The actions, poems, songs, and reflections below are intended to be enjoyed offline as a complement to Beltane Online Fire Festival. We have summed up all the activities in a PDF document, which you can download and print for your own use, and included links to our audio content on Soundcloud, which are available for download if you’d rather listen to them away from the internet.
These are activities you can do inside, outside, and practical actions you can take for nature. We’re probably preaching to the choir for a lot of it, but hopefully there are some new fun things to do and learn. Activities surround developing your own connection to the elements and various key points from Beltane’s performance/ritual.
These are largely individualistic actions that are simple things to do at home, but this is for now whilst keeping in mind the more important stance of supporting systemic change.
Buddy up! It would be nice to do these activities and share your reflections with a friend. If you know of people that would be into this, please print off and send to them.
Please remember at all times to follow government guidelines about going outdoors safely and responsibly. Current guidelines say the public can go outside once a day for one hour, and that you must only be accompanied by members of your household.
After grief – opening a space for any sadness that may be present in us and breathing into it.
Gratitude – looking at what is beautiful in life and using it as our torch to guide us from the darkness to the light
Outside: activity to find ‘our gift hidden in the challenge’: Set intention to ‘find your gift’ and see what you feel drawn to on your daily walk. What does your object/plant look, feel, smell, sound like? How might it relate to you or your gift?
Going through fire arch
Outside: Go for a walk and notice places of transition – sunset/sunrise and the balance between light and dark, a road verge that is neither concrete nor field, a river or path that transitions from narrow to wide, a reflection of the natural cycles in transition (fallen tree decomposing). Choose one and stay with it for a few moments, noticing feelings and thoughts that arise associated with the various zones of transition. Play around with moving between the zones, remembering that your breath can always harness you, no matter how chaotic and transitional your surroundings are.
Inside: Make a smudge stick for Beltane night – dried herbs that are burned to encourage feelings of calm and to clear the space. Make sure you keep a window open when burning. You can use any or all of the herbs listed; sage, lavender, rosemary, rose petals, heather, meadowsweet, mugwort, thyme and/or pine. Take a bunch of fresh herbs, and wrap up using twine/natural fibre string, tightly at either end. Hang up by the window to dry.
Action: Diversity thrives in transitional spaces. See if you can protect a transitional space from being cut down by investigating and making a sign about the wildlife that might grow there (e.g. meadowsweet grows in road verges).
Exploring what the air element means to you
Outside: Listen in the forest or local greenspace/communal garden on your daily walk. Can you write a poem or prose about the soundscape you hear? Gather air related materials to make a mobile at home (e.g. feathers, pine branches that look like lungs).
Inside: Listen to song about air (When I rise written by Wendell Berry). Make art out of rubbish e.g. a mosaic of what air means to you. Breath exercises help calm the body and mind, and revitalize our bodies e.g. inhale-hold-exhale 7-4-7 seconds.
Action: Build a bird feeder out of waste for your window
Take part in a swift survey from your bedroom window
Think about how you can protect whales and inner city trees where possible.
Exploring what the earth element means to you
Outside: Notice weeds and herbs around where you live, connect with them meditating beside them or foraging for tea/cooking. A really beautiful question from a book called ‘Intuitive Herbalism’ is ‘How do my ancestors know you?’ Many herbs have a lot of nutritional benefit right now for wellbeing, such as immune system support or for anxiety, see if you can research them. Here’s a wonderful place to start and remember to harvest sustainably.
Find a tree on your daily walk. Walk around it or meditate beside it and see what insights/feelings arise. Mimic the tree’s movement with your body. Take a picture to remember it and bring home. What mythology surrounds the tree? Make a few sketches – one of the space between the tree branches, one of the essence of the tree and finally a naturalistic sketch of it.
Walk barefoot in the mud where you can, gather earth related items and create a collage on the ground of what earth means to you.
Inside: Listen to song about earth (I’m going home). Cook a nourishing meal or a bannock, gather clay-soil and mould a shape of what the earth element means to you.
Action: Plant wildflower or any seeds, in cartons on windowsill or guerrilla garden where you can
Plant trees or support local groups that do with time/money if you can
Learn how to mend clothes to avoid landfill, and any other way you can creatively refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, regift, recover (upcycle) before recycling.
Exploring what the water element means to you
Outside: Make a list of all the bodies of water you meet on your daily walk. Observe the movement within the water body, if any. Write three words about them. Make a list of words or form into a poem.
Inside: Drink water or have a shower to connect with water. Listen to song about selkies (murky water written by Anna O’Neill) and draw what comes up, with water colours or dip your finger into water and draw on paper.
Find a source of running water. If possible, mimic it through body movement. Find a well and learn about the history of it.
Take part in the Water Element group’s activity on Facebook
Action: Listen to/read selkie stories, make a bird bath (on windowsill, in greenspace, in back garden), make a hibernaculum or a pond out of an old bucket, sign petitions to protect water bodies near you (reefs, fishing, against oil (spills))
Beach or river clean
Exploring what the fire element means to you
Outside or inside: Listen to song about fire (Fire sacred fire). Make a fire or light a candle, mimic fire/candle movement with your body, draw or write free verse using charcoal or a pencil what the fire element means to you.
Learn a drum beat, song or story you might share for when we all meet again round a fire.
Action: Fire is not in balance globally. Explore what climate change mitigation actions you can take on an individual, community and systemic level.
For example, listen to indigenous people; support their rights to their land by challenging corporations, bearing in mind what they face beyond wildfires
Outside: On a walk look out for somewhere you could call home, if possible, sit there for a while. Observe what sort of home you choose – was it sheltered, hidden, open, spacious. Sit briefly and notice if any other animals visit you. Find an object that represents your chosen place to take back, so that you always have that natural space with you.
Action: create a home for nature in your local area
Useful reflective questions written by Joanna Macy about taking next steps to be active hope in the world.
TRY THIS: IDENTIFYING YOUR GOALS AND RESOURCES
This process works well when you team up with someone else, taking turns to interview and support each other.
- If you knew you could not fail, what would you most want to do for the healing of our world?
- What specific goal or project could you realistically aim to achieve in the next twelve months that would contribute to this?
- What resources, inner and outer, do you have that will help you do this?
- Inner resources include specific strengths, qualities, and experience, as well as the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired.
- External resources include relationships, contacts, and networks you can draw on, as well as material resources such as money, equipment, and places to work or recharge.
- What resources, inner and external, will you need to acquire? What might you need to learn, develop, or obtain?
- How might you stop yourself? What obstacles might you throw in the way?
- How will you overcome these obstacles?
- What step can you take in the next week, no matter how small — making a phone call, sending an email, or scheduling in some reflection time — that will move you toward this goal?
Songs sung by Katie O’Neill and Francesco Benvenuti or Anna O’Neill
Featured image by Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.