Anthropology Of Religion Beltuinn In The Wild Wood
We are the first to arrive at the site. We drive slowly down the dirt lane into the thick of the green and burst into the clearing like being born anew a wild thing. He sets up the tent an I take care of the inside just like the old nomadic Lapps (all we are missing is the herd of reindeer). I circle the site just across the boundary between wild wood and man-made clearing -the hedge, the in between. I look for evidence of the others who will join us this weekend for our rites of Spring. The fen is full to bursting with water this year. Ducks swim where we had our ritual to Pan last year and where the men always have their mysteries. It rains off and on. I sense a lush fertile year is about to unfold.
I see tiny hummingbirds drinking from white-flowered bushes. I see the fresh droppings of deer. I see fresh evidence of beavers cutting cedar wood for a new home in the marsh. I see the concise teeth marks, the speed, and the perfect wood chips on the ground and I know why I had to bring that full beaver pelt home from the gathering of shamans. Beaver is Woodcarver, a great spirit. It will teach me how to cut, how to carve, how to build and repair my home. I have no doubt the shape of their teeth led to one of the earliest tools of man -the adze. I hear them grooming, but I don't catch a glimpse of one through all the reeds and shrubs.
I see rare flowers everywhere - black twinberry, purple trilliums, yellow evergreen violets, vanilla leaf, star-flowered false solomon's seal, false lily of the valley, and more. I walk further into the wood and I hear the hooting of an owl and come across its regurgitated dinner from last night. The robins and crows are not shy. As usual, they follow me everywhere in their curiousity. The fecund one and the carrion-eater. Growth and death. Nature isn't subtle with its messages, you only need to open your eyes and see. I see spiders everywhere. They are small spiderlings, not yet grown. A teenage black jumping spider says hello near the dead husk of an old mother. Have I mentioned I love jumping spiders? I see a little honey bee hidden amongst tiny flowers and plants on the forest floor. She pauses in her search for pollen to let me take pictures of her.
I walk along one of the dirt paths and find a delightful surprise -- there is a fat little toad ("bufo boreas") trying to bury himself in the dirt in the middle of the path. It's a path the witches to come will trod often so I gently pick him up, which is easy because toads are not known for their agile jumping, and walk him closer to the fen where the ground cover matches his patterned skin perfectly. I was tempted to take him home, but toads and frogs are in a bit of trouble locally due to the encroachment of people over the wetlands. BC is one of the last havens of these little toads in N. America.
The sun sets behind field and fen leaving traces of purple and gold. My sweetie plays his guitar just for him and I. He plays songs new and old and I sing along to some. More witches come and more tents appear. They bring with them happiness to be here in these long-familiar woods and the anticipation of the Beltuinn rites.
The last traces of the sun disappear and the moon rises over the trees. The King does not come. The wind blows away the clouds and stars appear in the night sky. The drumming starts. The witches gather and follow the drummers along the dirt road to the site of a moonlit ritual in honour of the chthonic natures of Dionysus and Pan. Our priestess follows the ancient Greek gods and, for this weekend, so shall we.
The King does not come.
We circle in a small meadow soft with mosses and grass. We've left the warmth and safety of the belfire behind for the cold dark wild. The priestess invokes Dionysus and his priest steps forward into the ring of witches. He wears a bull's head, carries his drum, and shouts in a bullish roar the names and deeds of Big D. At the same time a cherry red coal of a joint sits between his lips and he cracks open a cider never missing a beat in his invocation. It reminds me of the old Vodou priests when they are ridden by the lwa. Another priestess, this one in a busty corset with long blond hair, invokes Pan. How could the lusty god ignore the enticing flesh and delicate ankles? His horse awaits him and Pan takes him to accept our offering of a woman to flog and tease. We all whisper and shout the Gods' names. It is chaos and beautiful harmony at the same time. We drum and we sing. A belly dancer wearing almost nothing circles the ring of witches in the moonlight dancing for the gods Io Evohe! Io Evohe! Io Evohe!
We drink, smoke, eat, and talk around the belfire into the night. The King does not come. The next day we sleep in to the sound of croaking frogs and rain falling on our tents. After lunch we prepare the site for the main Beltuinn ritual. Our priestess for the weekend and the lovely L. set up a gorgeous altar in the middle of the clearing for the gods of love and pleasure. When they are ready, we witches again gather. The opening rite is about to begin. The King does not come. The Queen is livid. She chooses a strong man to stand in for the missing King and fight his coming battle for him. She orders the ghosts of kings past to chase away the King if he dares come late and set foot in our wood. The rite begins. Couples jump the belfire. I get cheeky comments about the sexiness of my black wellies while jumping the fire.
The men and the women split off. The men set up a camp for their mysteries and we women march up the dirt road to the war camp the Queen has prepared. While the men roar to their beating drums and test the strength and wisdom of those who would be King, the women fire arrows, throw axes and knives, and when the men try to invade our camp, we chase them away with water balloons. The Queen is mad her king and husband didn't show. She asks us all if we had a bad year. The old ones depended on their King to bring them fertility, peace, and prosperity. It was a hard year. We all desire a better year to come. A queen is chosen. The women choose our priestess. The old Queen passes on the regalia of the flower crown, the robe, the amulets, the ankle bells, and the wand. We veil her. She is the Queen of Heaven made manifest here on earth. We unwrap the crown of ribbons that will sit atop the maypole and march toward's the men's camp with our newly chosen Queen leading us.
When we arrive, the men present their choice for King. He tries to take his new lady, but the one standing in for the old King stops him. They wrestle naked in the mud. The one newly chosen arises triumphant covered in earth and blood. The King and Queen kiss and are wed. We raise the maypole and dance it round. The white ribbons symbolize the men of the community and the coloured ribbons the women. The men circle the pole sunwise and the women moonwise. The first few woven rounds show just how stoned and drunk most of us are, but soon we find the flow and the weaving becomes even and tight - a community come together for one purpose. We weave ancient magic here and we know it.
The community renewed, we feast in celebration. An elaborate feast of baked beans and a stew cooked over the fire along with roasted meats, fruits, vegetables, sweets, breads, and more. We drink and we eat and we laugh and we drum and we dance. When the sun sets once more we all go to the body of the dead king laying in the field and give him what we wish to die. Unintentionally, the energy put into building his wickerman is the energy he put into us. It is a small wicker man we burn this year. His phallus is a roman candle we shoot off into the night sky to a beautiful display of fireworks. We throw the body on the fire and add more wood to build it up. Because it is small, we lay it in the coals instead of standing it upright as usual. The apple balls roast and fall off. An old king and I make sure every part of him burns. It is done. Until next year! Sl`ainte mh`or!
Article Source [wicca.com]