Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Well, we have just celebrated Samhain and the Celtic New Year! It’s a time when we carve faces and ghouls in hollowed out turnips and pumpkins, and acknowledge the deceased and the ancestors in our rituals. It is a festival of release and contemplation, necromancy, but also being alive.
The 8th Annual Burning Man Festival occurred on the weekend, an event run by the Geelong group Nuada Circle. It was held in the Otways National Park, and ran from Friday to Sunday.
People arrived on a sunny Friday to the site, chose their cabins, and relaxed, taking in the view and scent of the forest, the sight of the rosellas and parrots eating seed, and the sound of the forest birds. When all had arrived, and the sun had set, a feast was served and afterwards there was a Halloween dress up for the 16th Annual Samhain party, an event which has occurred for a long time by Melbourne pagans, and as it fell on this weekend, was held at this event instead.
On the Saturday after breakfast, people played games, went for walks in the forest, set up the ritual site, fed the native parrots and rosellas by hand and a market was also set up for those wanting to spend money. After lunch there was a ritual workshop and then a guest workshop held by Doug who spoke about how people could express their intent in ritual, embrace their fears or issues of the past, and contemplate their coming year.
The ritual itself was fantastic, the Man burned well, and high into the sky, and people danced barefoot round the fire, after their release and offering. A feast was set out for people to eat, and a larger bonfire was lit near the ritual circle, even a Bedouin marquee lounge was set up next to the circle for people to relax while eating.
In the morning, there was a steady rain, and sleepy but satisfied people emerged from their beds to eat Eggs Benedict and bacon for breakfast, and slowly pack up their things. The rain was very welcome after such a perfect sunny weekend, and we all said goodbyes to the forest and the Man for another year.
It was a fantastic weekend, very well organized and worth attending next year.
MEANWHILE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PLANET…
Edinburgh had its Beltane Fire Festival! I got to see this amazing event 5 years ago in 2006, and have not forgotten how amazing it was. It would be the type of amazing ritual that would be wonderful to see at Mt Franklin – excluding the crowds and the 300 ritualists, making it smaller.
The Beltane Fire Festival is held on Calton Hill every May Day eve - 30th April, no matter what day that is.
For many years, several hundred people are involved, gallons of flammable fuel, and many litres of red body paint.
The Festival is a giant performance spread out over the hill and the ritualists conduct their acts in different locations. In 2006, I witnessed the May Queen walk a giant sowulo rune across the hill, visiting each point of the rune with her retinue, where the Elementals entertained her with a dance or act. Giant dragon puppets danced about, puppet devils leered, people were dressed as trees, and fire twirlers in their dozens provided a light show like fireworks on the ground. I saw a large silver piranha type dragon carried around with its mouth on fire.
Then there are the red devils – several dozen people naked but for loin cloths and painted red all over taunt the May Queen and her retinue. They growl and holler, beat on drums, carry torches, and build human pyramids, 5 people high, and are very acrobatic.
The May Queen has a consort – a Green man who dies and is reborn. Each year a new girl is chosen for May Queen and her costume changes each year, but is always white with flowers and she always has a white face, and is followed by sinister guardians painted blue like Hindu Gods.
I could go into detail of the event, but it would be an epic, and in reality, it is best seen in person. These photos give you an idea of what you would see on such a Spring night on Calton Hill in Edinburgh.
Make the effort to go see it if you are in Scotland at this time of year!