Posted by: aediculaantinoi | May 1, 2014

Beltaine 2014

I had debated writing a poem for this occasion this year; but, considering I have already written two-and-a-sixth poems today already, that might have been excessive, even for me…I may do so later on today, depending on how the mood strikes me.

There’s a lot I could say about Beltaine, which I’ve said on previous years as well (e.g. in 2013), but I’d like to instead focus on something else which took place today: a ritual, at my college, by the Pagan Student Union which I helped to form and currently advise.

Last year, on this day, we had our first “unofficial ritual” as a group for Floralia and related events; but today, at last, we had one on campus, which served not only the purpose of dedicating our group to the campus, getting the ancestors and indigenous peoples who are literally buried a few feet beneath this entire piece of land acknowledged, honored, and (hopefully) the beginnings of an alliance with them, but it also was done to protect the students–ALL students–as well as faculty, staff, and community members from harrassment and abuse here on campus for any and all reasons. The point behind that latter matter is that not only are such things good to do in general, but also our group’s vice president was harassed for her religion last quarter, and the administration refused to do anything about it, to issue a statement condemning the actions, or to in any way talk about it, which many of us are not at all happy about…

Because part of the directly Irish significance of this day is tha the Tuatha Dé took up residence in Ireland on this day, and became most closely aligned with it in the aftermath, so too do we recognize that we are not “natives” to this land per se (in fact, all but two of the people in the ritual were born elsewhere), but we seek to honor the land spirits and indigenous peoples, as well as all of our ancestral traditions, in this land going forward.

While I had some major input in organizing this ritual, it was primarily presented by students, and also by one other faculty member here at Skagit: Prof. Lou LaBombard, who is the head of my department and a good friend (and the reason I have the job I do at present!). It was an honor and a privilege to have his own efforts added to ours, not only as a long-standing faculty member of this college, a staunch ally to and supporter of our group, a friend and colleague, but also as a voice for the indigenous peoples of North America. Because our Vice President was the target of the abusive harassment that occurred last quarter, it was most appropriate that she was the leader of the ritual; and our Secretary is also extremely good with rocks and crystals, and so she did that part of the ritual. I provided the storax, and did the Ephesia Grammata ritual as part of each directional point as well.

Here is a photo of all of us after the ritual was completed (though one or two who took part preferred not to be photographed). I’d note that we had three of the four officers of our group in this photo (one works during the afternoon and thus couldn’t be present), and of the people besides myself, Lou, and two of the officers, all of the other people pictured here are not pagan, but have taken part in our rituals and events as interested and supportive allies and respectful inquirers, and that’s a wonderful thing in and of itself.

PSU Beltaine Ritual

The smell of the four sacred herbs–cedar, sweetgrass, sage, and tobacco–mixed together and used for a fumigation at every part of the ritual was heavy in the air everywhere we went, and the sound of drumming and chanting also drew a crowd at several points, too. (Some people were at the beginning of the ritual who then disappeared when they found out we’d be processing around the points of the compass, unfortunately.)

As one of the only “public” and “out-and-proud” events we’ve had so far, specifically linked to our campus, this was a milestone in many ways. I’m thankful that it was able to take place.

And, needless to say, at the part toward the beginning where we called up deities, I named the main land spirits first, but also Antinous (specifically as the Liberator, since protection from persecution was a major focus of our ritual).

In the various songs that Dr. LaBombard did at the quarters, the one in the North was particular interesting and evocative for me, and I asked him about it afterwards. “That’s a wolf song.” Well, that explains it…! ;) Though we are of very different traditions, wolf-songs are a common language between different peoples, I think.

In case any of you are interested, here’s the order of what happened. Though I directed and managed the ritual, I didn’t really have a major speaking part…and that felt good, for a change! ;)

Pagan Student Union Ritual on May 1, 2014

[Gather at the “Animal Wheel” at 12:45 PM]

BEGIN with Dr. LaBombard drumming and singing a welcome and initial protection/dedication…

Vice President: We, the Pagan Student Union—we who are pagans, students, and no matter what, are united in our purpose—have come together on this day, the day on which we celebrate purification, protection, and taking a position within the landscape, to dedicate ourselves to this land, this school, and the ancestors, to work for the protection of all students, faculty, and community members on this portion of sacred earth, and to nurture our relationship with this land and the ancestors within it.

May all of our deities, our ancestors, the spirits of this land, and all of our divine spiritual allies join us in this work, and be pleased by our efforts this day and every day.

Speak the names of any of these deities, ancestors, and land spirits that you might wish to hear our entreaties and join with us in doing this work: …

A further invocation of all the ancestors by Dr. LaBombard…

[Move to the East, near Sprague Hall]

Vice President: In the East, we look to the direction of the rising sun and of beginnings; and we ground these qualities in this part of Skagit Valley College’s Whidbey Island Campus, Sprague Hall and its fabric and foundations. On this day, in the myths of Ireland, the Tuatha Dé came to the island of Ireland in ships made of mist to settle the land and to become united with it. Just as ourselves and our own relatives have come to Whidbey Island from the East, and the West, and the South, and the North, may their beginnings in arriving here be continued in our beginnings settling here, respectfully and in constant awareness of those who have come before us. The Pagan Student Union takes strength and wisdom from the good examples of our ancestors and their traditions, no matter where they came from, and unites that strength and wisdom to the steadfastness and deep knowing within this land and its people.

Anoint a quartz crystal with storax and perform the Ephesia Grammata ritual…

Secretary: Bless the land and those who walk it. Return to the Earth from which you came. Help cleanse this land and keep it pure. May the spirit here keep this gift we give to unite us with you and this place. So mote & blessed be.

Bury quartz crystal, then make an offering of water around it…

Dr. LaBombard drums and sings a song in Lakota, and protects the direction with an invocation…

[Move to the South, near Old Main]

Vice President: in the South, we look to the direction of the sun at its pinnacle of strength; and we ground these qualities in this part of Skagit Valley College’s Whidbey Island Campus, Old Main and its fabric and foundations, which stretch back to the time that it was the hospital for the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The history of this campus began with this building, and even when it has passed on to other buildings not-yet-imagined, Old Main will be the heart and the strength of all the success that comes here after. This building is the place of our meetings, the seat of the college’s administration, the location of the offices of our advisors and allies, and the base from which we act. The Pagan Student Union takes strength and wisdom from the good examples of all who have worked and taught in this building, and the dedication and perseverance of all the students who have passed through these halls.

Anoint a quartz crystal with storax and perform the Ephesia Grammata ritual…

Secretary: Bless the land and those who walk it. Return to the Earth from which you came. Help cleanse this land and keep it pure. May the spirit here keep this gift we give to unite us with you and this place. So mote & blessed be.

Bury quartz crystal, then make an offering of water around it…

Dr. LaBombard drums and sings a song in Lakota, and protects the direction with an invocation…

[Move to the West, near Oak Hall]

Vice President: in the West, we look to the direction of the sun at its setting and the completion of its daily work; and we ground these qualities in this part of Skagit Valley College’s Whidbey Island Campus, Oak Hall and its fabric and foundations. Before Oak Hall was here, another building from the Naval Station was here, which eventually became the court house of Oak Harbor, and which later became a part of the college; and long before that, these very grounds were the burial places of unknown numbers of indigenous peoples of this region and of this island. Let us be ever mindful that though the sun sets, that though things pass from our sight, that though death comes to all, that none are ever lost, that the spirits of the ancestors remain and influence us for our good and for our misfortunate should we ever forget them. Let us commit, the Pagan Student Union, to being dedicated to the remembrance and honoring of all those who have gone before us, our own ancestors and those of this land, our own histories and those of the people who inhabited this land as far back as we can know.

Anoint a quartz crystal with storax and perform the Ephesia Grammata ritual…

Secretary: Bless the land and those who walk it. Return to the Earth from which you came. Help cleanse this land and keep it pure. May the spirit here keep this gift we give to unite us with you and this place. So mote & blessed be.

Bury quartz crystal, then make an offering of water around it…

Dr. LaBombard drums and sings a song in Lakota, and protects the direction with an invocation…

[Move to the North, near Hayes Hall]

Vice President: in the North, we look to the direction of the circumpolar stars, of darkness and of silence; and we ground these qualities in this part of Skagit Valley College’s Whidbey Island Campus, Hayes Hall and its fabric and foundations. Hayes Hall is the place where two libraries are housed, and thus we look to it as the repository of the knowledge of our ancestors, of many lineages and many traditions, of many peoples and many cultures, who are present with us though sometimes silent as stones, and whose wisdom we rely upon for our everyday functioning. In the silence of this deep knowing, let us remember that we can draw upon this wisdom whenever we choose to, if we are willing to listen and to pay attention. The Pagan Student Union commits to being a beacon of this wisdom, for ourselves and for the wider community that we serve at Skagit and in Oak Harbor as well.

Anoint a quartz crystal with storax and perform the Ephesia Grammata ritual…

Secretary: Bless the land and those who walk it. Return to the Earth from which you came. Help cleanse this land and keep it pure. May the spirit here keep this gift we give to unite us with you and this place. So mote & blessed be.

Bury quartz crystal, then make an offering of water around it…

Dr. LaBombard drums and sings a song in Lakota, and protects the direction with an invocation…

[Move to the Center again]

Vice President: As we return to the Center of Skagit Valley College’s Whidbey Island Campus, between Sprague and Old Main, Oak Hall and Hayes Hall, with the strength and wisdom of the four directions surrounding and protecting us, we extend this protection to all of the students, staff, faculty, and friends in the community who come to Skagit Valley College for whatever reason. May everyone who steps on this piece of land be free from persecution and abuse, based on religion, culture, gender, sexual orientation, race, politics, disability, age, body type, economic status, veteran status, or any other factor which distinguishes one person from another—all deserve respect, compassion, and kindness. We pledge, as the Pagan Student Union, to foster this understanding and respect for all, in collaboration with our deities, our ancestors, the spirits of this land, and all other divine spirits who wish to take part with us in this work.

Anoint a quartz crystal with storax and perform the Ephesia Grammata ritual…

Secretary: Bless the land and those who walk it. Return to the Earth from which you came. Help cleanse this land and keep it pure. May the spirit here keep this gift we give to unite us with you and this place. So mote & blessed be.

Bury quartz crystal, then make an offering of water around it…

Vice President: Where there has been persecution, may we sow acceptance.
Where there has been oath-breaking, may we sow loyalty.
Where there has been ignorance, may we sow knowledge and wisdom.
Where there has been forgetfulness, may we sow memory.
May all of our deities, ancestors, land spirits, and other divine spirits be pleased with our efforts, and ally with us into the future to make these things come to pass.
MAY IT BE!

EVERYONE: MAY IT BE!

Dr. LaBombard drums and sings a final gathering song in Lakota, we do a short circle dance for unity as he does so, and does one final protection of the land with an invocation and an expression of thanksgiving.


Responses

  1. Very nice. Thank you for sharing it. I especially like the focus on right relationship with the spirits of the land; it’s a topic underserved in modern Paganism, and an aspect of Beltane that tends to be overshadowed by the Sexy Fun Times aspects of many celebrations.

    • Yes–and, given what we needed to do with this group in particular, it seemed especially important to make that the focus.

      Given various recent events in the wider pagan community, it feels very dodgy at the moment to not examine the supposed “sexy-sexy fun times” aspects of Beltaine (especially since in Irish tradition, that wasn’t ever a part of it!) and just proceed as usual.

  2. I like how you honored the buildings also…

    • As I was planning this, it suddenly occurred to me that the four buildings that our campus has are pretty much directionally-oriented: each one is positioned further north, south, east, or west than any of the others, though they all overlap to some degree or another. Then, in kind of “beating the bounds,” it all just worked out. (As we were doing it, I also realized that with the West focus on the dead, it was especially important that Oak Hall was mentioned, because that’s where the science labs are, and there are various dead animals as well as bits of dead humans in that hall…!)

  3. […] in their original wording. You’ve met A.L.V.C. before, though you might not know it, here and here, as well as elsewhere in passing on this blog. She also was one of my two students who […]


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