Presenting the eight Festivals within an archetypal framework and connecting that framework to personal development and inner transformation.
Beltane and the Dance of Opposites
When I moved to Kitchener many years ago and was looking for the house in which to put down my roots, there was one house which I knew was unquestionably mine. For one, the backdoor had a window etched with Celtic knotwork. Gorgeous! For another, it was a mere block from a permanently installed Maypole. Wondrous! Though the Maypole serves to present banners for the various local German clubs that rock into activity during Oktoberfest, it can’t help but bring to mind the tradition that marked the beginning of Summer in ages past. I loved the idea of living within daily sight of a Maypole and it never fails to fill my heart with joy, even these many years after I first saw it.
From a symbolic perspective, the dance of the Maypole signifies the masculine element (the pole) securely implanted in the feminine element (the earth). This is a straightforward and self-evident comment, well-familiar to Pagans. The ribbons that cascade from the pole become intertwined during the dance, weaving the masculine and feminine elements together in celebration and joy. It speaks to another blatantly evident fact – that, in order for life to spring forth, you need both the masculine and the feminine. Life is not created out of just one or the other, but through the dance that celebrates the unique perspectives of both. It is the dance that unites the two together that ignites the spark of life.
From an agricultural standpoint, this interrelationship of masculine and feminine is absolutely key. If you want to ensure a successful harvest at the end of the Summer, you must guarantee that the earth is prepared to receive the seed and that the seed is prepared to flourish in the earth. A barren earth results in disaster, as does an unplanted seed. One without the other results in the growth of absolutely nothing.
From a psychological standpoint, the message of interrelationship holds true as well. Beltane represents the synthesis of opposites. How does one take two completely different energies and find the way to acknowledge the special perspectives of both? With the inner masculine, we experience ourselves as active, visionary, logical and directive. With the inner feminine, we experience ourselves as passive, intuitive, emotional and receptive. It is only through weaving these two elements together that we are able to create a single entity – the Self. If we make decisions based purely on logic, soon our lives may feel empty and barren. If we make decisions based on pure emotion, we may experience chaos and lack of direction. Inner wholeness depends on being able to listen to both the voices of our reason and our emotion, finding our own truth in the way we link the two together. We discover our own dance.
It is through this process that we create not only inner wholeness, but the ability to manifest our dreams and visions. For what is harvest, but manifestation. The masculine element (the seed) is the concept that we wish to bring into being. The feminine element (the earth) is the foundation upon which we build. We need both the vision and the actualization in order to bring things into fruition. A beautiful dream without the heartfelt desire to put the energy and work behind it wastes away. And many of us know that we may want something with all our hearts, but if we don’t have an idea of how to begin to make it happen, that desire will go unfulfilled.
In activating change in our lives and bringing new ways of being into existence, the Maypole dance serves as a profound symbol. What, for you, is the visionary pole? What is the concept, idea or new aspect of being that you wish to bring to your life? And what, for you, is the receptive ground? How open and willing are you to allow this new growth to occur? How strong is the desire to manifest and what contrary thoughts may need to be addressed first? Bringing in a successful harvest requires hard work and dedication, as any farmer knows. It is not enough to dream about abundance. One must tend the earth.
Herein lies the particular beauty of the Maypole. This is not about brow-furrowing drudgery. This work is a celebration. It is a dance. I still remember with great fondness my first experience dancing the Maypole many, many moons ago with the Womynspirit Festival Collective in Toronto. Taking my first tentative steps along a Pagan path, I arrived at the welcoming host’s home armed with my newly purchased copy of The Spiral Dance. In the backyard was a stately tree adorned with all different coloured ribbons. Each woman who participated was invited to pick a ribbon the colour of which matched the intention of what she wanted to bring into her life. Perhaps green for health, pink for forgiveness, blue for clarity or purple for inspiration.
As I danced, I felt the expansion of vision from above the tree branches and the stability of the earth from beneath my feet. The energy of both flowed through my ribbon into me and from me back into the ribbon as it weaved in and amongst all the other women’s ribbons. It was a modest and powerful experience. Most beautiful of all were the smiles and laughter of all the other women who danced. We differed in intentions but were joined in intent: to celebrate that spark of life that comes with the integration of opposites; to celebrate the anticipation of the manifestation that was sure to follow, and to celebrate the joy of our own movement within the dance.
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