind. This rune is particularly beneficial if you are contemplating academic studies, skills based tests and any contests of an intellectual nature. This is a powerful rune of law and order. Proceed in an orderly, organised fashion, keeping others on board. This is a great rune for networking and getting support and co-operation on shared tasks. You behave well towards others and are well liked in return, and this runes holds you protected by them.

Cancer – your rune is Thurisaz (Thorn, Giant)

Thurisaz.png

Advice:  Change is afoot, and this may mean some tricky moments. It is best not to start fights, but if you do, then you had better finish them properly.  This is a challenging rune of attack and defence, but is also a protecting rune, used in protection magic, and lucky rune for for study and exams. For couples trying for babies, it may be of interest to note that this rune is particularly associated with male fertility and male health. For many Cancer subjects there will be some kind of welcome news to do with something worked for very hard.

Scorpio –Your rune is Berkano (Birch)

Berkana.png

Advice:  This is the rune of the family home, all things feminine, and birth, and it bodes well for your happiness, prosperity, and the blossoming of a creative endeavour. It may also suggest a new love coming into your life, sometimes foreshadowing birth literally, and motherhood. Beyond this, it speaks of personal growth. A child becomes a ‘mother’. Even if your own home life growing up was not always easy or happy, you can ‘mother’ whatever in life you most deeply care about. You can be the birch tree. You can be the start of something happy, and that is also happiness. Home is where the heart is, but you can be your own best friend, and right at home with yourself, wherever you are.

The rune crone calls down upon all readers the Alfblot blessing and protection of the mighty protection rune Elhaz, the Elk or Sedge.

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Find out More -Recommended Sites

Sunnyway Runes

Elder Futhark Runes Blog spot

Stormy Weather

Can Tarot cards help with forecasting weather, accurately? The short answer is, experience tells me yes, but, and it’s a big but, the question needs a clearly defined context. As in, for example, what kind of weather can be expected at X location at X time? If I drive from A to B on this date at this sort of time, what kind of weather experience can I expect?

The Tower Card detects coming severe weather. Storms. It featured in this way in quite dramatic fashion in a previous True Tarot Tale, when it saw a storm coming, and we only had a tornado down our street the very next morning at about eight- o- clock. That’s right. A tornado in Lytham St Annes in Lancashire, UK.

You can read that story on an earlier blog post  HERE

(My Tarot Service Website is HERE)

16_TheTower

The Tower card, from the Gilded Tarot by kind permission of Ciro Marchetti.

Other associations: disaster, accident, argument, bankruptcy, shock.

Weather Associations- If learning Tarot, practise drawing a card for the day ahead, where you are:

Weather coming…

From the North: Knight of Pentacles (grey, cool,cold, rain and snow)

From the South: Knight of Wands (sunny, heat wave, tropical storm)

From the West: Knight of Cups (sunny, mild, wet, windy)

From the East: Knight of Swords (fresh, cool, ice, hailstorms, biting winds, brrr)

Today, just for a change, the story really is a story, prompted by activities on a writer’s forum called Litopia.  Do, please feel welcome to come and join there.

Flash Fiction: Boreas the Blustery

Boreas was bored. The North Wind was fed up of the North. Grizzling and moaning, he stamped about, bending trees, rolling rivers like mattresses and forcing polar bears to roll down snowy slopes, so he could laugh at the way their paws scrabbled as they rolled over and over.
‘Where’s some fun!’ he howled. ‘F*ck off , Captain Bird’s Eye, I want a bit of Southern Comfort!!!’  He ripped off some roofs in Carlisle, straining to go south, but the jet-stream was busy in the higher latitudes, and wouldn’t open the gates.

In the Gulf of Florida, Nota, the South Wind got, er, wind of this, and said to El Nino, ‘ I could fancy a ‘lil trip North to see this Boreas. I hear he’s quite the man.’
‘I can help you there, I think’, said El Nino, ‘I’m heading that way, myself.’

He steered Nota north, skimming seas into mountains and making dolphins sea- sick, isobars winding ever tighter until Boreas saw her, crossing the Atlantic towards him, driving the waves before her. And then they collided, and circled tighter and tighter, high and low . Wires and cables snapped and hummed, and dustbins flew like dust, and wild things cowered in their dens.
‘You couldn’t come to me! screamed Nota, lashing her hair, ‘so, Boreas, I have come to you!’

Shrimp and rice and coconut!
Fish and chips and doughnuts!
Thunder, lightening
The way he loved her was frightening.
Lightening, thunder, until they span asunder
With no air left for more
They parted peaceful on the shore.

‘Great place you’ve got here’, said Nota, sinking weary to the sea. ‘Love it. Really love it. Let’s do this again sometime.’

Boreas puffed out his chest, and gently stroked a trembling tree top, ‘any time, my lovely. Your place or mine. Any time.’

BoreasandOreityiaEvelynDeMorgan

Boreas and Oreityia- Evelyn de Morgan

Zero Intolerance: Don’t Fool With The Fool

medieval pic larger
Katie-Ellen, resident at True Tarot Tales

When I draw The Fool card in a reading, the Major Arcana card numbered Zero, or in some decks numbered 22, it may classically signify good news; a birth, a welcome opportunity, a fresh start of any significant kind. I drew it this very day, for a client who is not just moving house, but changing a way of life, and it is absolutely the right way to go. It suggests taking a chance, a leap of faith. Reversed, it cautions against hastiness. You need time. You need more information. You need to think, properly think, or you will do summat truly daft.

But the Fool has other, darker associations, as fools and jesters and solitary wanderers always have, in western culture. There are good reasons people are afraid of clowns, the jokers in the pack. The Tarot’s Fool is the Joker in a pack of ordinary playing cards, and means the same things, if you are using playing cards to read with.

The Fool represents that which haunts all margins and borders.  The  ‘outwalker;’ that being. force or agency, which observes and may, given opportunity and sufficient reason, may find its way in to where you do not want it.

There is another Tarot card, more often cited in association with Odin, or Odin-esque associations. This is The Hanged Man, Major Arcana number 12. Odin hung upside down on the world tree, Yggdrasil, for 9 days for knowledge, and for a world view gained through a changed perspective.

But The Fool card, Trump 0 of the Major Arcana, contains something as frightening as it is innocent, not only birth and opportunity but something not quantifiable, as real as it is unreal, a ‘thusness’ or haacceity more implacable than Death.

Google Definition:

haecceity
hɛkˈsiːɪti,hiːk-/

noun

PHILOSOPHY
  1. that property or quality of a thing by virtue of which it is unique or describable as ‘this (one)’
    • the property of being a unique and individual thing.
      “he has a paramount concern with haecceity, the thisness of things”

Zero is a something as well as a nothing. Even leaving the philosophical questions aside, and they are bogglers, without 0, as without 1, there is no binary, and no digital age.

The Fool

Zero draws the Number of the Fool
But only fools will fail to fear
The oddly smiling one who walks alone
Magician, outland, dawn and dusk
Fleeting, glimpsed by tree and mere
Where ripples lap without a breeze
Or single casting of a stone
Zero, Odin’s one remaining eye
His other traded for all kenning
Out-with the knowing of the Norns
Nine days he hung considering
On Yggdrasil, the great ash tree
But Life is flux, and, unfulfilled
Does Odin walk abroad with Men
Entranced, he follows their technology
Their blindly restless struggles to get free
Refusing that their final liberty
Is in their choice of sacrifice
Their ultimate expression
In their direst of necessity
Insatiably, dispassionate, he watches, waits
And sometimes smiles, but has no tears
For what might dim or blind his sight
Of conjurings and reckonings with Fate
The new born come, and dead depart
His scouts of Thought and Memory
Twin ravens, Hugin, Munin, fly
Through Odin’s questing, flaming Eye
The singing echo-chamber of The Gate.

Katie-Ellen Hazeldine's photo.