Wednesday 2 May 2012

The Willow Moon: Another Look at the Tide of Beltane

The year turns.  The tides come in, the tides go out.  The tides of the oceans, so far from where I sit, the tides in the Earth's core, but also the tides of the seasons, the tides of the year.  It's the nature of tides to ebb and flow, to come in and go out.  The tide must go out so that it can come back in.  Low tide must come so that high tide can come.  So, too, Winter must come to Spring can return.  Spring must come to bring in Summer.  Summer must come before Autumn can come.  Autumn must come to make way for Winter.  And so it goes.

The tide of Samhaine comes in as the Serpent dies, then goes out.  The tide of Widwinter comes in as the Serpent sleeps in the deepest depths, then goes out.  The tide of Candlemas comes in as the Bride calls and the Serpent wakes and begins his journey, then goes out.  The tide of Easter comes in as he emerges, then goes out.  And the tide of Beltane at last comes in, at his wedding to the Bride.

Aspen with leaves,
May 2, 2012
We come once again to this point in the year.  Around me, new young leaves cover the trees.  The grass is beginning to grow, a light green tint to the fields and yards and plains.  Snow is gone from the valley, from the High Plains, though plentiful still on the mountains around.  Rain falls instead of snow.  The river begins to swell.  Bees and butterflies move around now, finding the early blooms.  The land is full of life, fully reborn, but still very young.

I've talked before about different ways to divide the year, Samhain as new year, Beltane as new year, Winter Solstice as new year, Summer Solstice as new year.  But the year turns, with no beginning or end, like great Ouroboros or Jörmungandr eating their own tails.  The tides turn, but each rolls into the next with no beginning and no end, not even fixed durations.  In and out, in and out, the tide comes.  For it is one tide with many names, one moon with many phases, one year with many names.  Every beginning includes its end.  Every creation includes its destruction.  Exitium in initio ponebatur.  And vice versa.  Matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed.  Everything that is born dies.  Everything that dies is reborn.  Though the Old Serpent, the King of the Old Year, dies at Samhain as Sacrifice, he always awakes at Candlemas and begins his journey, always emerges around the Equinox, around Easter, as the New Serpent, the King of the New Year, and always is married to Herself at Beltane, at May Day, at Roodmas.  Destined to die again, the Eternal Mortal King.

The Land Awakened,
May 1, 2012
And at this time, God Herself stands by him, or him by her, the Golden Serpent and the the Spotless Bride, the Peacock Lord and the Corn Maiden.  Pride and Innocence, Lust and Sex.  A time of fertility and abandon.  For that is what Spring is, and the Corn Maiden as Bride is the very soul of Spring, and the bringer of Spring, making way for Summer.  For this Beltane Tide flows in from Spring and out to Summer.  Though the high tide might land at different places different years, it is the true beginning of Summer.

Here is a Hopi myth, of the Blue Corn Maiden and the Coming of Winter:

It is a myth explaining the seasons, and puts the Corn Maiden in good perspective.

A Web of Aspen Leaves,
April 27, 2012
The moving of the tides is interesting to watch and to feel, for it varies with place and varies day to day.  Last year, it wasn't until Beltane that the land began to wake here, or a couple days after, but this year, it started almost almost a month ago, near Easter, just after the Equinox.  Last year, it didn't get to this point, to this high tide, for another month or two, closer to Pentecost (which was late last year because of a late Easter) than to Beltane.  It makes one wonder, for Easter, and hence Pentecost, vary year to year, because of the fall of the lunar phases in relation to the solar Equinox.  But the Equinox and Beltane are fixed.  Last year, Easter fell at real close to Beltane, both in the Easter and Western calendar, putting Pentecost almost to the Summer Solstice.  This year, Easter fell about half way between the Equinox and Beltane, a bit earlier in the Western calendar and a bit later in the Eastern, and Pentecost much closer to the midpoint between Beltane and the Solstice, once again a bit earier in the Western calendar and a bit later in the Eastern.  Makes me wonder if the lateness or earliness of Winter is lunarly related to the solar year.  Last year, Winter started late and ended late, November until May, July in the mountains.  This year, it started at least a month earlier and ended about the same.  Both years, Spring began around Easter.  Last year, it moved into summer around Pentecost and is on schedule to do so this year as well.  Or, more precisely, both years, Spring began around the first full moon after the equinox, and last year ended about 50 days later, or close to the third waning crescent moon after the equinox.

Aspen Grove,
April 27, 2012
Many people celebrate this high tide in different ways, the most well known being the MayPole.  A pole or tree is placed in the ground, with ribbons tied or fastened to the top.  The young girls and young boys circle the pole every other, so a girl then a boy then a girl and so one.  They each grab a ribbon.  The boys go one direction and the girls the other, dancing around the pole, weaving among each other.  The ribbons braid around the pole making delightful patterns, and pulling the dancers inward until they meet at the pole.  There is a lot of symbolism that has been described to the Maypole, from it being the Axis Mundi or World Tree, to phallic and sexual analogies, to the ribbons representing the leaves returning to the trees.  Regardless of the original meaning, it's a beautiful portrayal of the tide.  In my second grade class, we had a Maypole put up in the classroom and danced it.

Newborn Leaves,
April 26, 2012
There is also, of course, the tradition quite common where I grew up, of children picking flowers on May Day in a basket and placing it on a porch (or hung on a doorknob).  Where I lived, you rang the doorbell or knocked, then ran off, hoping not to get caught.  Much like ding dong ditch, but much nicer.  Reading about this tradition, it seems there are another piece we didn't hear of, that if you got caught, you rewarded the catcher with a kiss.  We have two obvious elements here.  The flowers are very much a sign of Spring, the time when flowers grow.  And the kiss brings in a sexual and fertility element, also a Spring theme.  But the placing of flowers at a door, a threshold, a liminal place, seems significant to me, and I'm wondering if it once began as a blessing the home or the residents.

Willowy Pools,
April 22, 2012
Beltane isn't just a time of celebration.  It is also a powerful time for workings.  As I discussed last year (Beltaine: Snows of Winter, Heat of Summer), Beltane is a time when the Veil is thin between worlds, a liminal time.  This makes it a powerful time for both crossing between worlds and for workings.  Specifically, this is a time to start things, for workings involving beginnings and births and creation, of new bindings.  Just as the waxing and waning of the moon have an effect and can dictate times that are better for certain workings, so too the waxing and waning of the year.  The tide is a point of waxing, whether you measure the yearly cycle from the Solstice or from Beltane, and hence a time for workings for growth and creation and new endeavors.  In addition, the moon is in fact waxing as well, toward a full moon on Saturday.

The May full moon is known by several names, including Milk Moon, Flower Moon, and Corn Moon.

The name Corn Moon is because this is the moon corn is planted under, for best results.  This ties back, or course, the the Corn Maiden and Spring.

It is called the Flower Moon, because flowers often start blooming in abundance around this moon, once again, a feature of Spring, as we noted with the May baskets.

The Milk Moon comes from the increase in rich, good milk at this time of year due to the abundance of fresh green food for animals to eat.  The Old English name for May was þrimilce, meaning three milks or three milkings, because it was a time when you could milk a cow three times a day instead of two.

In the Middle Ages in England, May's full moon was the Hare Moon.  The hare, of course, is prolific in reproduction, a sure sign of fertility, a hallmark of this point in the year.  The hare is often seen as connected to the Dawn, and, of course, as Dawn brings in the day, Spring brings in the Summer.  Hares reach sexual maturity in the very early Spring, beginning the breeding season.  In most areas, they give birth around this time of year, hence the name Hare Moon.

To the Chinese, May's moon is the Dragon Moon.  This is significant this year, the Year of the Water Dragon.  The Chinese lunar months begin at the new moon, with the midpoint at the full moon.  The Chinese Month for the Hare ended on April 20 in the Western calender, with the Month of the Dragon beginning on the 21st.  The Dragon is proud, direct, and decisive, arrogant, tyrannical, and dogmatic.  The Dragon Moon is a moon for action, as is fitting for the waxing Spring, and doubly so in the Year of the Dragon.

Willows and Fences,
April 22, 2012
Each of these names are based on observation of this time of year in different places.  Those Native American tribes that plants corn learned this was the best time of year to do so, so called this moon the Corn Moon.  The English observed that cows produced milk more and richer around this time and called it Three Milkings, the Milk Moon, and also noticed the abundance of new born hares and called it the Hare Month.    Many cultures observed the many flowers blooming and called it the Flower Moon.  The Chinese observed the tenaciousness and purposefulness that the plants renewed their growth and the animals produced their young, the very earth waking up, and the Spring plum rains of Eastern China and called the Moon the Dragon Moon.  Observation led to these names, and the names became aids to know when to plant and when to harvest.

Landscape of Wyoming,
April 22, 2012
Many people trying to resurrect older cultures, to become more "earth-based", to determine when to do workings, take these old names that were given in a specific location and culture and translate them from a moon to a modern month, and try to apply it in their local setting without ever making the observations themselves.  This might work, and it might not, but if you want to be close to the land and to Nature, you need to experience it, you need to observe it, you need to smell it, you need to taste it, you need to listen to it, you need to feel it, both physically and spiritually.  It's not the global landscape you need to consider, but your local landscape.  What does the moon or the tide mean where you are at?  What blooms when?  What sprouts when?  What puts on leaves when?  What mates when?  What gives birth when?  What goes to seed when?  What changes colours when?  What loses leaves when?  When does it rain and when does it snow?  When is it hot and when is it cold?  When is it wet and when is it dry?  All the signs are around you, just observe.

Willows, Aspens, and Pines,
April 22, 2012
For me, the new moon very much feels like the beginning and the end, with the full moon at the high point.  So we are approaching the middle of the Moon.  Which Moon is this?  This Moon started the same weekend as Easter, the old Moon ending on about Friday, April 20th (Good Friday), and this one starting on Saturday, April 21st.

That places the previous Moon as March 22 (two days after the equinox) to April 20th.  Basically the Equinox until Easter.  That Moon can be described in my Easter post (On Easter and the Fertility of Aspens).  I would call it the Catkin Moon or Aspen Moon, for though there was some growth in other species, that was the most profound and noticeable.  Naming it for flowers, I would call it the Buttercup Moon, for buttercups were the only naturally growing flower I saw during that Moon.

Pussywillows in Bloom,
April 22, 2012
So where does that leave this Moon?  I've observed less than half of it, but this Moon has brought green leaves and green grass, butterflies and bees, and rain.  I could call it for anyone of those.  One part of the world does in fact call it the Grass Moon.  I could choose that, or Leaf Moon, or Green Moon, or Butterfly Moon, or Bee Moon, or Rain (or Rainy) Moon.  But the thing that really has stricken me so far this month isn't any of those.  It's the pussywillows that were large in the willow thickets when I visited them the weekend after Easter.  As the Moon before was characterized by the flowering of the aspens in the form of catkins, this Moon is characterized by the flowering of the willows in the form of pussywillows.  So, for now, not knowing what I'll see in the second half of the Moon, I shall call this Moon the Pussywillow Moon, or Willow Moon.

The Risen Lord and Laughing Queen
By Muninn's Kiss

The wakened sleeper clothed in gold,
Warmed with Spring and rising sun,
Drapped in green and newborn leaf,
Who once had died but rose again.

Golden scales and raven hair,
Skin of blue and feathers fair,
Who began a journey by candler's flame,
And rose in glory in first leaf's show.

In comes his Bride the fair Corn Maid,
Whose blackened veil now glowing white,
Grass stains on her small bare feet,
And bloodied sword upon her back.

The dancers dance and singers sing,
Risen lord and laughing queen,
The snow has melted and green grows strong,
Winter then Spring give way to sun.

Veil of white over golden hair,
A cotton dress with playful tears,
Small feet dance as if on air,
She laughs in joy at his peacock flair.

Round they spin just like the year,
Celebrating life and new found love,
Love reborn from past the grave,
Youth and Maiden, lust and joy.

The time has come to start again,
A marriage feast and strong bond hands,
New life, new love, all is born,
Eternal love, past Death's cold hand.

Around the pole the ribbons fly,
Dancing round in lustful fun,
In honor to the fair Corn Maid,
And Peacock Lord reborn again.

~Muninns' Kiss

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