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Sitting under May Pole

Seasons Changing: Beltaine Traditions at Earthaven

Kaitlin Ilya Wolf in front of the May Pole
Kaitlin Ilya Wolf, author of this article

Earthaven is like two different villages in the winter and summer. In winter all the leaves are off the trees and everything in the village feels closer together. I can see buildings in other neighborhoods and mountain horizon around us. When the leaves grow in, bright green curtains shift how our neighborhoods relate physically with each other. As the leaves come out, so do the people. We move into the season of work and play.

Every year around the first of May, we celebrate this shift of seasons and life with our Beltaine Festival — a day of celebration, ritual, and feasting. The festival begins with a May Faire. We gather on the Village Green to make flower wreaths, paint faces, play games, have a picnic lunch, and just chill out together in the sun. We dance around our Maypole, dancing in the summer. We jump over our sacred Bel Fire. We feast around the fire, sing songs, and recite poetry into the night.

Starting the May Pole dance at Earthaven Ecovillage
Starting the May Pole Dance

Beltaine is the Celtic name for the cross-quarter holiday between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Linguistically, one of the meanings of the word Beltaine is “lucky fire.” Ancient Celtic culture was a herding culture. Beltaine was the time of year to move the herds from the winter fields into the summer shielings (fields). Villagers would drive the herd between two fires, blessing the animals and also driving away disease and insects. The Bel Fire would also bless the villagers and the land.

Completing the May Pole dance at Earthaven
Completing the May Pole dance

At Earthaven, villagers jump over a small fire in pairs, in groups, and individually to bless their new and continuing relationships, while the community sings, dances, and reflects on the vast web of relationships in the village.

At Earthaven, we are inspired by long-established customs around the world and are developing our own traditions for our community. As we move around the wheel of the year, having traditions that ground us in the season is important. As Beltaine comes to Earthaven, we know that we will once again play together at the Beltaine Festival. I enjoy how this yearly gathering highlights the growing children and our changing lives. Annual traditions help us notice what has changed, as well as appreciate what has stayed the same.

May Pole reaching towards the skyEstablishing traditions for your family or community is easy. Choose something to do every year to welcome the summer. It can be as simple as a special meal or a campfire. Your traditions will evolve over time. Honoring the seasons with tradition can help us to honor ourselves as we grow and change. Finding ways to do this together is what community is all about.

What does this change of season look like in your area and how do you celebrate? Please leave a comment in this blog post.

As we move into the season of work and play, Beltaine is a great time to bless and celebrate our bodies. Gathering in community to play in the sun is a wonderful way to bless the coming season.

celebrate, Kaitlin

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