He who would be king, let him be a bridge.
(old Welsh proverb)
Belated Beltane Blessings!
I seem to have a history of wishing Beltane blessings in a belated fashion.
To all my Northern Witchy brethren, I hope Samhain was a special occasion for you all, and that you are still aware of the residual energies that are about.
I celebrated Beltane here in Sydney last week by attending my fourth public gathering in last 18 months, and my second Beltane in that time. It was put on by my friends at Gliding Seal events. What’s more, this Beltane gathering was held at the same location of my very first public gathering that I attended back at Samhain in 2013. It was an odd experience to return once again to the place that has played such a pivotal role in my life for the last (coming up to) 2 years. On another note it was quite fun to return to the same location at a different season. When I attended Samhain in 2013, it was quite dark by the time I had arrived, and it was cold. My memories of the location were obviously coloured by the season. This time round though, it was hot, and the sun was still lingering low in the north-western sky as I made my way down the suburban road that led to the scout hall that would be my home for the next 2 days.
As I settled into the gathering for the weekend, and caught up with friends that I hadn’t seen for a while, something else became apparent to me, about the extent of the impact that my first gathering had on my life. It appeared that my position had been completely reversed from last time I had set foot at this place. When I first attended Samhain, I was a complete outsider, knowing no one when I arrived. However this time, I had ritualled a few times with many of the people attending, as well as the organisers. I was really touched when someone commented to me whether everyone knew each other well, after seeing me interact with some of my friends. To me it was a testament to the strength of the friendships I have made with this pagan community here in Sydney, that all commenced back last year when I decided that I would take myself to a pagan gathering….
Anyway – the Beltane gathering!
This gathering was a little different from the previous ones I have attended. Rather than have workshops throughout the Saturday before the main ritual, this time round we had a series of challenges that we could chose to participate in or spectate. The challenges were built around the elements. Each person that won the challenge would collect points. At the end individuals with the most points could either elect to be an elemental guardian in the main ritual, or compete to be crowned king and queen for the weekend.
The Challenges proved to be a great way to build community amongst new and old friends. They were:
- Tomahawk throwing, for the element of Air, representing accuracy;
- Balancing a cup filled with water on the back of our hand as we raced to fill a jug, representing balance, for the element of Water
- Sneaking from one end of the communal hall to the other side, where a bell had been placed before the feet of someone who was blind folded. If they heard us and pointed in our direction, then that person was out – For the element of Earth, representing stealth; and
- Last but not least, for the element of Fire, representing passion, we had a dance off. The dance off ended up being more of a silent disco for those spectating given that they couldn’t hear the music coming from the little Bluetooth speaker.
By the end of the challenges though we were all sweaty and exhausted, though filled with the fun from them all.
Now something that I had not expected happened to me while completing the challenges. I ended up with the most points. Going into the challenges I was banking on landing a role as an elemental guarding, namely air (given that I am an air sign). I didn’t expect to win enough points to put me in contention to be crowned the Spring King. Also I didn’t have a female with which to couple with as King and Queen. Finally, of course there is the little issue that I am gay, so any union with a female would be completely symbolic in every sense of the word.
Yet there I was with the most points to be crowned King. Now this might come across as trivial, but it felt like a bit of struggle for me, given my sometimes feelings of inadequacy at being a man (that I have spoken about in other posts). I was faced with whether or not I could stand up to the plate and represent the male regenerative forces of nature for the ritual that was going to take place. Perhaps I took it too seriously, but in that moment I felt like I had to make a decision that was not only right for me, but for the community that had gathered to ritual together.
My other problem was that I didn’t have a Queen. At previous Beltane gatherings, the King and Queen were usually a couple in all senses of the word, and on this occasion we were faced with a potentially different situation.
So as we rested and prepared ourselves for the main ritual (‘robing up’ as we pagans like to call it) I mediated and asked my ancestors what it was that I should do. The resounding answer was to ‘Stand up and claim what was mine – there is nothing else to worry about.’
Now the first part of that message was very powerful, given that they were the same exact words that I had heard previously participating in working with the training coven I’m part of.
So I did.
I stood up and tossed my hat in the ring for Spring King. As for my Queen, I asked the girl who had the most points after me to be Queen. It also helped that she had robed up in a beautiful white dress.
We then broke up into our separate camps, the masculine and feminine energies.
As the representatives of the masculine energies, sat around while we listened to one of our elders speak and we shared what it was that each of us hoped for and desired for the coming year, As I being the King would (symbolically) carry these for the men into the new year.
Suddenly the fun of being crowned King became heavy with a burden. Again perhaps I took this all too seriously, but for me it was really important at that I be a good ‘monarch’ (so to speak) for the community that had gathered. I mean in ancient times, so the myths of the Celts communicate to us, the King was wedded to the land. It was through his union to the land that the land remained fertile. If the crops were to fail, then the king was killed.
I certainly don’t want the crops of my community to fail, nor do I want be beheaded as the case may be! But all of a sudden, the deeper sense of those mysteries that are told through the myths became a little cleared to me as we were challenged by the Elements and then ultimately crowned.
The rest of the evening was, as you would expect of a Beltane, filled with revelry and fun. The Feast was delicious and the Bardic circle by the fire demonstrated the creative fire that everyone at the gathering possessed.
As I left the gathering, and as corny as this may sound, I left a changed man, with a new sense of responsibility and duty. To what, I am still uncertain. But it is there. It feels right though, as if another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place following the different events of this year.
Blessings & Bendith