When I think of Beltane, I think about fire. While most sabbats call to me in different ways, most of them slide over me with the coming of the nighttime sky and the Lady’s light.
Not Beltane. Beltane always holds fire in its wild dance and of course, that’s what it’s all about.
The fire of passion, sex, creativity, love, art…
Many couples dance around and over bonfires and there is a whole host of traditional practices associated with this particular holiday. One of the most traditional ways to celebrate this holy day is a reenactment of the marriage of the Young God to the May Queen, which is exactly what the Beltane Fire Society in Scotland does.
Through an immense performance full of pageantry and acrobatics, the Beltane Fire Society tells the story of the conception of summer through the marriage of the May Queen and the Green Man.
Here in New Orleans, a friend of mine is determined to make it to the official Beltane Fire Society event and participate. But, until she can, she has decided to create her own version here. And so on Sunday evening, we all gathered and participated in the Wyld Fire Beltane Hunt in our own version of the Young God’s hunt through the forest to find and capture the May Queen.
I was honored to be crowned the May Queen and spent a tense hour of hiding in the forest as night fell, with my handmaidens holding off eager hunters with riddles. While I was eventually “captured” and “wed”, being chased through the forest in the dark put a completely different spin on this ritual for me.
The hunter who was crowned May King would certainly not have been my choice. As a follower of a Goddess who is torn between two lovers, lovers of duty and choice, I finally understood how suspended she is in that moment of change. There is still choice in the inevitable, but it is not a choice that most of us who are lucky enough to live in a modern era full of personal freedom can easily understand.
As a modern Pagan, it is often easy to overlook the primitive, vital nature of the things we’re celebrating. As I ran down a dark trail that I could barely see, with several large, strange men behind me, my heart was racing with adrenaline and fear. Even knowing that none of these men actually meant to hurt me, or force me, the hunt took on its true nature.
Later, after recreating the “hunt” around the fire, and dancing and celebrating, I bestowed kisses and blessings on anyone who asked me to as the embodiment of the May Queen.
For all of the hard work and planning that went into this event, the ritual itself was fairly simple. But the emotions and energy it brought up certainly weren’t. This ritual changed my perspective on what this time of year means and I hope in the future I can remember to search for the more visceral energy the runs beneath our cleaned up, modern rites. It’s this energy that we’re celebrating after all.
For further reading, check out Rynn Fox’s articles on The Beltane Fire Society:
Pomp, Pageantry & Paganism: Beltane Fire Society Rekindles Celtic Quarter Holiday Celebrations in Edinburgh, Scotland
Ancient Tradition, Rekindled: How the Beltane Fire Society Reinvigorated Celtic Quarter Holiday Celebrations in Edinburgh, Scotland
Bringing Legend to Life: How the Beltane Fire Society Creates Ritual for 6,000 People
And Simon Croft’s Beltane Fire Festival
*All pictures were taken from the Wyld Fire Beltane Hunt website