Beltane 2008 Page 1 - Stanton Drew, Glastonbury, Stonehenge, Avebury and Priston

This page includes reports and photographs from the various events I attended during the season of Beltane in 2008. Beltane occurs on 1 May and is technically the first day of summer, with the sun at the three quarter high point, with the next stop on the wheel being the sun's high point at the Solstice and then the decline down to Yule. Beltane is the time of lighter days, blossom, the flowering hawthorn, animals going out again and maypoles. The season started early with a ritual at Stanton Drew on Saturday 26 April. Then a busy 24 hours started at the Goddess Temple in Glastonbury on the evening of 30 April, moving to Glastonbury Tor for the sunrise on 1 May and then on to Chalice Well and then Stonehenge later that day. On Saturday 3 May it was off to Avebury and on Monday 5 May it was bringing in the May at the village of Priston, near Bath.

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Dobunni Grove of OBOD at Stanton Drew - 26 April 2008

On the Saturday before Beltane 2008 around a hundred people gathered at the North East Circle at Stanton Drew. At just after 11:00 R-Druid called the group out of the circle so that Herald and Co-ordinator Ana Adnan could teach the May Dance. Ladies and gentlemen stood alternately in the circle and some ladies were happy to stand in for the underrepresented gentlemen. All the ladies then collected a coloured ribbon from Ana and tied it to the left wrist of the man to their right. Great hilarity then followed, with the circle going in and out four steps, the ladies going in four steps and clapping and the gentlemen going in three steps and turning around. Returning to their lady, the pair spun around four times, with the gentleman finishing on the other side of the lady, with a new partner waiting. Then it started all over again.

With the practice out of the way the group moved to the nearby tree for a talk about the season from R-Druid. We then processed up the avenue and into the North East Circle, with each person stopping to honour the sun before taking their place within the circle. The circle was then cast, the quarters opened and there was a blessing from Penny Jackson. Jim and Nina Milton represented the male and female Beltane Fires in their resplendent colours of orange and red. And the circle was consecrated with water by Amelia and Taliesin Carrington.

The group was divided into ladies and gentlemen for the selection of the May King and the May Queen. The two smaller circles each had to pass under an archway made by two people. Music then played and ‘Bind Faith’ was in charge of the CD player. When the music stopped the two people under the respective arches were selected. Rebecca Dawson was chosen as the May Queen and, much to his embarrassment, R-Druid found himself to be the May King. This presented a logistical issue because R-Druid normally crowns the May King. The crown was passed clockwise around the circle of gentlemen, with each person crowning the person to their left and enquiring what they wished for. The crown then ended up with R-Druid. With the gentlemen completing the crowning much earlier than the ladies, there was time for some stories and the debut of my revised Beltane poetry.

An informal semi-circle formed and the new May King and May Queen met for the first time. It was then time for the May Dance. The earlier practice had been invaluable and although we were much better this time, it was all but impossible to keep up with the rapid pace required. It seemed as though I made it about a third of the way around the circle before the music finally stopped. It was then time to jump the Beltane fire in pairs - with Jim and Nina continuing their representation of fire. With that the quarters and circle were closed. R-Druid passed his crown on to a young boy. Ian and Stuart from Dorset’s finest bakery had brought some of their amazing ritual bread and this was shared out at the end. And if you knew where they were parked it was possible to pick up a loaf to take back. With that some people started to make the long journey home, others the shorter journey for chips at the Druid’s Arms.

Meeting up in the North East Circle

Meeting up in the North East Circle

Meeting up in the North East Circle

Meeting up in the North East Circle

Matthew is confirmed as a man for the May Dance

At the end of the ritual in the North East Circle

At the end of the ritual in the North East Circle

Sharing bread in the North East Circle

Sharing bread in the North East Circle

One of Ian and Stuart's amazing loaves escapes from Stanton Drew...

...because three hours at Stanton Drew is hungry work!

Beltane Ritual at the Goddess Temple, Glastonbury - 30 April 2008

The ritual at the Glastonbury Goddess Temple was held on Beltane Eve. The colour for this season is red and many of those attending had made the effort to observe this. Beltane is one of three Sabbats that the Goddess Temple attempts to run outside in the courtyard of the Glastonbury Experience. Preparations to transform the courtyard started two hours previously. The crowd was welcomed by Kim and Jack and then it was straight into the eight directional blessings of the Invocation of Britannia's Wheel of Goddesses. Jack called Kerridwen, Kim (Rhiannon), Rose (Banbha), Caroline (Danu), Mike (Domnu), Robin (Artha), Kathy (Ker) and Isabelle (Bride), ending with a call to the Lady of Avalon. People from other countries were invited to invoke similar deities and this Beltane all of the Glastonbury events had pilgrims from other countries, including quite a few from Brazil. Sally Pullinger then played her cello and Rose read one of her poems. The Dark Fire of Beltane followed, with Kim and Jack and an Elements circle. It was then time for the Embodiment of Saqarra, leading into a trance/Rhiannon dance. The naming of a baby then followed - one that had been conceived at this time a year earlier. The maypole then came alive and Sally asked for volunteers to help with the songs. People danced gaily around the maypole and several hobbyhorses were available for others to encircle the dancers. While this was going on Jack got the Beltane fire underway. This required a bit of encouragement to keep on burning but we were soon all leaping over it, leaving our troubles behind. With that the eight point wheel was closed down again and people began to make their way home. This was a very high energy night and I managed almost no sleep afterwards. Not the best of timing as I had a busy day ahead with an early start! For this and the rest of the Beltane rituals I approached people to offer them a chocolate with the words “I come bearing a Beltane gift. Here is mint milk chocolate disc.” This proved to be very popular and was a very good ice breaker, allowing me to talk to lots of new people, including many pilgrims from abroad.

Glastonbury’s mikesey has produced the above video that shows the maypole and trance dance proceedings

Montage of the complete event

Assembling at the courtyard of the Glastonbury Experience

Assembling at the courtyard of the Glastonbury Experience

People begin to dance around the maypole...

...and several hobbyhorses begin to encircle them!

The Beltane Fire is prepared

Over we all go

Over we all go

Over we all go

Over we all go

After a great night's work, Kim is rewarded with one of Matthew's Beltane chocolates! (Photo: mikesey)

Beltane on Glastonbury Tor - 1 May 2008

The traditional Glastonbury town Beltane event was run by the Western Order of Druids at sunrise. A large group gathered on the Tor but space was limited due to an area fenced off by the National Trust for re-seeded grass. The event got underway with a performance from the Glastonbury Morris Men in front of St. Michael’s Tower. Everyone then moved to the east side of the Tor in anticipation of the sunrise. Drumming from Jana Runnalls, Lydia Lyte and friends occurred throughout the event, particularly as the sun was gaining strength to break through the thick cloud. The directions were opened and closed in the usual way, Steve led the group in reciting the Druid Prayer and everyone joined in with the Druid Vow. The ancient Druid Mantra of the West was also toned several times, including for the blessing of the May King and Queen as well as for a couple that are soon to be married. I then read my Beltane poem. Various newspapers were in attendance at this event and some of it was filmed for broadcast on that night’s ITV West News. An extended version of the programme may be accessed on this link. And Glastonbury’s mikesey has produced these two videos that do a good job of summarising the proceedings:

Montage of the complete event

The Glastonbury Morris Men perform in front of St. Michael's Tower

The May King and May Queen sign in (Photo: mikesey)

In circle in front of the rising sun (Photo: mikesey)

The sun begins to break through the cloud

The sun begins to break through the cloud (12x optical zoom on camera)

The sun begins to break through the cloud

Drumming with Jana Runnalls and Lydia Lyte and friends

Marriage blessing

Denny blows the troublesome horn (Photo: mikesey)

Denny blows the troublesome horn (Photo: mikesey)

Matthew with his popular bag of Beltane chocolates (Photo: mikesey)

Matthew watches the rising sun (Photo: mikesey)

Matthew surveys the view below (Photo: mikesey)

The sun gains power as we descend from the Tor

Matthew chats to US pilgrim Caitlin on the way down the Tor (Photo: mikesey)

Caitlin visited the White Spring with Matthew shortly after the Tor event (Photo: mikesey)

Beltane at Chalice Well, Glastonbury - 1 May 2008

Chalice Well’s event started later this year, allowing those on the Tor to take full part in it. Both Chalice Well and the White Spring were open for visitors from 06:00, with the event beginning at 07:30. There was no procession from Wellhouse Lane this year - the event started within the cress field at the back of Chalice Well. Natasha introduced the event before handing over to four people to call the quarters and represent the elements of earth, air, fire and water. Michelle then lit the main fire and drummers Jana, Lydia and friends started circling it and encouraging everyone else to follow them. The fire soon took hold and some of those close to it decided to move back a bit. It was then on to jumping the smaller fire, with everyone invited to jump over individually or in pairs. Once everyone had jumped, the maypole was revealed and volunteers carried it down to the front lawn, with everyone else following. Sophie asked everyone to get some water from the rill and bless someone near them in any way they chose. The pole and ribbons were then blessed before assembly and the pole was soon ready for use. Heidi talked the group through use of the maypole and the ribbons soon started to bind it. Once the pole was covered in ribbons and the ribbons tied off, the whole group drew in around the maypole. A final large circle then formed on the front lawn and the event was declared over, with everyone invited to stay on for as long as they wanted. Teas were served throughout the event from the Gardener’s Lodge. Chalice Well was featured in the ITV West News programme mentioned above and mikesey has done another good job of summarising events in the video below:

Montage of the complete event

Michelle lights the main fire

Michelle lights the main fire

The main fire is underway and the group begins to swirl around it. Lydia Lyte in foreground

Closing in on the main fire

The fire was welcome but it was nowhere near as cold as the previous two years

Preparing the jumping fire

Merlin of the Woods is first to jump

Others quickly follow

Others quickly follow

Others quickly follow

The maypole appears

Setting up the maypole on the lower lawn

The maypole is ready

Well on the way to completing the maypole

The maypole is now complete

Beltane is always a popular event at Chalice Well

Beltane at Stonehenge - 1 May 2008

A group of about 40 people gathered in the main Stonehenge car park later on Beltane morning. The traditional Stonehenge managed open access occurs at sunrise on the solstices and equinoxes. So a Beltane daytime event was something of an experiment. Led by drummers from The Dolmen the group began to process just before midday, to huge interest from the many tourists. The barriers were opened and the group entered the site as one, circling the stones and stopping on the North East side of the complex. A circle formed and Frank began to set up the maypole. There was some uncertainty as to whether the right site had been chosen. While we waited for confirmation I offered to perform my Beltane poem. I passed around the circle as I was reading and ended up performing about two thirds of it by the time I was back at the starting position. The quarters were then opened and there was drumming from The Dolmen throughout. A handfasting was performed during the ritual. One of the couple’s children ran around the circle protecting it with water - a single circuit later opened it back up again. Following the handfasting the couple leapt over a broom to start their new life together. There were two excellent performances from Sarum Morris, with a third performance that included ‘willing’ volunteers from the circle. With the ritual complete at this location the quarters were closed and the maypole packed up. The group then processed around the stones and set up again near the path on the north west side of the complex. Interested tourists had been viewing us at distance from all around the site. The move enabled a group of spectators to gather right by us. The bardic performances were done at this new location, starting with the Stonehenge song from The Dolmen. Jim the Bard and Frank joined in next, before Taloch grabbed a guitar for another song. The last display was for Sarum Morris to make another welcome performance in the new circle. With all the acts complete the group processed out of the site and stopped off for tea at the English Heritage Cafe. Additional merriment then took place in a nearby field. There was still much interest from tourists as we left the site and I even had a queue of people watching as I changed out of my robes at the car! I had a great time and was so glad I went along. I was very tired from the previous events and the weather forecast had not been good. As it turned out, I didn’t notice the tiredness at all and the weather was actually warm and sunny for much of the event!

Montage of the complete event

Processing to the stones from the car park

Processing around the stones

Setting up beside the stones

Setting up beside the stones

The first Sarum Morris performance

The first Sarum Morris performance

A handfasting

Music from the harp during the handfasting

The handfasting continues

Leaping to a new life

The second Sarum Morris performance

The third Sarum Morris performance - with volunteers. Didn't they do well?

Drumming provided throughout from The Dolmen

Packing up for a move to the other side of the stones

Packing up for a move to the other side of the stones

First bardic performance in the new location with the Stonehenge song from The Dolmen

Jim the Bard joins in and Frank gives up the maypole for his violin

Taloch grabs the guitar for another number

A final performance from Sarum Morris

A final performance from Sarum Morris

Processing out of the stones

The Free and Open Gorsedd of Caer Abiri Beltane Ritual at Avebury - 3 May 2008

The Beltane ritual of the Free and Open Gorsedd of Caer Abiri was held at Avebury on 3 May. The group gathered at the Red Lion and at 14:00 was asked by Arthur to follow him to the steps at the Western Quadrant of the Outer Circle. At Beltane, groups denoted as Gods or Goddesses process from here to the Entrance Stones, with the Gods getting by far the longest route. Arthur normally leads the Gods but this year announced he would be handing this over to Bill. Before he left us to it he announced who would be May Queen. So off we went around the Western Quadrant, crossing the road and taking the long way around. We were eventually met at the Entrance Stones. Bill was greeted by the new May Queen and everyone was invited to offer blessings to her as she sat in the Goddess Seat. People then lined up in a corridor, walking under an archway made by those with staffs. Once complete, those who had arrived first began to walk through the corridor themselves until it had disappeared again. At all times everyone was given Beltane blessings. With that the Gods headed for the remains of the Southern Inner Circle, becoming as one again with the Goddesses.

Arthur welcomed everyone to the circle and explained that Beltane rituals had been carried out across the land. We were therefore here to honour the season. With that the quarters were opened and it was into announcements. Arthur ranted at everyone for the ongoing ‘bitchcraft’ being seen on many Pagan and Druid boards. Terry then talked about his role as Keeper of the Stones and informed the group that work on Silbury Hill had finally been completed and that a closing ceremony would be held the following Tuesday. We were also informed about a future vacancy in the Stag department as well as a recent handfasting. Arthur informed us that one person present had something to hand over - something they had been given a year and a day previously. Gil came forward to hand over his King of May title. Holding hands it was then into the Druid Vow and then toning the ancient Druid Mantra of the West for the Pagan and Druid world. Arthur wanted to move the bardic section to the pub because of impending rain. But several of us disagreed with this and so it went ahead here. Robyn y Glas came forward to do his first performance as Bard of Avebury. I stepped forward next to read my Beltane poem, tapping my bowl after each verse and three times at the end. Terry then read a short version of the Druid Prayer. The group then faced outwards and did three tones of the ancient Druid Mantra of the West for the world. Turning back in we held hands again and did another recital of the Druid Vow. The quarters were then closed. The maiden stood next to me had opened South/Fire and thought it would be a good idea for me to close it down. With the quarters closed, Arthur closed the circle and made for the Red Lion. Some of us stayed around to chat in the field and by this time I was clean out of chocolates!

Montage of the complete event

Meeting up at the Red Lion

The group processes to the steps at the Western Quadrant of the Outer Circle

The group processes to the steps at the Western Quadrant of the Outer Circle

Arthur talks about the Gods and Goddesses walks

Arthur then leaves us to it

The Gods set off for the long walk to the Entrance Stones

The Gods on the long walk to the Entrance Stones

The Gods on the long walk to the Entrance Stones

The Gods on the long walk to the Entrance Stones

The Gods on the long walk to the Entrance Stones

The Gods on the long walk to the Entrance Stones

The Gods on the long walk to the Entrance Stones

The Gods on the long walk to the Entrance Stones

The awaiting Goddesses

The Gods on the long walk to the Entrance Stones

The Gods on the long walk to the Entrance Stones

The Gods are met at the Entrance Stones

The Gods greet the May Queen

The Gods greet the May Queen

Starting to create the corridor

Starting to create the corridor (Photo courtesy of Chance of Chippenham)

Through they come to get Beltane blessings (Photo courtesy of Chance of Chippenham)

Through they come to get Beltane blessings (Photo courtesy of Chance of Chippenham)

Through they come to get Beltane blessings (Photo courtesy of Chance of Chippenham)

Making for the Southern Inner Circle

Forming up the circle

Forming up the circle

Forming up the circle

Gil hands over his May King title after a year and a day

Terry talks about his role as Keeper of the Stones as well as the completion of the Silbury Hill repairs

There will soon be a vacancy in the Stag department

Robyn y Glas performs as the new Bard of Avebury with lyrics held up by John

Matthew gives it the max on the poetry as he moves around the circle (Photo courtesy of Chance of Chippenham)

Matthew gives it the max on the poetry as he moves around the circle (Photo courtesy of Chance of Chippenham)

Matthew gives it the max on the poetry as he moves around the circle (Photo courtesy of Chance of Chippenham)

Arthur wraps up the circle

Closing down the quarters (Photo courtesy of Chance of Chippenham)

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Page last updated: 17 Jan 2009