Crone in Corrogue: Wild Wisdom of the Elder Years

Glorying in the elder years, a time of spirituality, service and some serious sacred activism

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A Glastonbury Beltane

Belated Beltane greetings! Or Bealtaine as we call it in Ireland. But this year I greeted the May at dawn in Glastonbury. And not being a morning lark by nature, I indulged in the Irish custom of bathing my face in the May morning dew for the first, and most probably the last time, in this lifetime! It dawned an icy 1.5degree C at our rented cottage in Wells. But the rituals must have worked because the sun came out and I roasted and toasted the winter chill out of bones at the Beltane fire in Chalice Well Gardens later that morning.


And what a wonder is Chalice Well Garden! It is home to the Red Spring, while the spring from the White Well is just over the garden wall in an adjacent street. I will share many of the photos in posts over the coming weeks. And yes, it is special. And yes, it feels magical. I brought back a mixture of water from the red and white wells for a friend who looked into the bottle and saw both fairies and angels dancing in the water.


My companions roused me for our early start, with the pink full moon still visible over Glastonbury Tor in the distance. The ritual itself was held in the field above Chalice Well at 7am; it was an inclusive rite, with an original song for us to chorus (Today I Am Feeling Beautiful), before being invited to leap the Beltane Fire. And so the able bodies amongst us leaped the fire, some singly, some as couples, some as friend supporting friend.


And following that rite we slowly progressed down past the red spring, to tie our clouties on the tree beside it,  to pause at the image of the Divine Mother, to assemble for refreshment and to await the Maypole Dancing.



There are two Maypoles in Glastonbury. The Maypole in Chalice Gardens is garlanded by alternate red and white ribbons, appropriate for the red and white springs. The Maypole that the Green Men carry in ceremonial procession up to Bushey Coombe has green and white ribbons.





While my companions climbed Glastonbury Tor I sunned myself in Chalice Gardens by their Beltane Fire, thawing out the winter in my bones while listening to all the music being made - songs spontaneously sung, the drumming, toning, the didgeridoo, the ukelelee and guitar, the flute. And, in one of those weird experiences that only Irish residents can understand, I met someone who knows my neighbour. Given that I live in a remote place in West Cavan, with about fifty people, what are the odds of meeting a McGovern?! (I tend to say that they are all spawned in Shannon Pot.) We found this out when we struck up a random conversation. In Ireland, or even outside of it, there seem to be less than three degrees of separation from anyone!

But the truly magical experience, the wow of the woo-woo of the entire day, was experienced at the White Well. It is adjacent to Chalice Gardens, privately owned, but now open for a few hours each day to the public. It was open all day on Beltane for private ritual. It is in the building that was quite possibly, the ground floor of a municipal building to do with the reservoir.  We walked in from blinding sunshine into that cavernous space. Dazzled, it took several moments to adjust to the darkness, which was candlelit. There is a large pool inside and a young man was dancing naked to the music made by hang pan drums. It was astonishing. And very primal.  And no, no pictures. That was sacred space and a private ritual. It would have been an invasion, even if there had not been polite requests not to take photographs.

And that was just one day...we had already visited Stonehenge, but Avebury was still to come. As my friend John Wilmott says, Stonehenge is the church, but Avebury is the cathedral.



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Bee Smith has enjoyed a long relationship with SageWoman as a contributor, columnist and blogger. She lives in the Republic of Ireland, teaches creative writing and is a member of the Irish Art Council's Writers in Prisons panel. She is the author of "Brigid's Way: Celtic Reflections on the Divine Feminine."    


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