Did you know that if you put your clothes on inside out, tie a wild radish around your neck and venture out to a crossroads on Walpurgisnacht (April 30), you will be better able to see the witches and fairies that frolic at this time when the veils between the worlds are thin?
This is a two part Blog. For those short on time, there is a short version, addressing a different perspective on what we really need and how something that may seem frivolous can help you find joy and reverence (and irreverence!). Just read up until the Radish necklace image. For a deeper dive, go below the radishes.
Stories like these have been told (and often believed!), all over the world, throughout time.
For our ancient ancestors, experiencing the cycles of nature could be a matter of life and death.
Telling stories and creating rituals (including weddings, funerals etc.) was a way of honoring the Mystery of the life/death/life cycle. This creative process also added vitally important elements of play and/or celebration to help diffuse fear and grief during hard times.
Sharing stories and rituals, especially in the form of holidays/Holy days, strengthened the tribe/community/family groups that were (and still are, even though we don't typically acknowledge this truth in our independent lifestyles!), essential to survival.
The story of Walpurgisnacht*, like virtually all stories, (including our personal stories that we tell ourselves about our lives and our world) has layers of meaning that morphed over time as a way of adapting to newer belief systems.
Our holidays and other ritual celebrations along with myths, fairy tales, poetry, novels, movies, art and games, are not just for entertainment. We need them as much as we need practical essentials that contribute to our health and well-being.
And although food, clothing and shelter may seem to take precedence, if we are deprived of these, stories can help us survive. Such as when Viktor Frankel (and countless others in similar circumstances before and since the concentration camps) changed the story of what was happening to him.
The prevailing story in our current times, is that cold logic, dry facts, serious effort, endless work, efficient fixes, constant struggle and hard science are what we most need. But as important as all of these can be in the right circumstances, they only take us so far in the face of the dark and beautiful mysteries of life and death.
|I was up at a Spiral last weekend overlooking breathtaking beauty after a Beltane gathering.
These are not frivolous luxuries only to be enjoyed when the all of the problems are solved and the work is done. The problems will never all be solved and the work will never all be done.
This does not mean we should ignore the issues that need to be addressed in our lives. We need to put food on the table, do the work of caring for ourselves and others and our planet, etc.
But just as there are cycles and seasons in the natural world, this is true in our contrived world. We have created stories about what is important. After we meet our basic bodily survival needs, the rest is a matter of choice --and the stories we tell ourselves.
What if we tell ourselves the story that we need work AND play, logic AND whimsy, science AND Mystery? I think this is a way more interesting and enjoyable story and I also believe it will be ultimately more functional and practical.
And why not celebrate as many holidays as you can? You can modify the ones on the calendar or even make up your own. Just make a day holy in some way. Gather with your tribe, dress up, eat yummy food, tell stories, play games, give gifts or do some kind of private ritual to take time out of the serious business of life.
Holidays give us excuses to take a break, find joy and reverence and strengthen connections.
Wild radish necklaces are optional!
End of part 1. Venture below the radishes into deeper territory for part 2 of this Blog.
AND it is also May Day/ International Workers Day which celebrates workers, but also commemorates the exploitation, oppression and death of those who protested unfair conditions.
Probably no one who is reading this blog experiences the kind of horrendous working conditions that were being protested at the first May Day. However, far too many people in this current day and age are either forced by circumstances beyond their control or choose (for complicated reasons) to spend the vast majority of their time performing tasks that bring no joy and/or dispiriedly engaged in mind-numbing distractions.
Interestingly, MayDay is also a distress signal--named because it sounds like the French word "m'aider", which means “help me."
If you didn't take time to celebrate May Day yet, do not despair --it's not too late! Take some time off this weekend to do something playful and joyful. Whatever tasks you think have to happen can probably wait just a little longer. Life is short and deserves full attention. And a bit of whimsy!
|The base of the May Pole I danced around and the flowers each of us placed there to represent our wishes.
And for a really serious holiday, Holocaust Remembrance Day began at sundown on May 1. It is a solemn occasion, but also a way of connecting with compassion. The intention of honoring this story and those who lived through it is also to prevent a reoccurrence.
Even if we don't tell the stories out loud, they live on in our DNA. An intriguing and compelling study done with mice and cherry blossoms shows how Epigenetics affects the lives of the descendants of those who experienced the Holocaust as well as other trauma survivors --even if they didn't hear the story.
So in order to move past what happened to our ancestors, (and all of our ancestors had some kind of trauma), and to move past what happened to us in the past of our current life, we need to both commemorate what happened in some way AND change our current story so that we can evolve in ways that allow us to live with more joy.
And finally, tomorrow marks two more holidays.
Cinco de Mayo (a holiday largely ignored in Mexico) was originally about a bloody battle, but the reverence for the sacrifice of those lost lives was overshadowed by celebrating an unlikely triumph of outnumbered forces. The day has now morphed into honoring Mexican American culture --and is mostly observed with significant consumption of alcohol as well as Mexican food.
I will be attending an annual Cinco de Mayo party where there will probably not be a single person of Latino heritage, and I won't be drinking alcohol (since I spontaneously lost interest in this activity several years back --a miracle which never ceases to amaze me) or eating (see Ramadan holidaybelow), but I relish any opportunity to celebrate with this community of people whom I adore.
And I also like knowing that on some level I'm connected with all of those who are celebrating the day and the Mexicans who make such enormous and often unsung contributions to our country. Especially here in California.
|I'm all about the holidays with twirling dresses!
The last holiday I am featuring begins at sundown (or whenever the new moon 🌙 is sighted) and goes for a month.
Although there is a little bit of feasting and celebrating in the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, it is more about fasting, sacrificing and religious reverence.
I have decided I'm going to do a modified version of a Ramadan fast this month. Although I usually only relate to the mystical Sufi branch of the Muslim religion (gotta love all of that ecstatic twirling!), and do not share the many of their beliefs, the timing is perfect for a change I want to make with my personal food consumption.
And adding the element of spiritual discipline to the rest of what I am exploring with this experiment will provide a helpful dimension.
I also love knowing that there are millions of others who will be similarly engaged over this next month, even though our intentions and methods will differ.
I understand that my quirky celebrations of myriad holidays will not resonate for everyone, and I certainly don't expect that my readers will do the same.
But I think it's important to at least acknowledge that the stories of different people around the world matter.
Whenever we can connect to the joy or reverence of people honoring something that is significant to them (and this also includes rituals like weddings, graduations and funerals), we feel a little closer to them.
Given the current state of our world with so much polarity and divisiveness, AND our current incredible wealth of information, as well as our ability to connect in real-time with people all over the planet, it seems to me that finding ways to connect with joy and reverence is a good thing.
So is noticing the common threads in all of our stories--including our holidays.
Currently Jews, Mexicans and Muslims are being targeted as people who should be feared and therefore "justifiably" hated and mistreated, I advocate for finding ways to connect to, celebrate and love them.
One of the ways I do this is to honor and share their stories.
And of course this goes for the witch loving Pagans as well. After all, the vast majority of the holidays originated from the original earth centered religions that commemorated the seasons and cycles of our world.
Walpurgisnacht has been celebrated in many ways by different people. Some used it to burn effigies of witches in fear, and some just used it as an excuse to drink a lot and hang out by fire.
April 30 is the night before the midpoint between the Spring equinox and the summer solstice. there is magic a foot at times of transition. And we tend to fear that which we don't understand and can't control.
I am advocating for embracing and celebrating the Mystery.
Especially at this time of transition (on SO many levels) in our world .
So Happy New Moon and happy whatever else affords you an opportunity to celebrate the cycles of our beautiful and mysterious world as well as ALL who live here.
|The process of weaving those different colored ribbons was sometimes chaotic and confusing, but it was a merry dance.