The Earth is Stirring… and it is time to find our next May Queen. Read on for details on the role, the process and how to find out more.
The Growing Light
The longest night has passed, and from the depths of midwinter the promise of the sun’s growing strength reminds us that a new summer of richness and life awaits us, just as sleeping seeds wait in the earth below.
Over the winter the Cailleach reigns, her white cloak draped over hills. We feel Her presence, ancient and timeless, in the peaks, the glens, in the rushing waters and the stone they carve. As personification of the Earth itself, she is old, wise, often stern, but loving of all who walk upon Her, for all came from Her, and return to Her in the end.
In ancient Celtic tradition she is an Earth-goddess, mother of all: we are all made from Her and by Her, and, while born into our individual lives, we nevertheless remain dependent on Her.
A New Cycle
Our quarter-day festivals honour the Earth and its cycles of life, death, and rebirth, using the changes of the moon and season to draw attention to the spirals of change in our own lives, as patterns and changes that echo the greater whole.
The growth and life of the coming springtime reminds us of the fertility of the Earth, on which all of our lives ultimately depend. This is powerfully symbolised on Beltane night by the bonfire, where the material of the Earth combines with the energy of the Sun to create something new: the fire, a symbol of the life that combines and transcends them both.
Our bonfire is a symbol of life and transformation, and is lit each year by a personification of the Earth, who has herself undergone a process of transformation. One tale has it that, around Imbolc, the old Cailleach crone casts her staff into the earth, and becomes a mountain; and on Beltane night, the Goddess is born anew out of the mud, blooming like a flower in a maiden form, as the May Queen.
The May Queen
The May Queen, with the fire she carries, is at the heart of Beltane, Her festival. She leads Her procession around the Hill, gathering the elements in preparation for the coming transformation. Although newly-awakened and with pure intent, she carries the wisdom of the Earth’s endless cycles, and pushes forward the wheel of change, trusting that all unfolds as it should. As she journeys, she remains the focus of the festival, uniting the diverse aspects of the festival and community and gathering them all together to witness the transformation of the season.
Included in Her procession is Her counterpart, the Green Man. She guides him to his own transformation – his death and rebirth – and to their union, as lovers and as symbols of the alchemical combination of opposites, like the Earth and Sun, from which all life springs.
As the central figure of our Beltane festival, the May Queen is a unique role in the Beltane Fire Society. She is many different things to many people across our community, and the description here is just one interpretation.
In our 30 year history, only six people have held the role, each one passing it on to the next, with the advice of the Blues. However, at a Big Blether last summer, after our most recent May Queen stepped aside, our Society came to a consensus that, while the role should continue to be held for several festivals at a time, the selection process should be based around nominations from the membership itself.
It is therefore with great excitement that we open this call for our seventh May Queen. Nominees – including those nominating themselves – are welcome from all members of our community, although nominators should bear in mind that, at the same Blether, the community broadly agreed that qualities such as people’s nature and participation in the community should influence selection.
To further explore these qualities, the Selection Committee will hold an informal public meeting on Tuesday January 9th 2018 (7pm at the Blue Blazer, 2 Spittal Street, Edinburgh EH3 9DX) to discuss notes from the Blether, and to hear from the community what they would like to see in a May Queen. Please note that this meeting will *not* be to discuss the merits of particular individuals; its aim is to inform what we as a community are looking for in a holder of the role – please join us if you have anything you would like to contribute.
These qualities will not be exhaustive, and the chosen person will have broad scope to interpret the role as they define their own process; however, as the central character and figurehead of our community, we expect that:
- The May Queen will be involved in actively creating the main storyline of the festival, along with the Green Man. This is a key to the whole Society’s vision, and the understanding of the May Queen’s journey.
- Anyone considering accepting a nomination should take time to think about their entire journey, while understanding that growing into the role is a creative process. They should be prepared to share their evolving vision with the society, and their preparation plans with the Blues and Event Coordinator.
- They must be available for at least one day of the GO weekend on Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th February 2018 and for the Open Meeting on Sunday 25th February 2018.
Please note that gender is not a criteria used to select any BFS role.
Nominations should be emailed to the Blues at blues [at] beltane [dot] org with the subject heading ‘May Queen’, giving the nominee’s name, contact details (if available/appropriate), and anything else you wish to add. Nominations will close at 11pm on Monday 8th January 2018.
If you are considering nominating someone, including yourself, but have further questions, or simply want to talk about the role is and entails, don’t hesitate to contact the Blues for a confidential chat.
You can view full details on the selection process here. For any questions about the process, please contact the Board at board [at] beltane [dot] org.
We look forward to welcoming our next May Queen!