Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Beltane Faerie Story


In a land far from this land in a time far from this time there was a great gathering of all the people of the land to celebrate the Festival of Beltane.
The clans and families and tribes all met together.  In their midst were many great Bards, honeyed of voice and true of song; many powerful Ovates, skilled of hand and sure of vision; and many learnd Druids, wise of thought and just of deed. It was they who led the revels and rites and rituals that would celebrate the Festival of Beltane, light the Fortunate Fires and open the Gateway of Summer.

uncredited on www.andybaggott.com

Each year the men and the women of the tribes gathered with each other to call forth the Spirits of the Land and the Season.  Games were played, contests fought and mysteries sought to determine who would be crowned the Queen of the May and the Lord of the Hunt.

Each year they separated. Menfolk with men and womenfolk with women, they set about their sacred tasks.  There was great merriment and passion and lust when the menfolk and the womenfolk were reunited to crown the fertile Queen of the May with a garland of white hawthorn blossoms and the potent hornd Lord of the Hunt with a pair of stag antlers. When the champion of the menfolk was crowned, he embodied the Spirit of the Lord of the Hunt, just as the champion of the womenfolk embodied the Spirit of the Queen of the May.

Each year there was a group of folk who were apart from the rest. They had a desire for different games, a heart for different contests and a spirit turned towards different mysteries. The contests of the others did not bring them the same joys or the same thrills, so they could only take part for the sake of belonging, knowing they did not, or stand disconsolate to one side and wish for the same merriment and passion and lust the others felt.

Then one year everything changed.  The stars and planets were arrayed in new alignments; the ancestors dreamt new dreams in their barrows; and the Old Gods of the hollow hills sang new songs to the Land and the Season. The stars and the dreams and the songs lit a new spark in the souls of the druids and ovates and bards of those folk who had not the same passions as the others.

We must seek out our Spirit of Beltane, they said. A fellowship of those folk, with wise ones, seers and singers amongst them,  gathered upon a mist shrouded dawn and set off, following an old straight trackway across the land.

The journey was long and hard and the seekers travelled all day and rested by night, the bards singing songs of their ancestors around the hearthfire.  So they continued their quest and by noon on the third day they had travelled far and reached a place they knew to be the oldest of woods, within which lay an ancient grove of trees sacred to the Goddess of the Land. At the heart of that grove stood a hawthorn, with bright green leaves and countless pale white blossoms. The seekers approached the hawthorn.
Are you the Spirit of Beltane we seek? They asked.
The hawthorn answered Not I, not I. They knew they must travel on.

The journey was long and hard and the seekers travelled all day and rested by night, the seers interpreting signs and portents around the hearthfire.  So they continued their quest and by dusk on the third day they had travelled far and reached a place they knew to be the oldest of valleys, within which lay an ancient glen sacred to the Horned God. At the heart of that glen stood a stag, with great wide antlers and countless mossy tines. The seekers approached the stag.
Are you the Spirit of Beltane we seek? They asked.
The stag answered Not I, not I. They knew they must travel on.

The journey was long and hard and the seekers travelled all day and rested by night, the wise ones telling the tales of the old gods around the hearthfire.   So they continued their quest and by nightfall on the third day they had travelled far, the old straight trackway had thinned and vanished but they journeyed on into the night, turning their hearts towards the bright full moon and striking out along a shining new starlit path.
By midnight they had reached a place they knew to be unexplored by the clans and families and tribes. They saw it was a rolling land of meadows, within which they found a labyrinth, sacred to the Moon, spiralling through the grass. At the heart of the labyrinth stood a hare, with bright eyes and a pair of lustrous ears.
Are you the Spirit of Beltane we seek? They asked.
The hare answered, I am, I am.  They knew that they had found what they had quested for.

Moonlight Hares by Vikki Yeates http://vikkki.deviantart.com

In the heart of the Labyrinth of the Hare of Beltane, the fellowship made revelry that gladdened their hearts. The games were played, the contests fought and the mysteries sought to determine who would be crowned champion and embody the Spirit of Beltane.  They felt great joy when the champion was found and crowned with a pair of proud furrd ears.

Am I to have a consort? asked the newly crowned Spirit of Beltane. Only if you wish it to be so, answered the Hare.
I wish it to be so,said the Spirit of Beltane. So, the Hare brought forth three fellow seekers.
The Spirit of Beltane approached the first.
You cannot be my Consort,said the Spirit of Beltane to the First. There are no games we can play together.
The Spirit of Beltane approached the second.
I cannot be your Consort,said the Second to the Spirit of Beltane. There are no contests for us to fight together.
The Spirit of Beltane approached the third and final potential Consort.
You can be my Consort,said the Spirit of Beltane to the Third. But only if you wish it to be so.
I shall be your Consort,said the Third. There are mysteries we can seek out together.

And so the Spirit of Beltane, the Consort and the rest of the weary but elated fellowship travelled back to the gathering, arriving back at the time between the setting of the moon and the rising of the sun.
There were great shouts of joy from the clans and families and tribes when the fellowship returned to the great gathering.  The seekers were reunited with those they had left behind and to them told their tales of the quest to bring forth their own Spirit of Beltane.  Although they had journeyed for three times three days and nights, they had returned in time for the Festival of Beltane.
Together, the Queen of the May, the Lord of the Hunt and the Spirit of Beltane led the Festival, blessed the Fortunate Fires and opened the Gateway of Summer. 

And so the Wheel of the Year turned, the stars danced merrily in the skies, the ancestors dreamed sweetly in their barrows and the Old Gods sang joyfully in the hollow hills.

This story was published in Touchstone, the Journal of The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids Issue 208 and a recording of me storytelling features on Druidcast Episode 84.

2 comments:

Paul Newman said...

Well done chap - it really isn't that hard to design more inclusive ritual is it?

Linda Haggerstone said...

Beautiful. Thank you.