George Harrison's classic opener to Side Two of the Beatles' immortal LP Abbey Road, Here Comes the Sun knocked us all out on first spin. I was at boarding school in 1969, when Wheeler in Providence was still an all-girls boarding school going by its traditional name of The Mary C Wheeler School. Someone brought in the brand new LP and put it on the turntable. By the time we flipped it over, young minds forever blown, George's catchy singalong joy at the sun coming out after a long cold lonely winter, masterfully played on acoustic guitar in a complex time signature, won us completely. May Day – and May Eve – are all about this.
There are many ways to celebrate the coming – at last – of the darling buds of May, to the upper latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Most of them harken back to the olden days of pastoral village life, a closer connection to nature, having only seasonal food to eat, and a deeper acknowledgement of and interaction with folk lore and ancient ways as a means of survival. Which, at May Eve included dancing with the fairies and sprites, shapeshifting and walking between worlds, in league with the invisibles. May poles may have been involved.
While I am a core shamanic practitioner, not a Celtic shamanic practitioner solely, I do have knowledge both experiential and academic; you could say it's in my blood. So I do refer to May Day also as Beltane (BEL-tenn-ah). And I thought I'd use this timely blog post to tell you a bit about it, using information from Celtic experts John and Caitlin Matthews as well as the Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, without going nuts so I can get back out in the sun and frolic with Sir Galahad. That's my horse, not the Arthurian champion.
Basically, the Celtic sun god, Bel, the Shining One, returns officially on May Day, and everyone's greatly relieved to be through the dark cold lonely winter. Darling buds are blooming, clothes may be shed, birds are singing, and hey! we survived. You may be feeling much the same; I know I am. Hence, 'tis a fabulous time for celebrations with libation and dancing and a certain amount of bonhomie having to do with flowers and phallic pole symbols.
But there's more to it than party party party. Or driving cattle between two bonfires, or eating special foods like May Eve bannocks (cool rolls). There is heightened awareness, an atunement with the natural cycles and our being influenced as a living part of them, a reverent knowing of the power of prayer, love and gratitude, and the expression of these things to the invisible forces and their third dimensional counterparts. We're talking flora, fauna, trees, stones, clouds, waters, and dare we forget: bees! The bees need us to protect them, and we need them to, well, stay alive.
Beltane (and its many derivative spellings depending on location and date) is one of the four Celtic fire festivals, welcoming the sun god back to rule and all. Remember another track on Abbey Road, John Lennon's Sun King, a strangely dirge-like mash-up of May Day-esque feeling and stately Louis XVI pomp (and opening crickets)? It really was a long cold lonely winter recording Abbey Road. Then, the world got the Summer of Love. Woo-hoo!
May Day is the midpoint between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice, what is called a cross-quarter day. On these eight holi-days (spring and fall equinoxes, summer and winter solstices, Imbolc (February 1), Beltane (May 1), Lughnasadh (August 1), and Samhain (November 1), our connection with this world and the unseen is stronger. The Druidry.org site info hyperlinked here mentions that at Beltane the summer literally begins to buzz.
Just yesterday, on this fair and lovely emerald isle of Vashon, a local gardener mentioned that she's not yet hearing the familiar buzz of bees in her century-old apple trees. The blossoms are again returning, let's hope the bees do too. Maybe a little extra bee love would not go amiss this May Day.
While being outdoors, frolicking, giving thanks and tokens of love and gratitude to nature, for its beauty and sustenance and spirits, while enjoying being part of it all is apropos for Beltane, no matter what tradition or none guides your revelry, there's more to it, as previously mentioned.
The veil between the worlds is well known to be thin at these points in time. Beyond witchy superstitions and customs is the perhaps more shamanic appraisal of power times for the work. Shapeshifting is a very natural part of the work, which doesn't mean the raven you hear cawing from the wires, or the dragonfly on your hat is me. Necessarily.
Beltane is a 'work day' for me, and I'm grateful for it. I love my work in all its forms. The energy will be optimal for walking between worlds, within and without. And I love nature, especially the darling buds, and bees, and all the beauty of this world. May you enjoy and appreciate the natural and supernatural, visible and invisible forces that rule the universe, keep us alive and allow us to simply bee.
What's up with the photo? It seems to have orbs floating in the sky, a tilting old building, and some kind of swan cloudshow. I took this photo at Hawkwood in December of 2008, looking out the window of the big room where The Company of Hawkwood had just finished a meditation as part of the weekend mystery school with Caitlin Matthews, John Matthews, and professor-author Ari Berk. Just today, Caitlin Matthews posted about this longstanding annual event on her blog, Soundings, where you can be guided to everything you need to know, and even still make reservations to attend this year's weekend, if you so desire.
I bring it up because she brought it up because it's coming up for me big time as I create my own mystery school musings. Today I mention it not only because of the Company of Hawkwood energy, but because of world events, as a way of thinking about what my particular mystery school concept encompasses. As I synthesize How Things Happen into areas of potential inquiry, as I develop the scope and discuss it with colleagues, questions arise, and it's helpful for me to articulate answers to those questions. People ask, what sort of stuff will you do there? The scope is wide but small, far reaching but quiet.
Mystery schools, like all other institutions, come in all shapes, sizes, and persuasions. Today's post touches on one of the ways I envision the work could potentially positively benefit the world. Which has to do with the super Typhoon Haiyan which just struck the Philippines. What could we potentially do about such things at the mystery school? Ring bells and wail at the sky?
I'm going to keep this simple. One glimpse at the news headlines and the words devastation, horror, shock, death, lethal force, etc. run riot on the brain, doing little to positively affect a sense of helplessness, victimhood, fear and dread at nature and the world that sells papers in an old school format. Superstorms increase at a rate relative to our action movies about superstorms. Worldwide, we argue about cause and effect, global warming, climate change, the data that shows how superstorms increase from the warming of the seawater and the manufacturing pollution that exacerbates this phenomena. Much is being done from many approaches to both help and hinder our understanding of and our role in the delicate balance that allows us and other life forms to safely inhabit the pretty blue planet. It's major. So what does this all have to do with the mystery school thing? It's such a touchy topic, people strap on their mindsets in an either-or mentality, sparking friction at the table, or the comments section. But what about another possible approach? Not in place of, but in addition to, all the other approaches.
Picture this. Take the knowledge of atmospheric scientists, climatologists, oceanologists, and study it. Take the research of scientists such as Dr. Emoto, who studies the change in water crystals as a result of resonance and positive or negative articulation, and add it to the data. Take the wisdom and experience of practitioners such as Sandra Ingerman in shamanic environmental transformation and radical ecology, mentioned in an earlier blog post, and add it to the mix. Don't get bogged down in superstition, balderdashedly indignant refutation of invisible power, the negation of the energetic component, or any religious dogma about comeuppance or somesuch. Basically, steer clear of old school paradigms which separate wisdom and compassion in favor of some authority being all hopped up.
Rather, combine the power of information, intention, group effort, co-creation in the quantum field, a high degree of skill and words in working with the elements. Not in a last ditch, oh please don't whomp on us fear-based appeal to a judgmental punisher. Neither a 'just think good thoughts' halfheartedness nor a system of experimentation that disregards the power of human thought and heart energy in interacting with physical outcomes, such as evidenced in the transformation of water crystals. Bring the information together into a synthesis of directed thought, speech and action that eliminates lack of harmony with the elements from the source that is creating them.
You gotta be practiced up in this stuff so you can do the thing when it's time, which in the case of the typhoon, would have been when it began to form, in effect stating its intention. Taking it as an extreme example, a natural weather event that was being monitored scientifically, the data was available and could be addressed in many ways. The intention for the work would not be to make it stop, but to see what was going on, to listen to it, discover what was possible and what was needed and how to honor that, perhaps in a way that could then create less volatile, destructive force; a way it could 'live' that could be distributed differently, transmuted, redirected. A middle world journey straight into the eye comes to mind as a possible shamanic approach, and who knows there may have been many shamans doing precisely that.
Naturally, like in all schools, the thing is to start small, perhaps with a glass of water, a puddle, a harbor, a shower, or interacting with a sudden spiral that spins the leaves in the driveway. Providing instruction and space, developing individual skills alongside group intentionality, knowledge sets and levels of practice builds capabilities. What initially sounds impossible later proves to be the new discovery.
In all choices, support systems and materials that don't pollute; mitigate, reverse and transmute past damage, and use the power of words, sound, intention, and resonance in the now to communicate with the world, the universe, directly, energetically. Put it all together. I'm getting at a way of living powerfully and harmoniously with the elements of this world and the energies of the universe which utilizes an informed synthesis of abilities and knowledge to interact with nature in a positive, transformative way.
It's not a new idea, nor an original one. It's simply a multi-pronged approach to living in this (and other) world(s) that connects on a lot of levels for the well-being of all. Working with the elements from wisdom rather than fear, from a sense of empowered co-creative communication rather than victimhood or attack-defend strategies, addresses the manmade causes of imbalance on the planet even as it sends immediate energies that could potentially affect more than the minds of the participants. It utilizes the best experiential wisdom we have from shamanic and other practices and from scientific data with a quantum dash and heart.
Shamans have worked with weather conditions for the good of the people multiculturally for millennia. An integrated awareness of ways to live without disturbing the delicate balance of nature, lessening such cataclysmic events and restoring harmony on the planet includes what we create on the material as well as mental, emotional, and spiritual planes. Put them all together and see what is possible. And hey, collect the data, compile evidence where possible, to add to the field of knowledge. Thank the spirits, honor the wind, the water, the ocean, the earth. Help each other not create conditions that harm each other as well as send help after such cataclysmic events. Learn how to do all of this at a mystery school by developing your powers and increasing your awareness of a lot of stuff. That's the idea.
Not that there's anything wrong with dressing up and eating chocolate. More on that later. Tonight, as we all know, is All Hallow's Eve, a powerful night by any name, including one you might have seen and likely have mispronounced: Samhain. You wouldn't be alone in saying Sam Hane, like it's some dude, but the Celtic word is pronounced SOW-hen. And blessings on all who get that right! What's with the blessings part, you ask? Isn't tonight about scary zombie types?
You might know all this already, but if not, and are interested, let me refer you to Celtic seer and author Caitlin Matthews, who explains Samhain in full on her Soundings blogspot for us today. You may be familiar with her work, hyperlinks to which are found on my Resources page, and the About page. I've used her books and decks and divinatory tools for years in my work and personal life, had the honor of being a member of the Company of Hawkwood in 2008, and benefitted from private ancestor work with her in Oxford. Her insightful scholarship is eloquent on the subject, freeing me to do my thing here more willy nilly. And get to the chocolate part.
Being a liminal zone walker between worlds, tonight is totally in my comfort zone, and optimal for the work. This year is particularly outrageous because of the nearness to the New Moon on the 3rd, which is also a Solar Eclipse, meaning this whole deal here is a major power time of new beginnings. As a Triple Scorpio born at sunrise on the New Moon while Mercury was in retrograde (as it is again now) three score years ago, it's triple-y so for me, in all senses of the word. Creating new beginnings out of the release of the old, having a lot to do with dead people, is very much the thing at this time in my orbit. Maybe you are doing a new beginnings, old releasings thing yourself. Humanity is kind of pretty much doing that right around now, come to think of it, and there's lots of wonderful help coming from invisibles through the veil. One online channeling session that you can participate in is certain to be transformative: Paul Selig's Know Your Worth workshop. Yes! Tonight!
The veil between the worlds is indeed thin at this time, as you may have heard mentioned once or twice. In fact, this morning I awoke from a very powerful dream where I was talking on the phone with two people, in two ears from two different places, and realized when I woke up that one of them was dead. While I was listening to their mindblowing comments, the 'waiting room' I found myself in was filling up with people, one of whom answered her mother's impatient we've got to get out of here with a gentle it's about love I think, we just need to be patient. Along with the rest of the dream, including sifting through a box of old, brown crystalline stones and realizing they were valuable, I've already had one of several visits through the veil.
The crystal in the photo, below the Pictish Double Disc and Z-Rod symbol from the Scottish Highlands, found me in Arcata and called from a neglected bottom shelf behind a door of a tiny shop that's gone now. As soon as I walked in I heard it (or would never have seen it) say THERE you are! I've been waiting for you. It cost all of $8 and is my personal crystal. No one else touches it, and I only use it for my personal work. It usually lives in the medicine tools cupboard, but as you see, it is out and ready to work today. It knows more about our long association than I do, and tonight it will tell me more about what we are doing together through time and space. It shapeshifted into the group of brown stones I was neglecting in my dream to get my attention.
In my view, the diversions of this holiday, now complete with paper plates and greeting cards, are all fine and dandy. The guy from the bank in Newport Beach, California, who just called to thank me for being such a longstanding customer, completely out of nowhere, like one of the dream callers, is apparently dressed as Austin Powers today, baby. It's all good! But for me, this night has been, for many many years, about the work. This, for me, includes honoring the ancestors, which I do by toasting the family portraits and thanking them for all they did and went through, for surviving and for my DNA and my life and all the bequests. Some of these, as in all families, have been in need of transformation, disentanglement, soul retrieval, extraction healing, the work of Isis, and a lot of cord and imprint wrangling. This work goes in both directions, helping the ancestors in the past, me in the present, and future family folk. Which, who knows, could be us again. I express love to those who left this mortal coil abruptly. We all do the best we can, and as the girl in the waiting room told her mom, it's about love I think.
So, I'll do that, and also will acknowledge the spirits of place around here, where I will be visited not by trick-or-treaters, but by wild animals and other beings. Coyote, elk, owls, eagles, who knows. A communicative crop of new amanita mushrooms sprouted by the fir circle near the barn this morning, and are powwowing with the trees as we speak. Yes, mycellium do transmit info to the forest in which they live: fact! Check out Mycellium Running for more on that amazing phenomenon.
And, I will journey with and to my old friend, the etched Smoky Quartz crystal, and receive the transmission and do the work that is to be done. Past-present-future are in full swirl, the invisibles are near, and come to think of it, that room filling up in my dream is no metaphor.
For the chocolate bit, I'm making organic, vegan Almond Joys! I have to thank Amanda Hesser's genius Food52 again, for bringing a recipe from April into view just now. Check it out here! Mush pulsed-up honey, coconut, coconut oil together into the classic shape, push in an almond or two, chill them up for a half hour, melt the chocolate, dip each piece into it on a toothpick, let set for half a minute. Done. Yum.
Whatever you're up to tonight, have a blessed, big-ass fun, deep power time, and circulate that love thing through time and space, through and to all beings everywhere.