It’s that time of year again folks – Beltane’s coming this weekend. Beltane - that enduring celebration of light, sex, and life. There are some parts of Beltane that I love, such as giving May Baskets and getting up to watch the sun rise. There are other parts that I love a little less – the whole light and life thing. Maybe I’m just a sullen bastard, but this year I am sooo not feeling the love and the light (not that I ever really do). This year my focus is going to be on Walpurgistnach (also called May Eve), the darker celebration that occurs on the night before May 1st.
If you’ve ever seen the original Fantasia, think about the scene of Night on Bald Mountain. Remember all those crazed and frightening creatures dancing around a bonefire on top of a mountain? Yeah, that scene depicts an old folktale of Walpurgistnacht in which the devil calls forth all of his servants for only last unholy good time before the light and warmth put the dark to bed for the year. I don’t take Walpurgistnacht that far, but I do like celebrating the dark side of things.
While I would love to spend the evening of the 30th in my temple – doing shadow work, tarot readings, and generally steeping myself in the smoke of dragon’s blood incense – I will instead by spending the evening in Spokane, staying with a family friend and getting ready to walk Bloomsday (a big 12k). This puts a definite crimp in my shadowy style, but can’t really be helped. I’ll just have to do my working on Friday night instead of Saturday (the gods really don’t quibble over a day or two).
I plan to spend Friday evening doing a lot of meditation. I’ve been spending a lot of my time of late worrying about what other people think and about what messages I’m sending out into the world. This has been quite necessary, but it means that I haven’t spent as much time communing with my gods as I really should. My gods are dark and scary, but in an oddly compassionate way. Working with dark (but not insane or evil) deities is a little like worshipping a drill instructor – they will put you through absolute hell in the safest way they can to make sure that when it happens out in the world (and rest assured it will) you’ll be able to survive and even thrive. In terms of Beltane and Walpurgistnacht it means that you celebrate the warmth of the growing sun while remembering that spring time also means torrential rains, allergies, and the occasional hailstorm. Celebrate the good, but prepare for the bad – but not so much that you can’t enjoy the good while it happens. I’ll be meditating on how to improve my balance between my paranoid preparedness and stopping to smell the flowers when I can. It’s not something I’m very good at.
I’ll also spend a goodly chunk of time doing tarot readings to figure out what I need to focus on in the coming months between Beltane and Litha. I like to use tarot to give me insight into where I need to put my focus. My virgo brain can get really bogged down in the minutia of the tasks I give myself, to the point where I completely lose sight of the reason I started doing them in the first place. Tarot is great at lifting me above the details and letting me see the big picture – how everything connects, the ultimate goals I hope to achieve, and the reasons why.
For me Walpurgistnacht is about seeing the Beltane season in its totality – the good and the bad forming a complete whole. Beltane is a celebration of all the good things that spring growth has to offer. Walpurgistnacht reminds us that all of those good things come with both a price and an expiration date – so enjoy them while you can and hold them in an open hand.