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.
On days like this when the sun comes out after days of cloudy rain, the river calls and I walk on down the road. I just took this snap of the Sandy River coursing down from Mount Hood fresh with rainwater and snow. Yesterday's big rain had it churning brown when I drove over the high bridge where I stood today to take this shot, now transformed into its frothy jade green look. Two ravens circled high above, giving an oracle that I heard interpreted as keep going, and variations including perseverance furthers, and go with the flow.
The Incredible String Band's Water Song came to mind and I sang the line wizard of changes, teach me the lesson of flowing back to the river, as I often am impulsed to do around flowing water. Being in flow as part of All instead of sitting on the bank with your worries feeling out of flow is an image I've received from others who work with invisibles, with assisting self and others in raising frequency, transforming fear to love, trusting and participating in flow. The way we assist each other, encouraging, inspiring, and sometimes directly transmitting information or energy through and to each other is reflected by the mirror all around us. Just then, the message from the ravens, the sound of the river swollen with yesterday's rain, the resonance of what I was watching with the metaphor from the written material on flow, and the welcome rays of the sun did their stuff and I received the benefit in mind, body and spirit, helping me sync with flow.
In doing shamanic work – and in many other modalities of healing, lightworking, wayshowing, channeling, dreaming up – part of the assist comes from the practitioner's connect, gifts, and medicine, certainly. But a lot of what is going on is in the connect in us all: the connection of the people working, but also the connect that happens within the person receiving the work. What information, inspiration, guidance, helpers, wisdom, energy, power you personally connect with that was needed, to return to flow and raise your hum.
Sometimes I describe shamanic work as energetic jumper cables from one human battery to another. Sometimes each of us needs a jump to start up again and get back on the road, so we can go with the flow. Sometimes we need encouragement, support, information, affirmation, or a key energetic component we don't feel, can't see or locate. News we can use. The receiving of that is deeply connective and reflective, awakening parts of our soul that were fragmented, lost or sleeping, freeing shadow parts from the dark shameful closet we've locked them in. Helping each other through our helpers, our shared fragility, our innate insight and gifts, our connection happens in each moment, all around us in nature and beyond, throughout the universe.
When we're in flow, the universe flows to us and through us. Our brains light up and we feel that sense of group belonging psychological experts tag as essential to a person's well-being. We can each connect with flow and allow it to flow through us as we travel through our day, in traffic, at the store, at work, with our peeps, or in nature, seemingly solitary as I often am, but never alone. When you're in flow you can feel you are one with Source, and things are easier, simpler. What you're looking for turns up, whether it's a parking space, that thing in the junk drawer you need, the name of the guy you were supposed to contact, or the next step in your career, home, or relationship situation. The phone rings, the email pings, the eagle flies by overhead. Ideas come to your writing or project and revisions are obvious, delightful.
Living so close to a river is an excellent mirror, or flow chart if you will, and I've been fortunate to find myself living near several through the years. Each day the river is different and fluctuates wildly. Each drop of water is unique and different than any before or after it. Yet it's all river, and all rivers flow to Source. And from the source, come to think of it. Conditions affect flow but flow continues, sometimes more than we think we can handle, sometimes less than we think we need. Learning the lesson of flowing is the work of many lifetimes, but in essence, simplicity itself.
If you are feeling out of flow, what will help you return? It might come through stillness, movement, silence, or sound; words or dreaming or nature or love. It might be all of the above. How do you restore your connect? If you need a jump you feel I can assist with, let me know. Our work might be in the Lower World, in water flowing underground [yes, cue the Talking Heads], or emanating in Middle World from an ancient water bubble in a crystal, from a waterfall in a past life, or from a few drops of a flower essence, or from a celestial Upper World wash of light that jumpstarts your cells into resonance and healing. We might actually be working at river's edge in an intensive nature training session. Or you might be on the other side of the world. Maybe a part of you returns, carrying the heart medicine you lost in an estranging event, re-lighting the fire in your head after a bewildering situation, renewing your thirst for life.
Wherever we are, may we be going with the flow, awash in the ever-present universal glow.
First mystery: why do I have a photo of a rufous hummer here when the title of this blog post refers to Raven? Well, partly because as I was typing the title a rufous hummingbird zoomed up to the red feeder, and practically into my face, for the third or fourth time today. I didn't have my camera handy, but this handy public domain image came to my aid. Raven flew by some time back, before I did today's personal shamanic journey and also received some serendipitous, magical assistance from several intrepid authors, both noted for their awareness of what I like to call How Things Happen. You guys know I write blog posts on Daily Totems and blog posts on How Things Happen, but today it's all happening, so I'm coloring outside the lines. As you'll see, it's all part of the plan.
So, first, Raven flew across the sparkling blue sky during morning coffee, croaking loud and long. Wait - before that I woke up from my Night Shift dreaming with Paul Simon singing these are the days of miracles and wonder in my head, so I pretty much figured it would be one of those days. I'd already been clued in to the Four Dignities of the Warrior, Tibetan Buddhist wisdom, and had been directed by the universe to a book I had in the workroom: Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by the late Chögyam Trungpa, founder of Shambhala International, Naropa University, and a departed legend. I love getting prompts to open books I have, and wasted no time in doing so.
In a nutshell, the Four Dignities are: meek, perky, outrageous, inscrutable. A warrior cultivates these dignities or principles in his or her vibe. I'll stick with the feminine pronoun for this bit. She wants to be four kinds of warrior: a Warrior of Meek – which Rob Brezsny mentions translates maybe more meaningfully for us (for whom meek makes us think of weak rather than not arrogant) as possessing a relaxed confidence, a Warrior of Perky, a Warrior of Outrageous, and a Warrior of Inscrutability. It's all in the book, which I've read before and will now be reading thoroughly again. Exactly the readings I need. Hey you! the universe says. You are this. You need this. You can practice this. And you already have the info. There's your assignment. Miracles and wonder.
So, as I'm grokking Raven's message, hummingbird's overseer capacity, the timely Scorpio info from Rob with the tip off to the bookshelf, I open the book to a random page (86), to read the Rinpoche's words of wisdom. "Whether things go well or things go badly, whether there is success or failure, he [the warrior] feels sad and delighted at once.
In that way, the warrior begins to understand the meaning of unconditional confidence. The Tibetan word for confidence is ziji. Zi means "shine" or "glitter," and ji means "splendor" or "dignity," and sometimes also has the sense of "monolithic." So ziji expresses shining out, rejoicing while remaining dignified." (87)
Are you with me so far? The Raven shining out, and the hummer, the miracles and wonder. The exact qualities to cultivate and all the info I need right here to do that right now. It's a shining, glittering day, a splendid day for miracles and wonder, for Raven's shiny wings and Hummer's glittering gorget. Nevermore so. I had to do that.
To back up the lesson for the day, in comes the email notification that the irrepressible author, Pam Grout, has let fly a new blog post. if you don't know of her or her new book, the blog will inform you. She's working with energy in cool ways and invites you and the whole world to try it too. My own energy experiments, long before, during, and after reading her book, could take up pages and probably will. Such interactive endeavors have created the bio that trails my peripatetic wanderings and will feature in the esoteric mystery school project currently incubating. But the salient thingy here is there on her blog in full, and encapsulated wonderfully in this, the Quote of the Day, which Pam herself gave me permission to give you right here, right now. Ready? Here it is:
Spiritual principles are meant to provide joyful, big-ass fun,
not a bunch of rules and regulations.
– Pam Grout
Anyone who knows me knows that this is how I roll, in work, in love, in life, in writing, but it bears repeating, and Pam's powerpacked nugget of truth is a kick-ass way of doing so. I think this was the gist of what Raven was talking about this morning. It's my modus operandi simply because I don't know how to act otherwise. Laughing out loud in church was an early sign of this. Using sign language in my college orals board was perhaps another. Using colorful language while relaying divination info, making a joke during a crisis, things of this perky, inscrutable, nature. I'm a shamanic practitioner, sure as shootin', and a dignified warrior – or practicing to be a more full time dignified warrior. I'm serious, sure. But seriously serious? Do we have to? Nah - in fact, I can now say with relaxed confidence that it's part of my intentional warrior dignity to be outrageous. It's How Things Happen, baby!