For the Celtic Festival of Bealtaine on May 1st, I created with some friends a ritual which we imagined taking place on the sacred island of Iona in the North Atlantic. I offer it to you for your own adaptation in this first week of May. Anne Kathleen
In the pre-dawn darkness we make our way into the circle of grass embraced by the low stone walls of the ruined nunnery on Iona. We have never before been here before the sun, never seen our companions like this: darker shadows against a grey sky. It is utterly still, without even the movement of light wind that heralds the sun.
the garden of the ruined nunnery on Iona
Each of us has brought dry sticks, bits of gathered grass and heather and this we pile on the wood that awaits the Bealtaine fire.
On the edge of a cliff across the island is a pool that has been known for its spiritual power. Two of our companions, Shirley and Suzanne who have a deep affinity for water, who work for its healing throughout the planet, went there yesterday to collect water for our ritual. The large clay pitcher they carried back sits beside the readied fire.
where they went
When all of us have gathered, we stand in a circle facing towards the east. We chant: “Look to the East where promise is born; look to the East where the sun brings the morn.” Slowly, slowly, as we repeat the chant, the grey of the sky warms into shades of pale seashell pink, deepening into soft rose then into deep rose madder. Slowly, slowly, the golden orb of the sun appears to be pushing itself up above the horizon. In such a way, we who know it is in fact the earth on which we stand that is rolling towards the sun, we still experience the moment as did our ancient ancestors. We still speak of a rising sun.
At the moment when the sun becomes visible, Mary Ellen lights the fire, and as the sun’s light ripples on the water in the clay container, we come forward, one by one, to splash the water over our faces. Then with the water still wet upon us, we stand in the rays of the rising sun. The sun blesses us, blesses the water upon us. As we feel the warmth that come from sun and fire, and the wetness from the water, we ask for a harmony within us of the masculine/sun/fire energies and the feminine/water energies.
By the time all thirty women have completed the ritual, the garden is glowing with the full golden light of morning. Now that it is warm enough to sit down, we gather in a circle. There is a lightness in our hearts that bubbles up in spontaneous laughter. Someone begins to sing, “Morning has broken…” and we join in.
Kathleen has brought the Celtic Calendar that Dolores Whelan created, as well as Dolores’ book, Ever Ancient, Ever New, and offers Reflection questions based on the rituals we have just done:
What negativity left over from winter do I now release into the Bealtaine fires so that my heart is ready for the newness of life and work at this season?
What new fertility in my life, in my projects, do I welcome in the form of the young mother of early summer?
How shall I honour the harmony of fire and water, the masculine and feminine energies working within the land, within myself, within the work that I am called to birth?
Kathleen invites us to take these questions into our hearts as we end our time here with the Bealtaine prayer from the Celtic Calendar:
May I/we embrace the support of the blossoming life force and growing light as I/we step boldly into the world to express my/our creativity.