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Article Specs

Article ID: 4297

VoxAcct: 34547

Section: holidays

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 6,467

Times Read: 14,574

Beltaine - Our May Morn

Author: M Macha Nightmare
Posted: May 5th. 2002
Times Viewed: 14,574

Beltaine - Our May Morn
by M. Macha NightMare, ©2002

My partner Corby and I (long-time committed, but not exclusive, relationship with a person of the male persuasion - I was born female and always liked that fact) arise in the dark to drive over from our home in Marin County, California across the Bay to Berkeley to sing up the Sun with the Berkeley Morris Dancers at Inspiration Point in Tilden Park.

We gather at a vista parking lot that faces East towards the hills of Contra Costa County. I've been doing this for close to 20 years, and the Berkeley Morris Dancers have been doing it longer. The death a few years ago of the dance master Terry O'Neill engendered great sadness, but his legacy lives on with the dancers.

Although as I understand it, Morris dancers in England are male, this troupe has dancers of both genders who dance all the dances together. There are no men's dances and women's dances that I can see. They are dressed in white shirts and pants, with red vests, and wear multicolored streamers and bells around their legs just below the knee. A fiddler and other musicians accompany them. One of the dancers is a little blond boy of about five. There's also a bear -- a "Cal bear"? -- and a clown/fool dressed in harlequinish black-and-white striped leggings and black-and-white geometrical-patterned clothing.

The sweetest thing this year is a baby -- boy or girl I could not tell -- sitting on a blanket with hir parents at the edge of the circle. She or he is a round-faced, rosy-cheeked tyke dressed in a white fuzzy overall garment, like a sleeper only with a hood with ears. S/he looks like a bunny rabbit. S/he keeps being drawn to the dancers, crawling off the blanket towards the music and the action. Eventually the dance master takes hir in his arms for a turn or two with the other dancers.

Morris dancers dance in sets, often making patterns and rhythms with sticks, and sometimes even with swords. They're loud and festive, encouraged by the appreciative crowd of Pagans encircling them.

There is one dance that everyone is invited to participate in, a large circle dance, very sprightly and enthusiastic, if a bit confused. Corby and I laugh and dance in the triple circle we have to arrange ourselves in because there are so many of us.

During the dancing, a member of the troupe passes through the assembled crowd offering bites of a tasty poppyseed May cake. Another passes the hat for cash donations.

Parents bring their little babies all bundled up in the cold. (Relative, of course. This is, after all, California). Toddlers, children, tweens, teens, young adults, mature adults, oldsters in chairs or walking with staffs - about 200-300 Pagans in the predawn air. Some of the younger folks have been awakened in the dark and driven to this annual rite every year of their lives. These events will be in their memories of their childhoods. Now there are third generation babies coming with their parents and grandparents.

By 7:00 a.m. or so it's all over. The Sun has risen, we've cheered its return. We've sung a few May carols together. Those of us who must work day jobs on this sabbat can leave in time to get to work. Some may join others at a restaurant for breakfast before going to work. Many years that's what I did. This year, however, Corby and I have taken the day off.

Most years we've taken over one or more restaurants, where we continue to sing May carols now and then, and generally party up the place. Some restaurant staff stress over this, but most enjoy it, especially when we leave generous tips for all the bother we've put them to.

This year, however, Vicki, who regularly attends with her three daughters, decides to offer her own solution to the restaurant dilemmas - dealing with morning rush-hour traffic, looking for parking, pushing tables together, keeping the coffee brewing, overwhelming the kitchen and wait staff. She lives with her family in a huge house in the Oakland hills. So she invites us to a huge buffet breakfast of crepes, fresh red strawberries, sausage, coffee and other tasty comestibles she'd prepared ahead of time and which is all ready and waiting for us as we drift in from our outing in the hills.

All the downstairs rooms fill with Pagans. Teens seem to congregate in the breakfast room. Crones like me balance our food on our laps while we gab about all manner of topics in the sunken living room. It's just great fun all round.

Last April 30 I had a hysterectomy (fibroids) so wasn't up on the hill. That makes this year's pilgrimage all the sweeter. Beltane is a year and a day since my surgery. Corby and I, having taken the day off work, spend much of the afternoon in traditional celebration, Not in the furrowed fields, not in the orchards, rather in our own cozy bed.

Although this year it's too dry to find much May Morn dew to wash our faces, and I'm too sleepy to gather fresh mugwort to put in our pillows to facilitate dreams and visions like we usually do on Beltane, we share a most joyous turning of the Wheel. We hope you did, too.



M Macha Nightmare

Location: San Rafael, California


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