Thursday, May 01, 2014

May Day: The Twilight Between and Betwixt

The first day of May is a special day to many. For the world proletariat, it is a day to celebrate the working class as International Workers Day. The Celtic festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night, as well as other northern European pagan festivals, celebrate the First of May as between and betwixt—the twilight time when Winter ends and Summer begins.

As with the other great festival of the Celts, Samhain (the Celtic New Year: November 1st), May Day is a time of between and betwixt—not only of the seasons of the year, but also between mortals and immortals, the living and the dead, fairies and humans.

Beltane is a time when everything normal is suspended. The veils between the worlds are lifted creating a time outside of time when morality doesn’t count and sexual unions allowed for carnal pleasure are the rule. Thus, the month of May was seen as unlucky for weddings so that June became the wedding month.

It was a time when shamans moved easily between normal existence and the spirit world. It was a time of healing and joy and love. For example, unmarried young folk would sleep out-of-doors, making love and then returning to their village just before dawn, leaves and flowers intertwined in their hair, bringing with them a young sapling that was to become the Maypole.

The dance of the Maypole celebrated shamanic and Druid principles. A circle was formed around the pole with each person holding the end of a ribbon that was attached to the poll. Usually, girls were separated by a boy and, when the dance began the girls would go in one direction and the boys in the other. As the poll was decorated by the colored ribbons, it came to represent the world tree—the cosmic shaft connecting earth and sky.

Beltane—this twilight moment between and betwixt—was a sacred time for the Celts. Any child conceived during Beltane was considered holy, the issue of the God of Fertility and the Goddess of Spring.

These ancient rites and rituals have, for the most part, been lost to modernity. In Great Britain, May Day is still associated with towns and villages celebrating springtime fertility of the soil, livestock, and people and revelry with village fetes and community jamborees. 

In Finland, youth celebrate on May Day Eve, known as Vappu, from the Swedish term. Folks, especially students, party outside and wear colorful caps.

In Germany, Walpurgisnacht celebrations of pagan origin are held on the night before May Day with bonfires and the wrapping of a Maibaum (Maypole). 

In Ireland, where Celtic feast of Bealtaine was celebrated centuries before the coming of Christianity, there remain little of the ancient Celtic traditions.

The mystical/Celtic time of between and betwixt seems to be a remnant of ages past. However, today there is an awakening of ancient beliefs, rituals, and shamanic practices. Who knows what the future will bring as humans again investigate the twilight—the time between and betwixt.

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