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My first Beltania

A visual memory of my first BeltaniaMe, getting artsy-fartsy with the cookies and some sparkling cider-in a pink & black beer glass from the 50's or 60's.
A visual memory of my first BeltaniaMe, getting artsy-fartsy with the cookies and some sparkling cider-in a pink & black beer glass from the 50's or 60's.Michelle Cole

Pagan Festival Beltania

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A little over a week ago, Doug and I attended our first Beltania event, the Beltane celebration that Living Earth, a local Pagan organization, has created for Front Range folks to enjoy. It is a gathering of practitioners of earth-based religions, such as Wicca or Druidism but not only them. Everyone is invited, whether you have an actual practice or path or not-open minds are all you need to enjoy the festival! This year the event ran from May 5thto the 8thand was held near the small town of Florence, Colorado. I had already determined I would make sure we made it this year when I discovered Wendy Rule would be performing; that was the icing on the cake!

Beltania
Beltania Michelle Cole

I’m not sure at what point in my life packing for trips became a trigger for me to become completely stressed out and easily annoyed. What better time to tackle a bad habit that breeds negativity than when preparing for a Beltane celebration? I had recently read a nice little piece of advice, about forgiveness and I tackled the day we left with the mindset that I was going to enjoy the entire process of Beltania, including the packing. I enjoyed every moment spent preparing and baking the ginger spice cookies I made; some were for us, some were for my Mom and another portion I took as an offering to Wendy Rule. When I realized I had done so well with ‘going with the flow’ and not stressing, it was the same moment I suddenly realized we had at least a 90-minute drive, it was 8 pm and the gates closed at 9. I forgave myself for not keeping on track, forgave Doug for any part he may have played and we opted to stay in a hotel nearby, in Canon City.

Being proud of how well I handled a day that turned out nothing like I’d hoped, I awoke to a beautifully sunny day and in our usual fashion, we made it right under the wire in time to attend Wendy Rule’s workshop. When I set my space before leaving I asked for assistance in accepting whatever crossed my path that weekend-to be like water and flow with what unfolded. It was a perfect start to our first Beltania, sitting in the shade with a small group of people and Wendy. It felt so peaceful with a light breezy, sun warming us, and the birds providing a nice backdrop of sound. Wendy’s workshop was about the Power of Voice in Ritual and Magic.

I was once more entranced with her natural grace and the bubbling sense of true joy in nature. Although the workshop ran into a few snags of the unexpected sort, she rolled with each moment and gave me yet another example to see in my mind when I need inspiration for that ability to accept what comes, expected or no, with great joy. We welcomed each element with gratitude and each shared one thing we were grateful for, spouting the first things to come to our mind while working our way around the circle. Being May and approaching the 2ndanniversary of Eli’s passing, horses trotted their way into my gratitude twice. I thanked the Air for carrying my horse’s whinnies of greeting to me, and I thanked the Earth for echoing their galloping hoof beats.

We had some time between the workshop and the Maypole ritual, so we wandered around the merchant booths. Found some small treasures for myself, and a few for friends who were unable to make it. I loved the chance to people watch and just feel the atmosphere of joy, excitement, frolic and Love. Love for community, for Earth, for Nature, for Self. Growing up in Santa Cruz, California I was raised with an open mind and surrounded by many ‘free spirits’. When I was younger I was able to connect to that sense of joy more easily; it seems over time I’ve become perhaps a little worn down from life and its challenges. It’s been only a few years I’ve even realized this and part of my spiritual practice is definitely focusing on how I can bring some more child-like joy back into my life.

The 2 days I spent at Beltania felt like a huge boost towards that direction. The Maypole ritual was lightly bawdy, the May Queen riding into the center of the gathering on the Maypole, being carried by many men. There was laughter as the preparations began, and her consort, our symbolic Green Man, inquired whether his offering satisfied her. Beltane is a time of fertility, of birth, renewal and passion; just one part of the cycle of life that all living things experience. Live musicians played lively reels and jigs to keep our feet dancing as we began to weave the many ribbons about the Maypole. With so many people it was a rough start, I’m sure Doug and I weren’t the only Maypole ‘newbies’. As the circle began moving more smoothly you could see the weaving pattern of the ribbons emerge around the pole. There were times the wind tried to steal our ribbon, but we held tight and as people gave up their ribbons for a rest, we each had our own. I tried to keep my feet moving, dancing to the lively music and the frolicking spirit of the event. Eventually I realized as much fun as I was having, it was definitely still exercise and I relinquished my ribbon to another and went in search of water.

After the fun of dancing our first Maypole, we opted to set up our camp and rest for a bit. Laying in the shade we had a wonderful view of the changing clouds sailing over us upon a blue sky. It felt decadent to be doing nothing aside from listening to birds, the wind song of the pines and trying to capture the images in the clouds before they morphed into something else. I sometimes try to capture this feeling in my own backyard and often come close-but there is just nothing else like the sound of the wind dancing through thousands of trees surrounding you.

After a nice relaxing rest we walked back to the main grounds to find dinner and a good seat to watch Wendy perform from. She began her set as the sun was setting, reflecting pink and orange on the clouds behind the stage, the waxing quarter moon above. At times the breeze became quite strong and I was grateful for my warm cloak I sewed for myself years ago; with the quilt lining and generous spread I was able to cover both Doug and myself when needed. We ate dinner to the entertaining music of a band called Mythica. There was live music most of the time we were there and I have to give kudos’ for the wonderful planning that goes into this festival. The camping areas are split up to give families the opportunity to enjoy themselves while other areas are specified for all night drumming and dancing.

We had chosen the most secluded spot we could find, which at some point I laughed when I thought to myself “26 years after High School and I’m still the student in the back of the room, away from everyone else!” Laying down outside the tent for a while we star-gazed and listened to the drumming, singing and trilling that echoed off the hills that surrounded us. Part of me wanted to gather more energy to make the walk back down and be a part of the party, but in the end the comfort of the blanket and my lovers’ arms won out. Packing up to leave the next morning was a bittersweet activity and I wished we had made it up far earlier to camp 2 nights instead of just one. We walked the trail to the Sweat Lodge, which I did not get a chance to partake in…but WILL next year! We simply enjoyed the sunny outdoors, the smell of warm pine and dirt before we drove back to our little lives.

One of the interesting themes that kept repeating itself to me was Family. At one point Saturday I looked around and thought, “Ron would LOVE this!” and suddenly felt the stinging of pressing tears and I thought “Ron IS here!” When I lay beneath the carpet of stars above me Saturday night, I could so clearly remember all the summer nights I fell asleep on the upper deck of our houseboat. Next to my brothers we would patiently wait for shooting stars or look for the flying profiles of bats hunting in the dark. Year after year they tried to show me the Little Dipper, and year after year I never could find it. Without my glasses, I see only the brightest stars and that night when I laid down the Big Dipper was directly above and clearly seen. Again I felt Ron’s presence and a whisper deep in my mind that said “You haven’t lost family, it’s simply different: you make your family as you go”

I cried when I admitted to Doug how much I miss my brothers, not so much their physical presence but the feeling of having Family. Being at Beltania helped me see how much family is out there, waiting to be connected to. It’s not that I don’t have a family or the opportunity to feel it: I have at some point shut myself out. To be honest, with most people I feel quite awkward-it’s rare that I feel connection and can speak freely. It isn’t easy to change old habits and being an outsider is something I’ve become quite familiar with. But, as I slowly build up my own Light Tribe around me, as I open myself to more people I hope the healing that comes with community and family will help me stand stronger in my own power. Not that I’m exactly sure what my own power looks like yet, but more and more I am feeling that the first step has to be to find that state of Grace, acceptance of what is so that I can truly enjoy the life that continues to unfold around me.

A life that will include being a part of Beltania from now on! For more information you can visit Living Earth or the Beltania site.

Happy Spring!

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