Not Another Beltane Rant…No Not Really

Its Beltane time again. I’ve written so often about how the very public aspect of this point on the Wheel of the Year is one of my least favorite times of the year. Plus, I have explored my move away from basing my entire Spiritual Path on the Wheel of the Year, so it might be a better step to look at where things are these days. Maybe. 😊

As I get older, the timing of the Wheel of the Year means less and less to me, with the sole exception of Samhain. I use this point in the Wheel as a marker of time, so it’s a useful part of my Spiritual practice. But the rest of the Wheel, just does not carry the significance for me that it used to. Instead, my focus tends to be on the weather around me. I mark the seasons as the weather changes.

Yes, that is correct. I moved away from date-based applications to my Spirituality to event-based application. The shape of the moon carries some aspect to my daily practice, but not much. I am more of a Sun person than a Moon one. Thus, I look at what is taking place within my local environment to work certain aspects of my Spirituality.

For this time of year, I look to the budding of trees and flowers. For me, that signifies the beginnings of Spring. Since I grow no crops, I don’t aim anything towards that aspect. When the weather stays warm, and the trees and flowers are well into their new growth, I spend a few minutes in a self-created ritual in thanks for the new season. My idea of Beltane falls far away from the overly sexualized aspect that it has seemingly become within the wider Pagan community. Spring marks the advent of new beginnings for me.

I understand that much of what I am putting forth here flies in the face of what is taught in today’s contemporary Paganism. The Wheel of the year provides a map towards ritual aspects for many practitioners. I also grok that this works for so many folks out there. What I am not saying is that what I am doing is something that should be followed by ANY SINGLE Pagan out there – save for myself. Laying down “rules” and “laws” within a Spiritual structure that provides such open and fertile ground for exploration…well, that would be completely fucking stupid of me. I know what works in my own Spiritual practice. Telling others what to do would be completely inane for me to do.

Why would I do this? Stepping away from what can be claimed as “established” Pagan practice would mean that I am no longer Pagan, right? Well, if that’s what you think: awesome. For me, part of being a Pagan is finding out what works for you Spiritually and doing that, rather than staying within a strict, confined set of rules that do not let you grow Spiritually as an individual.

Usually, the next question is what would I do at a public event that follows the Wheel of the Year for its ritual? Well, that’s simple. I would follow what is being done. Attending that event, I would already have been aware of what was being done. If I was asked to handle a role in the ritual – and I have done this in the past – I would do exactly that. I would handle the role to the very best of my ability, putting every aspect of myself into that collective set of moments. When working in a public ritual setting, I am working the requested role for others – not just myself. I am adding to the collective experience. Pissing on that fire…in my opinion, is bad form. Plus, being honest here, if I attended a gathering of folks – I am there for the folks. Like anyone else, I do enjoy the company of like-minded people.

So, that handles the Beltane and Wheel of the Year stuff, but it adds in the complications of doing ritual with others when my personal and daily practices are different from theirs. Yes, I am a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. Yes, I have – and continue – to learn the materials from the Order. Yes, I strive to make it through the three grades. However, I do not utilize everything that I learn. Does that make me a bad Druid? Does it disqualify me as a Druid? Should I have my Druid license revoked? My answer to all three of those questions is “no.” I do have a question about what a Druid license is, and what public government facility I need to visit to obtain one. 😊 However, if my utilizing some aspects of what I learn from the Order’s material and not all of it would disqualify me from what would be considered a “Druid” – I would completely understand, and quietly walk away. I’d still consider myself a Druid though and find other ways and sources to learn from. Much like drinking water can be found at one well-spring, should I be forced away from that source, I can certainly find other places to quench my thirst.

After nearly thirty-five years on my Pagan path, one valuable lesson I have learned is that you get to decide what does and does not work for you. You decide what “rules” and what “laws” can apply to your own Spirituality. You get to make sense of the world around you. Or, to quote Pink Floyd:

While you were hanging yourself on someone else’s words
Dying to believe in what you heard
I was staring straight into the shining sun

Pink Floyd, “Coming Back to Life”

Certainly, there will be those that disagree with me. Some will be vehement in their perspective. Others will say that I am not a true “this” or “that”. Me? All I can do is shrug and answer that I must stay true to myself.

–Tommy

Moon photo, Hillsboro, Texas (4/26/2021)

Promises at the Beginning of the Harvest

Sheep near the Giant’s Causeway in the UK

Typically, I do not write very much about how I go through celebrating the various aspects of the Wheel of the Year. So I thought I would try my hand at doing so. For the next turn of the Wheel – from Luhnasadh to Lughnasadh – I’ll be writing about how I went through each celebratory turn of the year. Hopefully, someone will get something out of all of these coming posts, and find inspiration in their own Path.

I don’t normally do the celebrations of the Wheel with others, except Imbolc and Spring Equinox. Imbolc is through a gathering of ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin) folks down near Mountain Home, Texas. Spring Equinox is done with some OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids) members at the Gulf Coast Gathering down in a very nicely wooded park near Mandeville, Louisiana. Both groups of folks are like family to me, though I have done both my Bardic and Ovate initiations in Louisiana (I am not a member of the ADF). The rest of the Wheel of the Year is spent on my own, though I am looking into changing aspects of that going forward (provided my life kinda settles down where health issues are concerned).

Lughnasadh tends to be conflated with Lammas by a lot of folks. The reality is that while both celebrate the same thing – the start of the harvest – and around the same time frame – the beginning of August – these are two different holidays from two different cultures. Lammas comes from English and Scottish cultures, while Lughnasadh comes from Celtic roots, specifically. For me, I don’t really draw that fine of a distinction between the two. Same time frame, same celebratory reason, similar name…for me, I’m not too picky, they’re the same. There are many folks that will disagree with me on this point, and frankly, I’m perfectly fine with that.

As this is the start of the harvest, I tend to watch for signs in my local community to see how close the local farmers follow to this period of time. A few days ago, August 5th to be precise, I noticed that the corn farmers in the area were already harvesting their crops. Noting this in my journal, I started the preparations that I needed for my own following of this time frame. Now I do not have garden on my backyard, so there is not much for me to harvest. But, there are ways I can work off of this concept from a symbolic perspective, none of which is really all that much of a ritual.

I will be honest, the typical perspective of what a ritual is does not really fit into my aspect of daily practice. I m unlikely to spend a lot of time calling quarters or acknowledging the Gods, the Spirits of the Land, or even the Spirits of Ancestor. For me, personal, individual practice is a lot shorter and quieter in terms of ritual. I find less pull and interaction from the Gods and the Spirits during ritual, and a ton more from being out and about in my day and evening. Formal ritual is a wonderful, bonding moment and emotion when with other people. The creation and enactment of those particulars brings a bond of emotion that is incredible, but rarely do I get the tug of the Gods and Spirits in those moments.

Lughnasadh was spent indoors for me this year. The temperatures outdoors are fairly hot during this time of the year in Texas, and this year is no exception. After my pneumonia from the end of last year, and my recent diabetic seizure, I am careful with where and when I place myself outdoors these past few months. I might be a bit too cautious with extreme weather conditions at this time, but I am trying to take care of myself a bit better.

Anyways, I held my observation of this turn of the Wheel indoors, in my office. As I noted, I am not a farmer, I am without a garden in my yard, and do not really have much to harvest. A trip to the grocery store had netted from fresh vegetables and fruit, and I pulled an apple and an orange into the office with me. I gave my nod to the four directions, sat and held each piece of fruit in my hand. I contemplated where it might have come from, the trip that it took to get to the grocery store, before I bought it and brought it home. Certainly, neither had grown in the wild, but rather were more likely to have been on trees in large farms. Then there were the people who had picked/harvested the fruit from those trees, some were probably migrants here in the United States – potentially having crossed the border, illegally. Forgetting the politics of their plight, I focused on the idea of what brought them here, the desire for a new life for themselves and their families. Yes, even they are mixed into the harvest aspect that we should give thanks for. Thanks that these folks are taking a chance to find a better life, to find freedom. There is so much that goes into the concept of the harvest.

Strange as it may seem, I look to Lughnasadh to be something akin to the American tradition of Thanksgiving. This is time to thank the Land for providing for us, to thank the Ancestors for providing their guidance, and thanking the Gods for Their presence in our lives. Once I reached this point, I took a knife and carved the apple and the orange into slices. The first full slices to come from both were set off to the side, and I ate my fill of the rest. The leftovers, minus the first pieces, were placed in a container that I took to work. These would be my snacks over that Monday upon my return to work. The first slices, I took out to the eastern circle (my stone circle is currently dismantled for cleaning) and I set these on a smaller stone from the circle as an offering to the Land, a reminder that we give back to the Land that which we take. This to complete the cycle of sustenance that we receive.

In my view, Lughnasadh is a time of giving thanks to our Gods, the Spirits of the Land, and our Ancestors who have come before. We are starting the time of harvest. Life has the promise of plenty, the promise of being alive, the promise of survival for the coming Winter. And where we have plenty, we can provide to others. Show the kindness that makes us who we are. For in the actions of kindness, we can show outwardly to the rest of the world that there is a part of the world that cares for others. To me, this is part of the reminder of how we are all connected to one another…and to me, that is the promise for the future. The promise from Lughnasadh.