The first carols were not songs, nor were they specific to Yule.
For pagan religion is preeminently danced religion.
“Carol”* originally meant a round dance (one of the first recorded uses of the word in English—from 1330—referred to a “carol of the stones,” i. e. a stone circle**), and specifically a ring-dance performed to sung rather than instrumental accompaniment. (They say that when it wasn't safe to have musical instruments at the sabbat, we danced there to songs and mouth-music instead. At the sabbat, you can't not dance.)
Image: Carnegie Museum of Art: Terpsichore by Antonio Canova (1821)
This is the Fifth posting of the (en)LIV(en)ING with the Muses Series
Terpsichore has been with me longer than I can remember. I was born to dance and the pure joy and thrill of moving through space, weaving energetic patterns and being so completely absorbed by the music are all of her gifts as you open to her magickal inspiration.
With all of the wacky weather we have been experiencing the globe over, one could get the impression that Mother Nature is royally ticked-off with us. Can you blame her? She's been so often abused, neglected, and taken for granted it is a wonder that we still have a planet fit to live on. What we can do is let her know that we care. Think of it like honoring your own mother on Mother's Day. I am a big fan of building strong energy and channeling it through ecstatic dance and music. I used to attend a great dance in Evanston back in the day, and there's no reason why you couldn't hold your own. For Earth Day this year, try organizing a Trance Dance. As in Transcendental. No, we're not talking about Rave 'Til Dawn. Your mission: find a great space, and create mood lighting. Low lights, candles on the outskirts (safely out of the way), pretty electric glowy lights and lava lamps, would all do the trick. Do you or someone you know have access to a large basement, church space, or school gym? The most important factor is that the space is wide open and that no one has to worry about colliding with objects or each other in it. Elect someone to play DJ for the eve. Make sure in advance that you have a decent sound system. Get a good-sized, unselfconscious group to come on out and let the party begin.
The main idea that everyone should be let in on from the beginning is that you are holding a dance with intent. To send out nurturing energy to help heal our Mother Earth. Send her your love with the energy that you create through your dancing.
Dancing is a means of connecting with oneself and the goddess. Belly dancing, Chakra dance and temple style dance easily lend themselves to connection with ones higher self, all offer the chance to allow us to move freely, to flow in rhythm with the music, as we experience a falling away of self doubt and image conciseness. These forms allow women of all sizes and ages to come together without fearing judgement on their looks or weight or even any physical impairment that might hinder them from executing the gravity defying leaps and spins we so often see on TV program where the young and beautiful compete with each other to win money and fame.
Several weeks ago, I was honored to help a team of folks create funerary rites for a recently-deceased member of our community. The primary facilitator lives several states away and we spoke over the phone a few days before he was scheduled to arrive for the memorial.
He and I are in different traditions and it was helpful to hear how they do things and to figure out the best way for me to contribute, to help. He told me early in the conversation that the intention for the ritual was to dance the deceased through the Veil--something that might be tricky so far from Samhain. It was to be a joyous celebration with song and poetry and drumming. I offered to help with the drumming (I play a big frame drum) and we chatted a bit longer about the general shape of the rite.
Whether you refer to it as May Day or Beltane, it is often held as one of the most passionately beloved of all Pagan and Wiccan days. Here are some of the ways that I have enjoyed celebrating
May 1: Early in the day, clean up your altar. Give it a good dust and polish and make it extra pretty. Then go out and pick some fresh wild or garden flowers or purchase some. Present them to your favorite lust Gods and Goddesses in a water-filled vase on the altar and tie some red and white ribbons at the base.