Beltane is not one of my historical top-form group rites. Beltane in my hands is often not as well-planned. There are a number of reasons for this. It comes right on the heels of Trillium, so it’s easy to forget how soon it is and just focus on Trillium. It’s also in the time of year when the weather truly tilts towards reliably nice to spend time outside. The rain stops being low-effort sleet, so being caught in a cloudburst a few miles from the car isn’t such a big deal. Also, the allergens start, so it’s not all positives on my side. It also isn’t as big a deal locally as it is other places for one major reason: Beltane comes right at finals time at PSU. Professors and students alike stress over the completion of the semester, and don’t have time.
Given all of this, I did not go into this year’s Beltane with specifically high hopes. Email advertising had gone out late, and I felt like I was racing to the rite without the preparation needed.
Until the day before, when I discovered I’d somehow gotten on-target with getting the needed offerings together, had a workable rite, and found myself picking up three people from the State College area to carpool to an undisclosed rural location (i.e. Pennsylvania Furnace). Of the three, one was a UU regular; one was someone from my Pagan Meetup days who had developed an interest in ADF; one was a student athlete who had only experienced rites as a family thing.
So we drove out to Pennsylvania Furnace, and met a fifth. I was reminded of the one thing I’d forgotten: sunset comes early. The brief amount of pre-ritual socializing grew long because I felt ahead of the game — I’d picked up three people from scattered State College locations and rolled in well in advance of the start time — so we abruptly hurried out with less of a pre-ritual briefing than I would have preferred.
This year was an improved version of last year’s Gaulish Beltane, drawing on the work of Three Cranes Grove but with the general structure I’ve been using in State College. Sirona and Belenos were honored — this year I had some fine jewelry for Sirona, to ensure things went well. The rite flowed well — a few minor hinks with the cueing, but that’s not unexpected. To my surprise, everyone had a Praise Offering.
Then it was time to draw the runes for acceptance of the offering, and I pulled Nauthiz, Need. That’s a No in my book. I was flummoxed, as I thought I’d planned well, so I asked what was needed and pulled another rune. Kenaz, Torch. Something needed to burn.
One person put more wood on the fire, as I scrambled to see if there was anything left of the oil. There wasn’t, but I discovered something was missing. As part of the turn from Winter to Summer, I had a red candle shaped like an autumn oak leaf to give during the Prayer of Sacrifice. I had forgotten that it was specifically there for that purpose, and it had hidden itself underneath things. I pulled it out, placed it in the fire, and drew another rune for acceptance. Raidho, Wagon. I interpereted this as a positive, but an incremental, moving forward one.
I then drew runes for each of the three Kindreds. The Ancestors gave Ansuz (the God Odin), Ehwaz (Horse), and Laguz (Lake). I saw this, in context, as a journey to the underworld to communicate with the ancestors, or perhaps the need to be flexible in our communication and journey. The Nature Spirits gave us Jera (Year), Dagaz (Day), and Sowilo (Sun). I interpreted this as powerful growth over the next year. Then it was time to ask the Gods and Goddesses, and I pulled Othala (Ancestral Lands), Uruz (the wild Aurochs), and Thurisaz (Thorn). I said this was a blessing with the power of our birthright, but a warning to avoid using it hostilely. This runecast seemed to evoke positive feelings.
After the rite it was time for a potluck, which unintentionally came out as Mexican food. Much discussion was had but the student needed to prepare for finals, so I drove the three that came with me back to State College, with some discussion as we went.
As I drove home, I reflected upon the pleasant surprise of the rite. Beltane in a historical context has aspects of purification, and in a modern context fertility is highlighted, but perhaps both of these things are actually renewal.