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Beltane

Hello and welcome to the last episode of April, what a month. I know the spring hasn’t been super springy everywhere, but I have to just give April props for being a really beautiful month here where we live. It has been so gorgeous and mild, and I know it won’t last through the end of May. Here in my neck of the woods, we frequently see triple digit weather in May, but my hopes are high that we can just cruise in the mid to upper 80s and save the triple digits for June. Exciting weather-related conversation on the podcast today.

But that’s not the topic of the day, is it? No, we are here to talk about Beltane, which takes place this weekend amidst a Solar eclipse and a new moon, and Pluto going retrograde beginning tomorrow and lasting for the next five, almost six months, so that’s a lot of exciting energy to look forward to. We talked about the significance of New Moons back in the Moon Magic episode, and among its many influences are new beginnings, divination, and rebirth or renewal, so these are excellent intentions for this weekend. 

 

Very quickly though, I want to address a really cool message I received, well, a couple actually. First, is an email I got from a witch called Annette, who had this to say:

Hello Eli,

I am a witch quickly approaching the time of the crone. However I have never completed formal training (I know not needed) or gone through an initiation into a coven (I know not required).  I am self-taught and continue to marvel at natural wonders and remain curious on all things related to the craft. This is as much true today at nearly 50 than it was when I was 8. I enjoy your podcast and your personality immensely.

Here is the situation: Just recently I’ve decided I personally needed to formally go through all the seasons of the calendar as a witch (not just picking and choosing certain days or doing spell work here and there).  For personal reasons May 1/Beltane has special importance to me. I was walking outside and internally thinking I would make this commitment on May 1.  The moment this thought came to me a splash of “water” fell on top of my head and hit the corner of my left eye.

Context: Zero precipitation (not raining, not snowing, not hailing, not even a heavy fog) clear blue sky.  Off to my right two flying crows cawed off in the distance.  I had just walked under a maple tree (which has importance to me and signifies the sweetness of strength within).  I realize that Maple trees can sap this time of year but I know it wasn’t the tree’s sap falling on my head given my location of where I was under the tree.

Question: Have you ever heard of a nature’s baptism? And Yes I  know I’m using the word baptism in the Christianity sense of baptism. But it just seems to me like I was being “accepted” and “affirmed” to follow through with my thought of following a witch’s calendar as a witch.  Have you experienced this and/or heard of this before?

Light and Love

Annette

Now, I loved this entire sequence of events as she tells it. And I’ve never heard anyone call it a nature’s baptism, but I LOVE the term that she used. It’s typically referred to as phantom water drops, but that isn’t nearly as cool. So many things happening precisely in sequence like that just as she is contemplating embarking on this journey, plus the overwhelming feeling of acceptance and affirmation and I straight up told her, this sort of thing is absolutely not a coincidence. 

Phantom water drops, or nature’s baptisms, as I will henceforth be calling it, are associated with spiritual connection and communication, this is a recognized spiritual phenomenon. And of course maple trees are symbolic of transformation in addition to Annette’s personal association with inner strength, and like, crows are messengers, two is the number of intuition, and water is the element of consecration and rebirth, so it could not have been more clear for Annette that this was a confirmation of her commitment to her path. 

So I told Annette that I am also approaching my 50s, and I am really excited to see how much more authentically ME I become. The older I get, the more I appreciate all the seasons of my life so far. The croning is a little intimidating, I must admit, but I also kind of can’t wait. 

 

Beltane is a fantastic time to embark on her Year of the Witch, especially with all the extra astrological activity going on right at the same time, with the solar eclipse and the New Moon. I asked her to stay in touch and let me know how the year progresses.

 

I also received an update from another witch who had asked about Egyptian deities, specifically Bastet, which is a deity she had always felt drawn to. And just in case you’re not familiar, Bastet is an Egyptian goddess with the head of a cat and the body of a woman, and she is a goddess of protection and good health. Now, this witch had also recently discovered she had Coptic Egyptian heritage, and speculated that this was why maybe she had felt prompted to work with Bastet. So I offered my limited assistance, because to be honest I don’t have a lot of knowledge of Egyptian deities or mythos, but a friend does, so I asked his advice and passed along a book recommendation and some basic information and asked her to let me know how it went.

 

Well that was a couple months ago, and she just DMed me this past week with the most amazing update. She wrote: 

 

“I just wanted to let you know how things went when reaching out to Bastet.  First of all, I ended up getting the book that your friend recommended on working with Gods and Goddesses in Egypt, which was a great resource.  For a couple weeks, I would just meditate with Bastet, reaching out to her to get to know her, to see how she would like for me to honor her on my alter (I have now a small Bastet statue as well as crystals that she likes and I often leave offerings of catnip and milk).  My cat Leo had been ill since New Years and I thought we were going to lose him.  He wasn’t even 2 and was throwing up constantly, the vet couldn’t figure out what was wrong and we were about to take him to a GI specialist to help save his life (though I had no idea how I was going to afford it!).

 

After some thought, I cleansed and anointed a white candle with oil as well as crushed up catnip, myrrh and frankincense which are other herbs that Bastet likes.

 

I petitioned her to intervene on Leo’s behalf to try to heal him from whatever was ailing him.  I let that candle burn out and it almost looked like a cat with it’s tail way up in the air and also left more of the herbs on the alter in front of the statue.  A few nights later I had a dream that Bastet walked up and stood before Leo as he was sitting on my bed.  She leaned down and gently kissed his forehead.  It was the sweetest gesture to witness… even if it was in a dream.

 

Within days Leo started to eat better, he stopped throwing up, he gained more energy and I can say now, a month later, he is back to his old self.  He’s gained all the weight he lost (He was looking almost emaciated!) and is now chasing his feline brother around the house on a regular basis.  I was searching for something special for Bastet and found some dried Lotus flowers which I will leave on my alter tonight in great thanks for her healing my cat.

 

As you can see, my experience has been very positive and I am so grateful for your podcast and your willingness to help your fellow witches.”

 

She also sent a picture of Leo and he is so cute. Very sassy energy. And I actually ordered my own copy of the book just because I’m interested to learn more and I actually think, I need to check the tracking info but I think it will get here tomorrow. Anyway, I just thought that was such a great update and I was so happy to learn that she not only has initiated successful contact with Bastet and cultivated a real relationship, but that Bastet was able to advocate for Leo. This is why the craft is so special.

 

When witches lean into their own power and we are able to sort of get out of our own way, we can perform the most amazing magic and I just love to see it manifesting in real time. It is so gratifying.

 

Ok, so that’s all that stuff that I wanted to go over, and now, let’s talk about Beltane. Beltane is the Gaelic celebration of May Day, which is itself a fire festival celebrating the first day of summer (although yes, I know, it isn’t the actual, recognized first day of summer, it’s just how the ancients acknowledged it, please don’t blow up my DMs). Beltane is one of the four Celtic fire festivals, and during this celebration bonfires would be lit, cattle would be driven between the fires for protection, people would dance and leap over the fires for protection as well. Feasts would be prepared, food and drink would be offered to the Fae basically to appease them and discourage them from doing anything mischievous.

 

Traditionally, folks would visit their nearest holy well. Home and cattle would be decorated with flowers, typically yellow and white flowers to mimic the flames of the ritual fire, a May bush would be made by taking either a thorn bush or a branch and hanging it with colorful ribbons and flowers. This is often conflated with the maypole, but the May bush is actually a different thing and was developed as a traditional Beltane activity independently. We will talk about the maypole in a minute. 

 

The purpose of this festival mainly was to protect the cattle, crops, and people from harm, either natural or supernatural, which is why it was so important to the ancients to appease the Fae. This is the time when the weather is warming up, the cattle are moved to the summer pastures to be fattened up, folks are once again working outdoors rather than indoors which raises the risks of injury, a lot of pregnancies are approaching their final stages, so folks would want to ensure safe delivery for both baby and mother. Things are once again moving. Beltane is both a celebration of life and warmth and industry, and also an invocation of protection for all of those things. 

 

And, you know, yeah, we aren’t most of us cattle farmers or homesteaders anymore, sadly, but we can still call to mind all of those things that our ancestors prized in a way that connects us to them, and to our homelands and to those traditions. And those traditions, frankly, are found all over the place in all kinds of cultures, and those cultural touchstones resonate with all of us in some way. Those customs and social traditions are embedded deeply in our very DNA.

 

Something traditional to do for the sabbat would be to build either a bonfire, or just a fire in a fire pit and burn herbs such as cinquefoil, for protection and also money manifestation. Another good choice would be meadowsweet, for peace, Angelica for healing, rosemary for protection,  purification, and mental strength. If you don’t have a fire pit, these herbs can be burned in a cauldron instead, and they could also be crushed and applied to a candle. Especially a yellow candle, if you’ve got one.

 

Flowers that are symbolic of Beltane include Daisy for love, Honeysuckle for protection and money as well, Lilac for protection, Marigold for prophecy, Primrose, also for love. These are excellent additions to a Beltane altar, or to decorate the home, and also as offerings to the Fae. If there’s a particular deity at this time that you want to pay tribute to, definitely do a little research and find out what their flower, fruit or herb correspondences may be and include those as well.

 

Oatcakes were customarily prepared and shared at Beltane, but I’ve tried making them using traditional recipes and I have to say… to put it gently, there is a lot of room for improvement. But taking that spirit and baking any kind of cake to share at Beltane or to leave on your altar is going to be very well-received. The same goes for mead or wine, and of course any fruits that may be in season where you are. A lamb was often sacrificed at Beltane and then shared among the community, and I will be making lamb chops this weekend, seasoned with oregano, sage, and mint, all from the garden. 

 

Most of us don’t really have access to a maypole anymore, let alone two dozen friends that we can coerce into doing a maypole dance, but we can still make use of the imagery. No one really knows what the origins of the maypole are, or what its symbolism may have originally been, the Christians did successfully erase the original meaning, but the assumption of scholars familiar with the people and traditions of the time is that it’s probably something to do with a pagan deity. It is certainly Germanic pagan in origin, and there are some scholars who have assumed a phallic significance to it, but the pagans weren’t really shy about their symbolism, and I am inclined to think that if it had been meant as a phallic symbol, firstly it would look a lot more like a penis to put it bluntly, and second, it would have been trotted out during fertility festivals, such as Ostara. Beltane really isn’t a fertility festival, so again, I just don’t think it’s meant to be anything phallic or even fertility-adjacent. 

 

But, it was significant enough that even though the meaning was lost, the tradition remains. So rather than try and erect an actual maypole, we can certainly get hold of a tree and tie it with ribbons and decorate it with flowers and at least represent the spirit of the maypole. All trees hold some kind of magical significance, but certain trees in particular are actual Beltane correspondences, such as Ash. Ash trees are revered for their protection and their prosperity, and as a side note, they’re often used in sea rituals and sea magic, so if you’re a sea witch, maybe get yourself a wand made of ash.

 

Apple trees are another good choice, apple trees and apples themselves are quintessentially magical. The apple tree is powerful in matters of love, healing and youth magic in particular. Mesquite is a tree that is especially healing, and if you don’t have a mesquite tree to decorate, using mesquite wood is an excellent choice for magical fires. Oak trees are another super powerful, super magical tree. I don’t have any on my property, but I sure do wish I did. Oaks confer powers of protection, health, money, potency, and luck. And also willow trees. Willows are frequently used in the construction of wands, particularly wands for use in moon magic. Willows are also used in spells for love, love divination, healing and protection. 

 

And that’s kind of the name of the game with all of these plants, flowers and trees. More than anything else, they are almost all very powerful protectors. So if you’ve got any of these trees, showing a little love and reverence and care and taking the time to decorate them and include them in Beltane ritual activities is going to be very special. 

 

And all this is cool for solitary rituals, but it works for larger groups as well. This is a celebration of community and it is appropriate, therefore, to invite people over to celebrate with you. Make it a potluck or if you don’t have space, meet at a park, or if you don’t want to do that, maybe arrange with some friends to go for a little nature walk or a hike and leave offerings for the Fae.

 

And now for the triple goddess significance. We spoke about the Maiden archetype of the Triple Goddess in the Imbolc episode. And even though it isn’t technically summer until the Solstice in June, I’m going to go ahead and broach the subject of the Mother Archetype, because she is associated with Beltane and with this time of year. Flowers are in bloom, blossoms on the apple trees and cherry trees are giving over to fruit, bees are buzzing, birds are nesting, this is an abundant time of year.

 

The mother goddess is a deification of motherhood, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a literal sense, although it certainly can be literal. I mean it in the sense of creativity, fertility of ideas. She is associated with sexuality, abundance, nurture, protection, stability, empowerment, goals, life itself and of course the big, big witchcraft buzzword, manifestation.

 

Beltane, especially this Beltane which aligns with the New moon, is a prime time for manifestation, and so I really hope we have all been meditating on our desires and our goals so that we can put out some very potent and meaningful manifestations at this time. What is it that we want to create for ourselves using this very fertile Beltane and New Moon energy? We don’t need to think small here. We can create some reverberations in the fabric of the universe that are going to continue to expand and call in abundance. Use this weekend to perform some dynamic magic. And if we aren’t sure where to direct our magic, we just need to ask the Mother.

 

Grounding is an excellent exercise for this purpose at this time, incidentally. When we walk barefoot on the ground, or sit in nature to listen and to commune, we are healed and nourished physically, emotionally, and energetically, and grounding is a wonderful way to take part in the generosity of the earth. The Maiden archetype is very forward-looking, you know, she’s an innovator, she’s always looking to the future, but the Mother lives in the present. She is in the here and now. So we can look through her eyes and see where we have been and where we are headed, and the Mother has the experience to adjust course if it doesn’t quite seem like we’re going to land where we hoped to.

 

So we would really do ourselves a favor to commune with the Mother, assess our current situation and where our paths lead, and decide where to make any adjustments. And then, using the power of this Solar eclipse/new moon/Beltane/Mother energy, we can manifest the path to our heart’s desires.

 

Now, I do want to acknowledge that for some of us, the Mother isn’t an archetype that we feel an immediate connection to. And that is fair and valid. A lot of us have very complicated relationships with our own mothers. Some of us have been failed altogether by our mothers. And for this reason, we may not want to assign our feelings about our mothers to the Mother goddess. If this resonates with you, understand that the Mother Archetype is the ideal. This is the Mother that, in a perfect world full of perfect people, we all should have had. And this is also the mother that we should become to ourselves. Sometimes, we have to mother ourselves the way we wish we had been.

 

That means we have to forgive ourselves, we have to be gentle with ourselves, we have to be understanding and loving and we have to protect ourselves. Maybe this means setting boundaries and keeping them. This can also mean self care, nurturing ourselves as we nurture others. This again, as with the Maiden, is not set aside only for women and girls. The Mother is an aspect that we all embody to varying degrees, and we can all petition the Mother when we need her. When we need grace, when we need guidance, when we are overwhelmed or lonely, when we need some solid advice or some tough love, we can go to the Mother.

 

When I say tough love, I mean stark honesty. Not brutal honesty; I find that when people say they’re brutally honest, they’re usually more interested in the brutality than the honesty. But stark honesty, because sometimes we need someone to call us out on our bullshit. And that’s where the Mother comes in. If we aren’t taking care of ourselves, if we are letting our responsibilities get away from us, if we aren’t living up to commitments that we’ve made to ourselves, then we can go to the Mother and ask her to help us hold ourselves accountable. And that’s the final facet of the Mother I wanted to speak about.

 

And that brings me to the end of my notes. We will talk again next week. I wish everyone a very blessed Beltane, and if you’d like to send me a message I would love to hear from you, you can DM me on facebook or instagram at @middleagedwitch or email me at eli@middleagedwitch.com. My name is Eli, and this has been the Middle Aged Witch podcast.

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