Beltane – A community celebration of fertility and regeneration

Guest post by Ayla Willow

We gathered on 2nd May at elfwoods to celebrate Beltane, an ancient Celtic festival where the ancestors of these lands came together to celebrate the return of fertility to the land and the final letting go of the Winter season. It was a beautiful day of interweaved festivities and fun.

Ayla Willow has been facilitating these Wheel of the Year celebration days for the last few years for women and children in locations around Hampshire and Sussex, however, this year it was wonderful to open up our Beltane celebration to men and Fathers in our growing community. It felt particularly right as Beltane celebrates the union of the masculine and the feminine, the alchemising forces of fertility and life, which abound at this time of the year in the flora and fauna all around us.

The beauty of this year’s Beltane celebration started in the run up to the day, with the community rallying together to erect and decorate a Maypole at elfwoods. This stirred the opening of our hearts and excitement for the coming event. And the day itself did not disappoint… there were tears and laughter, a sense of relief in the possibility of life, coming together and celebrating and honouring the bounty of Spring & Summer. There was the sense of a release of the ‘outbreath’ that Winter held in its womb, allowing in a new, fresh breath; a deeper breath of potential, new life and the rising creative energy of the Summer that beckons on the horizon.

We began our day by opening space, inviting in and thanking the directions, the seasons, the elements, the Earth & Sky; a simple way to remember our place in the ecosystem of life, so that we sense our belonging in the world and cultivate a deep respect and reverence for all that is always holding and supporting us. We continued with songs and crafts, making flower crowns and connecting with the woodland through nature connection practices.

We were building up to Maypole dancing, and this was palpable in the children’s curiosity and questions of when we were going to dance!? And dance we did, around the Maypole to traditional music; bringing a healthy dose of humour & laughter to our missteps, dropped and tangled ribbons, overtakings of those dancing faster and more enthusiastically…  All in all it was great fun and we weaved and wrapped the ribbons in a unique pattern around the pole over the course of our dance.

Beltane roughly translates as ‘bright fire’, and to celebrate this aspect we followed our Maypole dance by jumping the fire, an ancient tradition to welcome the element of fire in and call in vitality, transformation and alchemy to our intentions and prayers for the year. This was another favourite with the children!

We completed our day with a silent disco in the woods. By the end of the set I had many budding DJs and MCs around mr sharing messages with the dancers through the microphone, such as ‘you are magic’. The children then called everyone back into circle around the fire to complete together and give thanks for our day. We released our circle, taking all the love and warmth generated in our hearts, to begin our journeys back to the outside world, hopefully taking a bit of the beauty of the day with us.

You can see the delight that built and was experienced throughout the day in the photos. This really is the embodiment of Beltane ~ the coming together, into connection, in community, to celebrate life. It is a time of re-engagement with life and each other, coming out of the Wintery time of hibernation, with the increasing warmth and spring energy in the air. The budding blossoms all around us invite us to also start blooming back into life once again in the cycle of the seasons and life.

The Maypole still stands tall, wrapped in coloured ribbons on the land at Elfwoods as I write this, as a beautiful symbol of the fun, joy, connection, celebration and ceremony we shared, and can continue to be enjoyed by the those visiting in the coming weeks until we take it down and honour the continuous changing nature of the cycles. We let go to let in, as nature is always showing us.

I am in deep gratitude for the community that is gathering and growing, and the beautiful Beltane day we shared. Our next celebration will be Lithia ~ Summer Solstice – more information to be shared soon on the elfwoods events pageWe also run a Mother’s Fire at elfwoods every Monday afternoon, where we gather around the fire for a few hours each week to share, sing, drum, craft and learn the seasonal ways as a community of women and children.