30th April – Beltane Eve. The Celtic tradition always celebrates on the eve of the day, going down into the darkness to be reborn again at the dawning of the day.
This feast – goddess feast – is about burgeoning, sensuality, courting, testing, the betrothal of the goddess and the god after she has tested him. In Britain we celebrate with Morris Dancing, dancing in the sunrise on a local sacred hill. I’ll be there, with friends, circa 0530 tomorrow morning at Arthur’s Stone, a wonderful place with fantastic views of the Cat’s back and the Dragon’s Back of Hay Bluff to the west. The sun, of course, comes up opposite and gradually lights the hills as the dancing progresses.
On my personal blog yesterday, I wrote …
Our word personality comes from the Greek word persona which was the mask Greek actors wore and of which they said it was “the mask through which the gods spoke”. For gods read our own souls. The personality’s job is also to guard the soul. One example of this that has come down to us through folklore is the Morris Men and Morris Dancing. Morris is likely derived from “Mary’s Men”. The name Mary comes from various words going back to Sanskrit meaning sea and has always been one of the words/names/concepts for the goddess, the flowing waters that give life, and indeed the sea was the soup of the beginning of Life on Earth. The Morris dances have much in common with various unarmed combat exercises and were likely practiced through dance both as ritual to the goddess and, later, as a way of continuing the old ways after the Christian invasions. So the personality is the Guardian of the soul as the king is the guardian of the queen.
This celebration of the goddess by her Guardians on the top of one of her hills on May Morning is ancient. Probably most folk have at least heard of Morris Dancing but to connect and realise this is one of the old traditions of Britain, and a shamanic one at that, doesn’t usually come to people’s minds. We hide our old lore so very well … right out in the open where anyone can trip over it, in consequence most people don’t see it at all :-).
There’s usually some singing as well as the dancing and that reminds me – last year they asked me to learn the Obby Oss song and sing it for them so I must get on that when I’ve done this! And the Hal an Toe too! This is about the Padstow Obby Oss – note, the Old Oss is in the Celtic colours of red/white/black. The Padstow celebrations are very special and the Oss (dragon) is quite fantastic. If you get a chance to go, do so. You have to book a B&B 2 yrs in advance though !!!
Since last year, I’ve got a pair of new knees. I’ve not been able to dance the Morris for years and years, I hope to give it a gentle go tomorrow morning. To dance for the goddess again would be so good.
These are some pix of us from last year. I’ll try to get some more tomorrow and put them up on a free-for-all day afterwards.
That’s NOT me out of costume … hope to be this year.
Loreena McKennitt’s Mummers’ Dance is fantastic get-in-the-mood stuff.