This years’ theme for Beltania was ‘Weaving in Spirit’, which included weaving a bigger web of Community. There was an attempt to break the standing world record for most people dancing a Maypole; it was a fantastic effort to! Last May I attended my first Beltania festival and was hooked from the get-go. I also quickly regretted not taking more time off to camp the full three nights. So, this year we set up camp late Thursday morning and stayed until Sunday morning: up on the hill, with a peek of Merchant tents through the trees and for three nights the drumming over in the Wild Meadow sung me to sleep.
The weather this year was the perfect backdrop to the Neo-Highland Games Friday, the misty fog was clinging stubbornly to the hills just above us. It returned for the Maypole dance Saturday as well with a bit of a chill that made dancing not only fun, but functional as well. There was some light rain Friday and Saturday, but considering the much wetter start to the week up there, I think we were fortunate. I for one am extremely thankful we did not have a ‘white’ Beltania!
The entertainment was fantastic again this year, with a nice range of styles and instruments being played. Phoenix danced some beautiful Belly Dance for an appreciative crowd, my husband and I among them. When she began to encourage women to come join here for the last dance, I took a moment; fighting in my head. Maybe I’ll wait for the start of the next song, but what if there isn’t another one? So, I took off my cloak and went out and did my best to shake it along with the others. This normally wouldn’t be any big deal for me, but as I have not belly danced since December when I fell on ice-it was fantastically fun to give it my best. Rusty hips and all! Felt SO good! This year we were surprised with Fire Dancers to entertain us while a couple of the bands played on the stage behind them. We can thank the rain for that I’m sure, but we had left our camera behind thinking “It’s dark; there won’t be anything to take pictures OF”. As a shutter-bug I know better, so I don’t have any really cool photo’s of the amazing men and women who entertained us with their connection to the element of Fire.
I was curious about SJ Tucker, as I have heard much OF her, but as yet had not heard or seen her in action. When we reported into the info booth for our volunteer shift, I saw her CD’s and bought her latest “Mischief”; mostly I loved the name, the illustrations on the cover and when I read the names of the songs I chuckled and thought “This should be fun!” I was tempted to listen before she had her set on Saturday night, but remembering how magical it was to hear songs first from Wendy Rule in person, I opted to give that a try again. I was not disappointed: no wonder all I’ve ever heard is wonderful things about this lady! She is a great story teller and you can feel the connection she has with her friends who are fans as well.
I did not attend very many workshops this year and I never managed to get the timing right to partake in the Sweat Lodge, which was a little disappointing, but I had so much fun it’s hard to be too upset. My favorite was when we participated in what was called a “Circle of Seven” where, as the title suggests, seven people circle together and get one minute to share with the others anything about themselves they’d like to. Because I don’t know anyone personally aside from my husband, this was exciting. My favorite part of this was that every time I saw these people, I remembered their name and was able to greet them as someone I knew. For someone who has been struggling with the idea of how to bring a sense of Family into my life, this was monumental. Especially since one of my Seven was so outgoing, I don’t remember ever seeing her when she wasn’t smiling and she danced as much as I wanted to. Almost every time after that meeting, she greeted me with a big, hearty “Hello Beautiful!!” (I love that woman!) Her band is Forests of Azure and as I watched her on stage and my first thought was “She is my alter-Ego in the flesh!” Back in Jr. High, when the dances become something I looked forward to, I was made fun of more than once for dancing boldly and swinging my hair around. One of my favorite aspects of this festival is the pure factor of real people, being exactly who they are with no apologies. Because, quite frankly, nobody should ever have to apologize for being true to their inner nature: and we alone know what that is and has the potential to be. This pleases me to no end because if there is one thing that this festival completely lacks, it would be Judgment. Come as you are, you are beautiful and let’s celebrate Spring, Life and the passion that creates the spark of life!
I began to feel more free, more at home, more a part of the community after that Circle of Seven: I began to feel the hint of that little bit wild, fun, dancing woman deep inside me peek out for a look. I picked up a Hoola-Hoop and managed plenty of epic fails before finding the right groove to keep it above my hips. I danced with the young girls while Skean Dubh played a Reel and I now have a goal for next year: to dance as much as I want without collapsing. Or… at least two songs! Since returning home I have made a point to put on music that makes me want to dance along with my dancing bells and to get my body moving every day at least once. Doug has also agreed to practice drumming for me while I belly dance-that should be a lot of fun!
This year I brought my drum and while I didn’t do as much drumming as I was hoping to, it was still a lot of fun to be part of a drum circle with so many people! Even better with the dancing around the fire to the drums, being part of that pounding beat inspiring people to leap around the flames is something I enjoyed very much. Next year part of my dancing will be around the fire over in the Wild Meadow.
So, the Maypole has been danced and while we didn’t break any records, we possibly created one of the messiest Maypoles ever! I encourage anyone who has thought of going to Beltania to get off the fence and plan for next year, it really is a lot of fun. Despite the damp, chilly weather, the hike up a muddy hill to our tent, and an airbed that slanted so badly the tent actually held us in the first night, both Doug and I enjoyed ourselves and the time to simply be together and relax.
One of my Seven was a woman who had attended all four festivals and she praised Joy (Living Earth) for her vision. The first year was a big group of Pagans camping in the forest and it was so fun they decided they should do it again. She said Joy had the vision of what it could be, the potential held within this celebration. While Doug was recording the Maypole attempt, he snapped a photo just as Joy walked in…her face says it all. Thank you Joy, your vision has brought many more people than just me a greater sense of Community.
We’ll be back next year!