Beltane, the old Gaelic name for the month of May, is the last of the three Wiccan spring fertility festivals, the others being Imbolc and Ostara. Beltane is the second principal Celtic festival (the other being Samhain). Celebrated approximately halfway between Vernal (spring) equinox and the midsummer (Summer Solstice). Beltane traditionally marked the arrival if summer in ancient times. It is one of eight solar Sabbats.
Beltane, like Samhain, is a time of “no time” when the veils between the two worlds are at their thinnest. No time is when the two worlds intermingle and unite and the magic abounds! It is the time when the Faeries return from their winter respite, carefree and full of faery mischief and faery delight. On the night before Beltane, in times past, folks would place rowan branches at their windows and doors for protection, many otherworldly occurrences could transpire during this time of “no time”. Traditionally on the Isle of Man, the youngest member of the family gathers primroses on the eve before Beltane and throws the flowers at the door of the home for protection. In Ireland it is believed that food left over from May Eve must not be eaten, but rather buried or left as an offering to the faery instead. Much like the tradition of leaving of whatever is not harvested from the fields on Samhain, food on the time of no time is treated with great care.
When the veils are so thin it is an extremely magical time, it is said that the Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse. Roving about on Beltane eve She will try to entice people away to the Faeryland. Legend has it that if you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you may see the Faery Queen or hear the sound of Her horse’s bells as She rides through the night. Legend says if you hide your face, She will pass you by but if you look at Her, She may choose you. There is a Scottish ballad of this called Thomas the Rhymer, in which Thomas chooses to go the Faeryland with the Queen and has not been seen since.
Tonight, when the Beltane fires are lit, there will be some sadness in out hearts. A good man, and one of my favorite DFH activists, Ben Masel has passed through that thin veil to the Summerlands.
Ben was from Wisconsin and the perennial candidate for public office, including the US Senate. He was diagnosed earlier this year with lung cancer and was in the hospital when the protests in Madison started. Against all advice, he left the hospital to join the protest. he diaried them at Daily Kos, he tweeted and documented the events on his FaceBook page.
I met him in Pittsburgh and looked forward to seeing him this June. We exchanged e-mails and private tweets about his health and the wisdom of leaving the hospital to join the protests in Wisconsin. It was what he wanted to do in the time he had, while he still could.
I can still feel his hug when we met. He will always be in my heart.
He will be remembered tonight when we light the Beltane fires.
May the Goddess guide him on his journey to the Summerlands. May his family and friends find Peace.
Blessed be. The Wheel Turns.