You asked me about my druidry, and when I mentioned ceremony and ritual, it wasn’t quite what you were expecting. Let me tell you about what I did for Beltane. Many modern pagan groups celebrate the first of May as the beginning of Summer. This is based on older customs but we build it into a very modern sequence of eight festivals we call the wheel of the year, and we often call the day Beltane.
I’m a member of a Druid order called The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I’ve also recently moved to Belfast. I had previously met three other members of the Order here but never for an OBOD specific event. As part of my own practice and as a form of service, I want to organise OBOD specific ceremonies here. I picked the afternoon of Sunday 1st May as the date and a big park in the city as the venue. About a month in advance, I wrote to the other OBOD people I know here, as well as other friends I thought might enjoy it. The first weekend in May is a long weekend here, and for various reasons, in the end the only person who could come was a woman I’d met just once before. She had very little experience of modern paganism or druidry.
Walking to the park, with my bag of ritual tools (drinking horn, candle, bowls, incense, water, juice, chocolate), I noticed myself feeling irritated that plans change for people, and that what I had imagined, wasn’t going to be the reality. I remembered a one card tarot reading I did for myself a week earlier. I had asked what wisdom did I need to remember with my move to Belfast. The answer I got was The Tower. The message I took from that was to go with the unexpected. We can’t plan for everything. Life is full of surprises and what seems like disaster might actually be something wonderful.
She and I had a great time. We walked, found a nice spot under the canopy of two trees, and started. I explained the significance of the time of year, and the basic structure of the ceremony. I laid the ritual items in their places on the ground. I explained the sequence of the prayers and invocations as I went and I did it slowly and gently.
For the central part of the rite, I invited us to focus on each of our senses and then we focused on each of the elements of the world around us. We marvelled at its beauty. The birds were singing. The rain was gentle. There was colour every where.
I talked about how many Beltane rites featured passing through twin fires as a ritual purification for the summer ahead. I spoke then about how I had realised we are always between two fires: the fire of the sun above, and the fire within the earth beneath us. We felt the blessing of those fires in our beings. Finally, we named an ambition or a promise to ourselves for the summer, between now and Samhain. My commitment to myself is that I will listen to my body more and I commit to having as much fun as possible over the next six months. If I’m not enjoying myself, I’ll change something. That fun might look like sleeping, or time with friends, dancing, or alone with a good book.
We shared the chocolate and apple juice and after the ceremony, we sat in silence for ten minutes, listening to birds, and especially the robin who darted from branch to ground to branch throughout our time there.
We then walked back into Belfast together, and found a cafe and drank tea.
And so, with a beautiful ceremony very different to the one I had imagined, my time in Belfast and my Summer 2016 began.