A commonly observed holiday, May Day is significant in our solar calendar as an observation of Bealltainn (Beltane) here in Scotland.
It’s been a long time since the tradition was marked as part of the every day, though.
Even when there is reference to it, the activities are often an amalgamation of traditions! The amazing Beltane celebrations atop Calton Hill in Scotland’s capital city are an example of this.
Green Man Controversy
One of the symbols that I have worked with during this phase of the 8-fold year is a star player in the Beltane Fire Society’s celebrations – the Green Man. You can watch me playing with this in the Union Mandala exercise in the Bealltainn module of the Alignment program in the School.
Who doesn’t love the Green Man? Well, he has been the subject of some controversy of late, with an appearance on the invitation to the forthcoming royal coronation.
For a short while after the invitation’s release, historians, neo-pagans and folk-lovers engaged in some lively discourse around the idea that “the Green Man is an ancient figure from British folklore” which is how it was announced on the Royal Family’s tweet. Dr Francis Young was foremost in his criticism of this idea and you can find out why in this article.
Green Man aside, what’s interesting for us here in the School is the idea that culture is not something static that we are subject to but can be something that we create through the activation of our creative imagination.
This is the work of the Alignment program. We are creating culture. We might even be inventing new traditions.
Creating Culture Sensitively
Each of us will have a different background and will arrive at the prompts with something unique.
We must be careful, of course, not to appropriate the creative work, beliefs and practices of others as we meet the challenge. As a child of the New Age who has been slowly dismantling her tendencies towards the woo, this is something that I take great care around.
Alignment offers us an exciting opportunity to step back from repetitive and often false internet information that exists about the wheel of the year and to form our own associations according to the pattern’s unfolding, in light of our familial history, particular world-view and our geographical connection to the season.
Making Meaning of Ritual
There’s a surviving ritual in Scotland that takes place in Glen Lyon, where for time beyond memory, the Cailleach and her family (in the shape of stones) are housed in a stone shelter over winter and are brought out again at Bealltainn – the time of the Big Sun.
Might this be a remnant of a prehistoric belief? I don’t have the academic clout to pronounce either way, but have a tendency to believe so – the evidence lies in the very landscape…
I’m looking forward to a book launch this Saturday (yes, I’ll be missing the coronation, not being a fan of the monarchy) that will touch indirectly on some of this evidence.
Making meaning of the world we find ourselves in looks different for so many of us and yet we can come together in creative practice to explore the universal patterns of the natural world, no matter our cultural background or spiritual practice, if any.
Such beauty can be found here – all we need to do is to activate our creative imagination.