Bealtaine and Fionn

So, a while ago I posted an entry describing my personal sacred calendar.  In it, I mentioned that I wanted to find the right day to honor Fionn, but nothing had come to me yet.

Flash-forward to a few days ago, when I found myself ruminating on the approach of Bealtaine, and the fact that it never really resonated with me even when I was keeping the standard Pagan Wheel of the Year.  I mean, I honor both the sacred sex aspects of it, I like the Maypole dancing and the singing, and I realize the deep power and mystery that lies there… but it just isn’t personally significant to me the way it is to others.

But then it hit me:  Bealtaine is the beginning of the “summer half” of the old Irish year, when the fianna would  leave their winter quarters to go back to living on the land, hunting and fishing (and making trouble, on occasion)- and Fionn is the king of the fianna.  And what was Fionn’s first creation after he had gained the salmon-wisdom?  Why, a poem praising Maytime!

May-day, season surpassing! Splendid is color then.
Blackbirds sing a full lay, if there be a slender shaft of day.
The dust-colored cuckoo calls aloud: Welcome, splendid summer!
The bitterness of bad weather is past, the boughs of the wood are a thicket.
Summer cuts the river down, the swift herd of horses seeks the pool,
The long hair of the heather is outspread, the soft white bog-down grows.
Panic startles the heart of the deer, the smooth sea runs apace-
Season when ocean sinks asleep- blossom covers the world.
Bees with puny strength carry a goodly burden, the harvest of blossoms;
Up the mountain-side kine take with them mud, the ant makes a rich meal.
The harp of the forest sounds music, the sail gathers-perfect peace.
Color has settled on every height, haze on the lake of full waters.
The corncrake, a strenuous bard, discourses;
The lofty virgin waterfall sings a welcome to the warm pool;
The talk of the rushes is come.
Light swallows dart aloft, loud melody reaches round the hill,
The soft rich mast buds, the stuttering quagmire rehearses.
The peat-bog is as the raven’s coat, the loud cuckoo bids welcome,
The speckled fish leaps, strong is the bound of the swift warrior.
Man flourishes, the maiden buds in her fair strong pride;
Perfect each forest from top to ground, perfect each great stately plain.
Delightful is the season’s splendor, rough winter has gone,
White is every fruitful wood, a joyous peace in summer.
A flock of birds settles in the midst of meadows;
The green field rustles, wherein is a brawling white stream.
A wild longing is on you to race horses, the ranked host is ranged around:
A bright shaft has been shot into the land, so that the water-flag is gold beneath it.
A timorous tiny persistent little fellow sings at the top of his voice, the lark sings clear tidings:
Surpassing May-day of delicate colors!

(source)

So tomorrow I’ll light His candle, pour Him a drink, and read the above poem and one of His tales.  And I’ll build on that from there.

Happy Bealtaine!  Hail Fionn MacCumhaill!

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My own sacred calendar

One of the many places where I differ from mainstream (Wicca-descended) Pagan practice is that I don’t celebrate the Wheel of the Year.  The reasons are many… but what it comes down to in the end is that most of the holidays don’t resonate with me- or the Powers that I follow.  Perhaps this should be filed in the “Paganism- I’m doing it wrong” part of my life, but really, this is the truth.  I can go on here about the historical validity (or lack thereof) of the construct, but that hardly matters to me these days.  It was different in my “baby Pagan” days, when most of the people I ran with still believed in the literal truth of the founding myths of Wicca.  Even then, though the Wheel was treated as a given part of my practice, some of the fests never resonated with me.  The difference is that I no longer feel guilty about it.

Some of the feasts still work for me, of course.  Imbolc is sacred to my Patroness.  Summer Solstice is the time for the Free Spirit Gathering, the festival I helped found, and more recently has become sacred for me to a certain Irish sea-god.  Samhain and the Day of the Dead is for those who have recently died, as well as my Ancestors.  And Yule is the centerpoint of the winter holiday season, the sacred time of renewal.

My current ruminations on this were sparked by John Beckett’s article on building your own liturgical calendar.  So I started thinking about what mine is currently, and what could be done to improve it.  I found his post inspirational but I disagreed with it parts of it- he suggests starting with the Wheel, and as I mentioned above that’s a non-starter.  But I like the idea of having a day for each of the Powers I have close links to.  I’ve gotten a start, but I need to add Fionn and Sulis at least.  Someone (it might have been PSVL) once suggested St. Patrick’s Day, but I think that might be a bit quixotic…  there’s also Simbi Andezo, but apparently the traditional day for the Simbis is Three Kings (Jan. 6th), and that works well for my current calendar- that’s the day that the winter sacred time ends for me.  I’ll have to remember that.

He also suggests “a day for yourself”, but I’ve got that covered.  My spouse and I celebrate each other’s “birth months”, because the fragmented nature of our lives and of those around us means that commemoration of our birthdays often takes place in a spread-out fashion.

I also incorporate some “secular” American holidays here.  July 4th I dedicate to the Mighty Dead of America.  The party I go to every year incorporates a ceremonial reading of the Declaration of Independence, something that is very powerful for me.  Thanksgiving is for home and hearth and connection to my living family, and also for gratitude.  And my spouse and I still celebrate Christmas- not for the birth of Yeshua, but as a celebration of giving and generosity.

So… very much still a work in progress, but it’s working for me so far…

Happy New Year!

Hail to the home-fires at the turn of the year,
To meetings and greetings, friends and good cheer;
To joy in the darkness and love in the light,
To family at table and peace in the night.
Our dogs are asleep and the cats, too (below),
And outside the grey wind fingers traces of snow.
As the slow-growing Sun gives up the short day,
And the last hours of this month tick swiftly away-
Though this last year was troubled, it’s true,
I wish you good fortune and health in the new!

Love and bright blessings to you and yours!

Simple Devotions

As a follow-up to my prior post, I had some thoughts about simple solo devotions.  Most of my practice is solitary, so I’ve come up with a few over the years.

Example 1:  Fionn MacCumhaill is (amongst other things) patron Power for divination.  So when I’m working with Tarot or shagai bones (my two major divination modalities), I call on Him as part of it.  Specifically, I put my thumb in my mouth and bite down hard enough to cause pain, in honor of the way Fionn gained knowledge from the Salmon of Wisdom.

Example 2:  Last night I celebrated Imbolc (yes, I do it on Groundhog Day- there are reasons).  First, I cleaned all of Brigid‘s shrines (surprise!  I have several!).  Then I cleaned myself up and put on some jewelry dedicated to Her.  Then I lit candles and made whiskey offerings at all of Her shrines, reciting several prayers and singing some songs.  I ended up the evening reciting a story which is sacred to Her in front of Her image.

I also started a batch of short mead dedicated to Her, but that wasn’t a simple process. 😉

Esta Noche

Something inspired by our recent trip to Oaxaca for Dia de los Muertos:

Esta Noche (Atzompa Cemetery, Hallowe’en)

The carnival chaos beyond the gates
Fades to candle-flicker, marigold glow,
Copal and mezcal wafting in the air.
A quieter bustle reigns here, under
The pulsing music. Solemn watchers
Everywhere you look- reserved but
Not resentful of us interlopers. Children
Drowse graveside, couples cuddle, and
All around the dead flit, catching at
The corners of our eyes, like the fleeting
Glance of a painted face, skull brought
Briefly above the skin.  We find graves
Lonely, less tended, light candles and
Place them in reassurance: no one,
No soul is left alone tonight.

 

Welcome, Yule!

Every winter solstice, my spouse and I do a simple household ritual involving (amongst other things) beating the bounds of our property (i.e. a tiny suburban lot)… much to the bewilderment of our dogs and likely to our neighbors.

The core of the ritual is right towards the start, when we turn off every light in the house and observe a moment of silence, breathing in the peace and stillness, feeling the turn of the year.  Then we light a candle and recite this poem by Susan Cooper (a perennial part of the Washington Christmas Revels and all other Revels celebrations):

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreens;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new years sunshine blazed awake,
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing, behind us – listen!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day.
As promise wakens in the sleeping land,
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends, and hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now – this year and every year.
Welcome, Yule!

Wishing a safe, peaceful and joyous Yule to you and yours…