Beltane: A Tale of the Iron Age
The time of festival is here: the summer season. It is early morning, and the cool sea breezes ruffle the grasslands, and the birds have begun their song of love, calling to one another across the tree tops, darting from branch to branch. We have broken our fast with fish, cooked upon a charcoal fire, and will not eat again until the morrow. For this is a day of fasting, a holy day, and our senses will become clearer for the rituals that are to come.
The bonfire is ready on the high place, and our tribe climbs the hill, and gathers around, men women and children. Then the priest comes forward, hand in hand with the priestess, and they intone the ancient blessings; they take a blazing torch and set fire to the wood. They call upon the fire of purity to bless our flocks, and drive from us the ways of the wicked. For we have seen the spirit of the fire send down flaming coals and burning sulphur on the wicked; she punishes them with scorching winds. When there are storms, we see her anger flame up like fire and burn everything on earth. It can reach to the world below and consume the roots of the mountains.
And we gather in a circle around the flames, and hold hands, and dance slowly thrice times thrice around the burning timber, chanting to the spirit of the fire to bless us, all within our dwellings or in our possessions, all crops, all our flocks, and all our corn. This is our encircling, our caim, our protection.
Three times three is the charm
Upon the land, the sea, the sky
Upon the earth, the moon, the sun
Upon our flocks, our friends, our family.
The priestess scatters herbs upon the fire, and they spark, and smoke as they burn within the flames. Now the light is blazing, and as we watch, and inhale the smoke, we see the spirit of the fire arise. It is like a gleaming light blazing at the heart of the flames, that takes our form, the form of a man, like a son of the gods, a figure in white robes, so bright we can see only his shape, white against the yellow flame; he looks at us, and his eyes are like a flame of fire; he raises his arms in a blessing upon us, and then is gone, white fading into golden tongues of raging fire.
The priest comes forward, and he too scatters herbs upon the fire, which crackle and spark noisily. The flame burns ever brighter, and we see the gold and scarlet wings of flame, as the beating of a great bird in flight, and that too fades into a breath, a warmth that comes to us from the flames, the spirit of life, and we breath deeply of her. And the vision is gone, and we are blessed once more.
It is not every year we see these visions, and not all see them, but those that do are blessed with the spirit of the flame, and they burn with a desire for compassion and justice.
Night falls, and the embers glow red, and we drive some of our cattle through the remnants of the fires to purify them, and as a token of trust to bring good fortune for this summer.
Bless our flocks and bearing cows;
Hate nor harm, come not near us,
Drive from us the ways of the wicked.
Accompany us from hill to sea,
Gather the sheep and their progeny.