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Thursday, November 25, 2010

'Join the Ritual..!' - my experiences of Beltane since 1999, and lending a helping hand...

About 64 hours before I arrived at the 2010 Mount Franklin Beltane, I was standing on Glastonbury Tor, looking over the land on a wet Autumn day, thinking about how I would be at our precious Mount in a few short days. It will be my 11th attendance at the Annual event. I recall the earlier days of my first few Beltane’s. My first one was in 1999, at the age of 22, a friend and I went up on the Saturday afternoon.

My friend had written to the Celtic Heritage Society and gained details of the event. It had rained that day, and when we arrived, I remember seeing the Mount for the first time – topped with a cloud. In the crater, the clouds touched the top of the pine trees, making a haunting canopy – it felt like the cloud protected us rather that rained on us – it had stopped raining that time anyway.

As we drove around the campsite, we began to get really excited, as we saw people dressed wonderfully. I recall seeing a grey-bearded man wearing real antlers and people robed ready for the rite. I even ran into friends of mine from my home town, so did not feel so lonely. It was thrilling for the first time – such a magical mysterious innocent time for me! In reality, it was my first public pagan gathering, a time I wish I could relive.

Over the years, I took up more and more friends and by 2002, there was a large group of us – the Geelong and Ballarat Pagans in the Pub group camped together. One year later in 2003, my friend Ryan and I began to paint banners a few weeks before the event, to decorate our campsite – and simply because we were creative and loved painting on calico. We also painted on a marquee we planned to bring up too. For some reason (that I am still unsure of) people - mostly previous friends - appeared to envy our banners and flags at Beltane – I don’t know why, I was trying to be creative and colourful, with no other intention, but maybe to encourage others to do the same. Most people loved it, others apparently didn’t. It was my first unusual taste of criticism at Beltane – a place where I thought that sort of thing would not come up! Three weeks before the 2003 Beltane, I got a call from a friend asking me if the Geelong Pagans would like to do the ritual this year. The organisers had asked her to ask us – I panicked but said yes and rallied our friends to help out. Ryan and I wrote the ritual and I volunteered to be High Priestess (much to my nervousness!) a role I thought I would not take so soon in my life.

Over those 3 weeks we made costumes and tools for the rite. All went well until I got sick probably from the stress and nervousness – sick or not, on the day I was as ready as I could be! I even have a photo of myself just before ritual that has a strange ghostly cloud over it!

The ritual went well – the previous year (2002) the ritual consisted of a group of maidens (me one of them) who danced the circle, and then a masked Horned God entered and chased the maidens – choosing one for his bride.

We loved it so much, we wrote an opposite version – we had a masked Jack-In-The-Green dance around the fire. Some playful maidens came into the ritual to tease our Jack and chase him, until the Goddess came in and banged on her tambourine, silencing and dismissing the maidens. She kissed the Jack and they circled the ritual, being bowed to by those in the circle, then they left for the woods. It ended up being a success, despite my stress and illness, and even a few things we forgot for the rite, but got just in time!

I was glad to get the chance to do it. Every year since then, I have been involved in the ritual in some form. In 2004, I chose the God and Goddess for the ritual, and led the Spiral Dance.

In 2005 I had made an ‘Obby Oss’ for the ritual, which was an amazing feature for that year (I’ll be writing a post about the Oss soon).

In 2006, being the 25th Beltane, the ritual had its largest number of participants – some 15+ ritualists involved, all masked and hauntingly mysterious. Those were some of my favourite years. It’s been so long!

The 2007 Beltane was very crowded – all sorts of people turned up for the ritual – hundreds more than we expected – because people had been using the internet to advertise it, and the mount is too small for such a large number. So in 2008 the event was invite only and what a wonderful event it turned out to be, the ritual ran by Ásatrú friends of mine!

In 2009, I missed my first Beltane since the 90’s when I worked at another event nearby for the weekend – due to unwanted politics that was new at the event; I decided to take a year off!

2010 – this event was very wet, but was back to its old mischievous self – When I arrived at Mount Franklin at 5pm on the Friday, I had not even been in the country for 24 hours yet – I had landed at Tullamarine near midnight the night before, having travelled back from a 2 week trip to the UK. On the Monday to Wednesday that week, I was in lovely Glastonbury, the pagan Mecca for travellers on a pilgrimage in the UK. On Wed and Thurs I flew home and Friday arrived at the Mount to sleep in my car and did not feel any jetlag! The 2010 event was wonderful, the Celtic Heritage Society campsite had a lot of supportive friends and the weekend was rather problem free for us – giving us ample confidence to plan the 2011 event that will be the 30th Beltane!

Already we have a large interest from old friends who are returning, and will make it a special event – and a special anniversary ritual! Don’t forget to write to the correct address for an invitation!

Tania Poole

The antlers made for the 2003 Beltane Jack-in-the-Green

Friends at the 2003 Beltane

The God and Goddess from 2004 Beltane - Craig and Elva

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