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Sunday, May 1, 2011
Today marks the Celtic festival of Beltane, the brilliant fire(sun), the beginning of summer. Beltane is a quarter day, half way between the vernal equinox and summer solstice.
Long ago Brits believed the night of April 30 was the darkest of the year, a night witches and evil spirits roamed the earth and sky spreading evil and destroying tender crops. To ward off danger kettles were banged, church bells rang, bonfires were kept lit on hilltops until sunrise.
It later became the custom to dance around the bonfires, in a clock(sun)wise direction, in what eventually evolved into a fertility rite. Over time the fires were replaced with poles creating the Maypole. The phallic pole adding visual meaning to fertility rites.
A sacred rite at my first wife's high school graduation ceremony was the Maypole dance. Even then it struck me as odd that a private catholic all-girl's school would perform a pagan fertility ritual as part of commencement.
Whether you honor the day as a pagan ritual, workers day, military parade and speech day or just a great day to be alive, welcome May. In the northern hemisphere Summer will soon arrive.