Tag Archives: fire

Beltane Moot 2015 with Medway Pagans

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Phoenix Rose, Abi Normal and myself wearing our home-made Green Man masks in front of the Beltane fire! I like how the different colours of our masks seem to represent the transition from winter to summer…

Yesterday was Medway Pagans’ Beltane Moot. I think out of all the Sabbats, Beltane is my favourite, so I’d been looking forward to this one a lot!

The weather that day had been pretty cold and rainy so I was worried that it would put a real dampener on the ritual, which would be our first outdoor one of the year and, like last year, would be centred around a fire. Fortunately, just a few hours before the moot, the clouds disappeared and the sun came out – the King and Queen of the May must have been smiling down on us!

The spirit of the Green Man must have been with us as well – funnily enough, two other members (the founding members Abi Normal and Phoenix Rose) had decided to make their own Green Man masks as well, so all three of us wore them for the ritual.

The ritual took place as the sun was setting and the moon rising – a perfectly magical time. We stood in a circle around the fire, with Abi (who was leading the ritual) standing before the altar. Seen through the smoke and hazy flames, in her robe and horned Green Man mask, she really did remind me of the scenes with Herne the Hunter emerging from the mist in the old Robin of Sherwood series – very fitting! It’s amazing how masks can transform both the wearer and those around them, adding to the drama of the ritual.

We called the quarters in rhyming couplets, and honoured the Great God and Goddess. Two of our married members acted out the chasing of the May Queen, running in and out of the circle before the God of the Forest “caught” his bride.

As with last year, we made offerings to the flames, and of course ended with cakes and ale (the “ale” this time being mead served in a suitably phallic horn).

I think all of else felt really energised by the ritual – there was a lot of chatting and laughing afterwards, and for me, the “buzz” lasted right through to today – all day at work I felt uplifted and happy by the memory of last night’s moot! It’s really set me up for the rest of my Beltane celebrations, starting tomorrow with May Day, then the three days of the Rochester Sweeps Festival, and ending with Kodomo no Hi on Tuesday. I can’t wait!

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The Diversity of Autumn Festivals in the UK

"Lewes Bonfire, Devil and Grim Reaper". Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lewes_Bonfire,_Devil_and_Grim_Reaper.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Lewes_Bonfire,_Devil_and_Grim_Reaper.jpg

The Devil and the Grim Reaper, two characters at the large Bonfire Night procession in Lewes in the UK.”Lewes Bonfire, Devil and Grim Reaper”. Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve noticed that many members of the older generation in the UK don’t really like Halloween. This seems to be because they consider Halloween a modern, American invention. They do, however, like Bonfire Night (a.k.a. Guy Fawkes Night), which occurs less than a week after Halloween on November 5th but unlike Halloween, they consider it thoroughly British. What they don’t like in particular is that Halloween appears “taking over” Bonfire Night, with Brits setting off fireworks throughout the final week of October and wearing Halloween costumes into November. And considering how much Halloween gear is available in the shops compared to Bonfire Night / Guy Fawkes related goods, it would appear that out of the two, Halloween comes way out on top in terms of popularity. I think older Brits, who remember when Halloween was very low key and Bonfire Night was the focus of autumn celebrations, feel rather sad that what they perceive as American culture is taking over British culture.

Aside from the fact that Halloween is originally of Irish Celtic origin (although I accept that America did a great deal to both popularise and commercialise it, which I see as a good thing), I do not see that Halloween is “swallowing up” Bonfire Night at all. Instead, I see the merging of Halloween and Bonfire Night as a brilliant example of syncretism – and what’s more, I think that Halloween (or Samhain) and Bonfire Night were always closely linked.

Although many Brits believe that Bonfire Night originated as a way of commemorating the death of Guy Fawkes, evidence suggests that it goes back further and has Pagan origins. Before it was politicised (in fact, the celebration of Guy Fawkes night including the burning of the Guy effigy was enforced by law), it is theorised that burning sacred fires was a part of the autumn rituals in Britain, particularly those related to the souls of the dead. The Golden Bough goes into this theory into more detail.

This theory is supported not only by the close proximity of Halloween to Bonfire Night, but by looking at other fire festivals around the world. In Japan, the Bon Festival also venerates the souls of the dead, and incorporates both fire and fireworks. Additionally, fire plays a key role in Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Light, which often occurs around the same time as Halloween and Bonfire Night in the UK.

And it is this latter festival of Diwali which has become the latest addition to Britain’s autumn celebrations. My local town of Gravesend has a large Sikh population, who also celebrate Diwali (called Bandi Chhor Divas in Sikhism). Just like Bonfire Night, Diwali is celebrated by setting off fireworks, and also you’ll see little candles lit outside the doors of Sikh homes at this time (not unlike Jack ‘O Lanterns!). It’s beautiful to see them glowing on a dark autumn evening.

So now, every autumn, I can expect to see fireworks being set off and candles lit outside all the way from the final week of October right into mid-November, as all three festivals of Halloween, Bonfire Night and Diwali are celebrated within our diverse community. I love to see this. It reminds me just how much richer our experiences become when we share them together, and what’s more, how syncretism across cultural celebrations keeps them all alive.

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Bright Moon Ritual

Last night was May’s full moon, variously known as Bright Moon, Hare Moon, Flower Moon etc, and I performed my second Full Moon ritual.

Recently I’ve felt very drawn to the Goddess Hecate, and seeing as she is considered a moon goddess, it seemed appropriate to dedicate tonight’s ritual to her.

As with my previous Full Moon ritual, I performed the rite outside.  I started by giving some fresh offerings to Inari Okamisama, and making a prayer to her (I always try to include Inari in all my rituals, as my patron deity). I then called upon the elements and made my prayers to Hecate, asking her to bless particular people in my life who I know are going through difficult times. I made offerings of wine and garlic, which are both considered appropriate for Hecate.

I followed this with an attempt at Fire Scrying. As May is the Beltane month, associated with fire, and as Hecate is also considered a fire Goddess, it seemed a fitting occasion! I surrounded the altar candles with reflective crystals and gazed at the flickering light to see what messages might appear there, all while intoning the “Goddess Chant” (Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Innana) in order to get into a more meditative state. All I could see were leering, grinning faces reflected in the crystal; no other imagery seemed clear.

However, throughout the ritual, I heard the foxes nearby calling to each other, which I always take to be a positive sign!

Finally, as Hecate is the Goddess of Crossroads, I decided to place my offerings of wine and garlic at the crossroad near my house.

While I did find the ritual fulfilling and calming, it wasn’t perfect. As mentioned in a previous post, although I think rituals should take place outdoors where possible, I always feel paranoid about the neighbours seeing what I’m up to. If they see me whispering strange incantations before an altar of candles, an athame and pentacles, they might get the wrong idea about what I’m doing! This meant I cut the Fire Scrying short because I kept getting disturbed by the neighbours turning on and off lights in their rooms, and thought they might spot me through the window. What’s more, I couldn’t actually see the Full Moon from ground level, which was a shame.

But after I finished the ritual and came back indoors, I could actually see the moon from my living room window. And as I gazed upon it, a fox suddenly appeared in the street, looked in my direction, looked up as if looking at the moon, and walked off! For a follower of Inari, this was quite a wonderful end to the Full Moon rite.

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A Very Blessed Beltane

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A Merry May Day and Blessed Beltane to one and all!

Image My Beltane celebrations began yesterday evening on April 30th, with a moot with Medway Pagans. I’ve only very recently joined this group (since Ostara last month!), but they are exceptionally warm and welcoming. When I’m with this group, I get the feeling I’m lucky enough to be among some of the kindest and wisest people you could ever hope to meet. [Read more…]

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