(Walpurgis Night, the Celebration of Fires, Zhivin Day)
On this day, the Earth element awakens. Awakened by Water, it opens itself up, letting power into the outside world. By the time when Earth awakens, Air and Water have already set the rhythm of time flow for the rest of the year: the rate at which events will occur, and the speed of new changes. Now is the time to manifest what has been done. All that was planned and wished for must be visible, it must cease to be a mere fantasy. In order for this to happen, Mother Earth herself must provide space for this manifestation. And she does provide, showing everyone their place of opportunity, their natural habitat. On this night, on the night of the awakening of Mother, both men and mages performed their ritualistic actions.
People, within the mystery of a ritual, venerated the power and will of the Mother for according to an ancient legend it was believed that exactly on this night, the goddess chooses her groom. Lighting the fires of May, celebrating and having fun, like at a wedding, our ancient ancestors spoke – “your choice is sacred. We will accept with our heart the god that you choose”. It was believed that everything that happened during the days of Beltaine has mystical meaning and that it in one way or another expressed the will of the Mother. On this day, the competitions between men were scheduled; holmgang and veche were conducted. On this day, the future ruler would undergo challenges set by the priests.
The night of Beltane – is the right of a woman to schoose her fate. The night, when the ancient right of the Mother can cancel all other unnatural laws. The night, when any woman could unite with the Mother and absorb her power into herself, this way obtaining the right to free choice. There was nothing surprising in this for the ancient people. Any woman without any additional witchcraft was already considered to be the personification of the goddess Earth. But in a later stage, at a time of worshiping a faceless and nameless alien god, a woman had only one day in a year left for her. One day, when she could take power and demand her rights, she could call upon the ancient law of justice – the right of the Mother. And no one would dare contradict her on that day, no one could diminish her rights. This is why no other pagan holiday would make the popes and the church hounds tremble like before the Walpurgis night – the night of a thousand Fires of Beltane. This day (along with its antithesis Samhain on November 1st) was feared greatly by the churchgoers.
During the Middle Ages at the peak of the Christian inquisition, every woman became a witch when she opened herself up to the goddess Mother. She summoned her groom – the Mighty Horned God, the ruler of forests and fields. The Celts called him Cernunnos (Carnonos), Dyonesius-Zagreus, the Green man – he had many names, and each tribe had its own name for him. This name is a collective call for all fallen gods of nature (horns come from this, it is an element of connection with the animal world). Connecting with him, a witch performed a magical act rooted in the principle of transfer: on this night – she is a goddess and connects by right and law with her husband-god. It is clear that unity can bring nothing good to a foreign religion. This is why the popes hated Beltane greatly, calling this sacred mystery, in their powerless anger, “a fornication with a goat”.
The new religion, which feared all that had to do with the force of nature, with true magic, barraged this day with the scariest labels. In Germanic medieval mythology, the night from April 30th to May first was believed to be the time for the annual sabbath of witches ‘who would fly over to Mount Brocken on their broomsticks and team up with the rest of the evil forces around Satan. There, they would of course engage in harmful affairs and disgusting to god – they practiced witchcraft. Anything that the mind of the popes of that time, mutilated with insecurities, starvation, prolonged celibacy, and restricted by fears could think up – I will not go into further detail here. If you wish to familiarize yourself with the illness history of someone who spends day and night cursing his nature (i.e. cursing himself) and denies its right to exist, then you may enjoy the works of the church workers of that time as well as the chronicles of the witchcraft processes written by the “holy inquisition” – everything is already written there. We are speaking of power, and not of how to senselessly lose it.
Beltane is the night when women run the show. Many of them were among the druids and volkhvs of the ancient tradition. But only on this night, a woman with her entire selfhood could accept into herself the power of the goddess and albeit for a short moment actually become her. In the process of this unification, the entire memory of Mother became available to her, the power of all of her children – human and god, plants and animals, living and yet unborn, the departed, and those preparing to return. Not just the mages, but also humans received power on this incredible day of awakening of Earth. Only one day in a year is left now for man in order to remember that he has the right to power, in front of which all of the gold of the church domes and rich popes’ garments fade; the air is purified from the stinking incense and the said words of lies. Because this power is true, while the other one is not.
The temple of the Mother is all around. There is no need to contain it within four walls, protect it with spells, and prey the channel. Because her home is forests, fields, sky, and rivers. All that is around, that is born, that which is called nature, whose life, fortunately, doesn’t depend on either man-made laws or made-up commandments. The temple of the Mother doesn’t need to be hidden, it doesn’t need to be specially decorated – it is beautiful from the beginning. It must not be contained by walls – there are no such walls that could contain a willful will. The night of Beltane is an opportunity to see how entirely laughable the scramble of the strangers is for the right to use the power of the Mother, to see the futility of her illusions – she will never accept them. The circumcised invaders do not belong to the forests of Mielikki.
However, mages and priests, druids, and volkhvs not only orchestrated the ritualistic process but also directed it into the future along the river of time. The ritual itself aimed to help all women of the kin and tribe to become as one whole, to become the Tri-faced Goddess who will determine a place for everyone and everything. Both the young and mature, and old – all could sense the correctness of what was happening in that moment; men, responding to the great might of the women did not want or could be anyone else than the one whom she’d choose – the Great God of Might and Power. The druids and volkhvs built a ritual and directed its movement, redistributing the awakened current of power onto all the participants of the ritual, onto all that is alive. But their aim was the future – in the might of unity between the Sky and Earth, a child must be born. It was for this child, that the fires of May were lit, they attracted the fire of the upcoming world which will be due to arrive in seven weeks.
Consequently, this incredible ritual was replaced with the choosing of the May Queen and King – as a type of compromise with the popes. From the whole tribe, we only give out one woman and one man. It is clear that this is not enough in order to make the power of Earth yourself and not lose the right to generational memory. Therefore, maidens and women would run off into the forest on the eve of the May Night to search for their Horned God, to listen to the forest, the whispers of the wild grasses and the prophetic cuckoo bird, and to catch the hot breath of the Earth.
Can you hear – the whispers in the crowns of the oakwood
Can you hear – the music of the forest spirits
Can you hear – the calling singing of the grasses
Can you hear – the wondrous dreams are coming alive.
A poem by Y. Stibnev, the song “Beltane”
On May 1st, the Slavs celebrated Zhiva’s Day – the day of Goddess Zhiva, the daughter of Lelya and Svarog. She is the mature, motherly face of the Tri-faced Slavic goddess: Lelya, Zhiva, and Mara-Marena, three sisters, three faces, three forces, woven into one. The bird image of Zhiva is the cuckoo bird. This is what is said regarding the beliefs of the Slavs in a Polish chronicle:
“A pagan temple was set up on a mountain for the Zhiva deity named after her – Zhivets, where on the first days of May many people congregated around whom they believed to be the source of life and long-listing and fortunate well-being. Especially among those who gave offerings to her were people who heard the first song of a cuckoo bird that prophesied to them the number of years to live equal to the number of times its voice repeated.”
A dream, embedded into the egg on Ostara, the dream given as an offering to the goddess as a seed must be planted inside the Earth and it must bear fruit when the time comes. However, in a wondrous way, a previously offered gift to the doggess is returned to the giver as a new, altered fate. A fate that does not imply expecting a manna from heaven and other well- and not-so-well-deserved gifts.
Every woman by becoming one with the Mother on this night, one with the Tri-faced Goddess realized this gift as one that she gave to her own self, and this power, returned by the Mother, from that point on allowed that woman to create her own fate, to weave her own wyrd. The mere realization of this fact may give the most ordinary woman an opportunity to become a witch on this night.
But the awakened force of the Mother on the night of Beltane is not only meant for women. Everyone can feel her call, all in whom there is the original force of the first children of nature. As such, every man can feel the power of the Horned God – old and young. That which awakens inside the people who have come forth leaving no place for old seals of belonging, is able to rip the slave leash off of whom, on the day and hour of the Mother, is able to sense her call and accept his will and his freedom. Accept it from her – by right.
Excerpt from the book “Health through the Power of the Elements” by Ksenia Menshikova.
Other pagan holidays of the Weel of the Year: