I spent my teenage years in a quintessential English village, the last bus home from the nearest station arrived back at 9pm. In the early hours, after a gig, I often walked the ten-mile journey home, sometimes the compassionate driver of a police car would give me a lift back to the vicarage, much to my parent’s embarrassment. The Mayday celebrations were the highlight of village life, Morris dancer’s and maypole dances took place by the Church set on a slight hill, surrounded by the remnants of a stone circle and a former centre of the Knights Hospitallers. And the pubs were open all day!
Beltane has always been a favourite festival of mine, I’ve always loved the earthy, lusty celebrations. At one camp ritual, dressed as Pan, I spurted hair conditioner from a leather-clad phallus over the gathered revellers. One witch was so horrified by this she refused to enter the circle!
This year’s ritual took place in our grove around a magnificent fire, we erected a Beltane pole and selected a May queen (or crone in this case) through the traditional method of ‘spin the bottle’. We tied greenery to the pole with our thoughts and hopes for Beltane, sent healing to those unable to attend due to illness and to those grieving the dead (traditional at this time). Beltane is a rich source of traditions most of which are not strictly English, but like so many pagan festivals convey a particular zeitgeist from all across Europe.
Several years ago, I attended a talk by Peter Grey on Rewilding Witchcraft, I found the whole experience unsettling, as he outlined the death of the earth and the role of witchcraft in acknowledging this. His version of the future seemed bleak, in contrast with my optimism.
Now five years later, his concerns are borne out by countless pieces of research, the fabric of human life challenged by the collapse of ecosystems, caused by the unrelenting greed of capitalism. This Beltane, despite the lush greenery surrounding us, it was impossible to ignore the impending disaster. Our Bel fire rapidly became a bale fire burning with anger, as we bound, pierced and lobotomized (nice one Lyn) an effigy of Trump, before smashing it, grinding the remains and burning them in the fire – it was a thorough job!
Of course, Trump is only a symptom of the lethal malaise of humanity – as George Minbiot points out – we have two options; the environment or capitalism.
Thankfully, this simple option has given birth to an extraordinary response from Extinction Rebellion, who in turn have presented a highly effective non violent protest. At the end of last year, the groups I work with launched a sigil – placed on bridges along the south coast to summon an egregore – the Leveller, to highlight corporate greed and usher in the demise of capitalism. This seems to me the most appropriate use of witchcraft and in the true spirit of Aradia. Many within Extinction Rebellion have adopted Peter Grey’s manifesto, so this Beltane, please consider his words.
“Witchcraft is the recourse of the dispossessed,
the powerless, the hungry and the abused.
It gives heart and tongue to stones and trees.
It wears the rough skin of beasts.
It turns on a civilization that knows the
price of everything and the value of nothing.”
Witches heal and harm, cure and curse. We have everything to fight for and nothing to lose. Witchcraft is rebellion.