Around Beltane each year, I begin to conceive ideas for new books. The lengthening days, the sight and scent of flowers blooming and the shedding of heavy coats, scarfs and hats, brings me new creative energy. As if I have taken a very deep breath of pure fresh air. Combined with my yoga practice, I find ideas taking root, and gathering momentum as if a sapling pushing its roots into the earth and spreading its branches. Which direction will my idea will grow in?
Our second yoga and writing retreat on 28th April is in celebration of the great fire festival of Beltane. And, where better to host it than Edinburgh, home to the Beltane Fire Festival on 30th April? A magical night of fire, drumming, immersive storytelling and acrobatics unparalleled anywhere else in the world.
Beltane is about the fullness of life. When Spring turns to Summer, and our fertile minds brim with possibilities. The word Beltane comes from the Celtic God Bel, meaning Bright One, and the Gaelic word teine meaning fire. The original Pagan festival was when herds were turned out to pasture and the cattle driven through Beltane fires to keep them free from sickness.
Beltane also marked the union of the May Queen and the Green Man falling in love and the consummation of their love – the Greenwood Marriage. The symbol of the May Queen was flowers and greenery, and for the Green Man, an Oak Tree, or the Maypole.
The Mighty Oak symbol of The Green Man
When I was a little girl, every year I joined in the Maypole dancing. We were taught traditional maypole dances, some of which I still remember, and danced around the maypole. In our hands we held a coloured ribbon each attached to the top of the pole. In time to music, we created different patterns around the pole with the ribbons, sometimes weaving them tightly around it, sometimes making a lattice spreading out from the pole. I just loved it!
Always one girl in the class was given the title of May Queen (never me!) but actually I preferred to be a dancer as the May Queen had to sit on a special throne and watch the rest of us dancing which always looked a bit boring to me. I preferred to be part of the ceremony and to create something beautiful for everyone to admire!
Beltane – a time to put flowers in your hair
A traditional time for marriages, or hand-fasting ceremonies, Beltane celebrates fertility, passion, sensuality and abundance. It is the perfect time to put our dreams into action or to write the first pages of a new book or story with fresh vision and drive.
For me, Beltane is more than the conception of creative ideas, it is also about looking for balance in my writing practice. As there is a coming together of the masculine and feminine elements during the Celtic Festival, I try to balance the earth and sky elements of my writing. I take my igniting spark, its lyricism, and my voice (sky), and work out what it is I want to say and why (earth) so that the flame for this new book will burn bright and for many weeks during the process of writing it. At Beltane, I build my strength and determination to see my writing project through.