The world as we know it is dying. We are living through a major extinction event, and even if our societies can stomach the changes it will take to limit global warming, we are – for most of the planet – reaching a point of no return.
Our planet is dying, and collectively we are living through the cycles of grief. Denial – both the climate-change denialism of the problem, and the retreat into a hedonistic ‘what can we do?’ Anger – the rage at our leaders for their inaction, or the simmering anger that our problems are anyone’s fault – the foreigners, the experts, the ignorant – but our own. Bargaining – the energy spent on activism, the hopes pinned on technology, that somehow we can stop this, even reverse it. Depression – the epidemic of hopelessness, of nihilism, for a future lost before it’s begun.
It is right to grieve. Grief is a sign of love, and the Earth we love is dying.
This year’s Beltane reflects that grief. The May Queen – embodiment of the Earth – arises this year, not as the perfect flower of tradition, but as the Earth as it truly is – covered with plastic, oil spills, and on fire. She is angry, She is sad. She is grieving for what is lost.
But neither She nor we can grieve forever.
Setting out on Her journey, the May Queen chooses to confront that grief. To move through it. To let go. She leads Her consort – the Green Man, symbol of life’s enduring return – to his death, trusting that, when he accepts the coming darkness, She can give him life again.
For life will go on, life will return.
But what kind of life will that be? What will the Earth become as She enters the anthropocene?
Beltane is a story of alchemy – a story not just of renewal, but of transmutation. The death of the past means the birth of a new future; there is no going back. We have always been dependent on the Earth, and as we enter this new age, our interdependence cannot be ignored. Like the May Queen, can we trust in the power of life to overcome? Can we find joy after grief, like green shoots sprouting from the ashes of destruction? How will we change ourselves so that this new world will flourish?
This Beltane, we celebrate this new cycle in the eternity of cycles. We recognise that we are and always have been a part of Her, the Earth our mother. And, acknowledging our grief, we look beyond it, to find the joy that we need to be a better world.
Featured image by Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.