Some words from this year’s Bower and their experiences in the start of the Beltane preparations…
Arriving on the hill to locate our Bower and perform a ritual of opening, blessing and protection it was a wonderful surprise to find it full of Whites, walking a circle around its centre point. How perfect. Leaving White to it, we walked the route of the procession, pausing at each point where the May Queen traditionally stops to talk about what happens there, and why, what it reflects of the May Queen’s journey from a performance and a symbolic perspective, and the role of the other groups that traditionally meet the May Queen, especially that of Red and the elements. Fire Arch (Guardians of the Veil) and Red Slope were clearly points of great significance to group members which was clear in our moments of quiet reflection and will return to those points again.
Arriving ‘home’, cold and in deep reflection as a group, we took a break, broke bread together and then shared it with the Whites as they ended their practice, while passing round the next round of (frozen) bread dough to get White to ‘give it a chuck and wish it luck’. As White practice closed, we began our planned ritual for protection and well wishing, joined by two members of White (thanks) I say ‘planned’, meaning we agreed this would happen. What actually took place in deeply appropriate but unplanned solemnity, was a native Canadian style ritual led by one of our members who has long been accepted as a resident of a reservation in Canada.
She brought her ceremonial pouch, shaman stick, rattle and conch shell and smudged everyone present (meaning wafted smoke of burning sage leaves over people which helps make the energy space around our bodies clear and positive) and we poured and blessed water, each drank some, and poured it on the ground. The shaman stick with its beautiful carving, thread and feather decorations was pushed into the ground and in the space it left we each placed a pinch of tobacco, which we first held and concentrated our wishes that the Bower space and the whole hill be protected and blessed so that our work in the ceremony may have the most positive outcome for the land, the community, the city and the Earth. One member of the Bower also placed in the earth something personal which he had carried for a long time. We poured more water and stood in a ring in silence for a long time, and then, just because it felt right, we all joined our arms together and for a few minutes we had a sound bath, which ended when all the notes harmonised. We poured the second bowl of water at the entrance to the Bower (i.e. between the two trees which is the previous site of the heart of the Bower). We poured the water on a spot where we are told an amethyst heart was buried by previous Beltaners in around 2002.
By then it was cold and the light was fading, so off we went to the Regent for warm mulled wine (or tea!) and to meet other group members who couldn’t be with us for work. And we took some Whites with us and sat talking in the cosy pub until we were warm and well fed and it was time to go home.