Beltane/May Day


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Yucca: Welcome back to the Wonder Science-based Paganism. I'm your host Yucca.

Mark: I'm Mark.

Yucca: And today we are talking about Beltane, May Day, Gwanwyn, whatever it is that you call it for where those of us in the Northern hemisphere coming into spring.

Mark: Yes. Or depending on how you count it coming into summer, because during the Renaissance, this was considered the beginning of summer, there are all these madrigals about, you know, the beginning of, of summer for the wonderful one of Maine. And that of course is because they were in the middle of what's called the little ice age and What they considered summer.

Wasn't exactly what we consider summer a day that reaches 60 degrees was, was ball money in those days. And they were very happy to have them. So when may rolled around, it was a time when people started feeling like they weren't trapped indoors all the time.

Yucca: Yeah. And that a lot of the agriculture side could really pick up. And until very, very recently, the majority of the human population was involved in agriculture. The fact that today it's a minority is a, is really, I think this is the only time in history since we have been doing agriculture, that that has been the case.

Mark: Yes. Yes. With the, with the innovation of agriculture and concentration of populations in cities. So-called civilization. That's what we've been doing until the advent of industrial capitalism and the, the industrial farming and all the things that go along with that.

Yucca: Yeah. So really the 20th, the beginning of the 20th century into the little bit into the med, but let's, let's talk about what this holiday is to each of us and what it is on a. Larger community level.

Mark: Okay.

Yucca: Yeah. So Mark, what is happening in your climate right now? It's been spring for a while,

Mark: Yeah, but it's still lovely. It's where we are starting the beginning of the Marine fog cycle, which means that if we have a couple of days of heat, which to this point has only meant into the eighties or so. Then what will happen is that there will be an upwelling inland because of the heat. The air is expanding and therefore there's a low pressure zone and it pulls the cooler moisture Laden Marine.

Layer in from the ocean and we get fog and it cools everything down for a couple of days. And so there's this cycle of 55 degree days and then sort of 80 degree days. And then sort of maybe you get a little bit of heat, but then the fog comes in really aggressively. It's fantastic for growing things.

To my understanding Sonoma County is considered one of the most fertile places in the world. You can grow almost anything here. The the only exception are tropical plants that won't make it like coffee and pineapple and things like that. But even bananas I've, I've seen, I have seen a banana tree.

I have no idea whether it actually generates any bananas or not, but it is a banana tree. So right now the, the fruit trees have mostly finished. Blooming, but there are still some blooms on them. Some of them are now, you know, starting the process of creating fruit. I've just finished working at a plant sale for my organization, a fundraiser for the last couple of days.

And so all these little sprouted starts of tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers and summer squash and winter squash and leaf vegetables and flowers and all these things. I've really kind of been up to my elbows in it for, for a couple of days. And it reminds me that this is really the time in my region when people are putting in gardens.

We had the most amazing experience yesterday at this sale. Our hours were from 10 to four. There was a mob gathered at the gate at 10 o'clock in the morning on Saturday. And this wave of humanity flowed into our facility. And when it flowed out three hours later, 80% of our plants were gone.

Yucca: Wonderful.

Mark: raised more than $10,000 selling plants at four bucks a piece.

I mean, it was, it was, it was extraordinary. And I mean, a lot of that was that people were generous and rounded up there. Their cost in order to make a donation to the organization. But we had close to 3000 plants and they just went away. People bought them and off, they went into people's gardens. So it's definitely that fertility time of year, the time of, of, of growth and planting and And just that lively late spring feeling kind of time in my era, in my area.

How about yours?

Yucca: Well, it's definitely spring now. It's, it's kind of we're at the G of ready set go. Right. We're just about to, it's tempting us to put the plants in the ground. But we will freeze at least one more time before the 15th. Usually even in late may, we still might get a frost, but we're lower thirties and the night upper sixties during the day, it's a really very pleasant time of year, unless you have Juniper allergies.

In which case it is a miserable time of year for people, because you can just see the pollen, literally see the golden clouds of the Paulette traveling through the sky and Do you like the smell? Great. If you're allergic to it, it's rough. But the, the, the trees are the fruit trees are blooming and it's that kind of delicate time where if the fruits, if the, if they can set, then they might make it through that frost.

But a lot of the years, they don't when that late frost comes, because lots of fruit trees that were planted here, people just. Planted them hopefully. And it's went well, we'll try right. If it survives, maybe.

Mark: Every two, three years we'll get a good harvest.

Yucca: that's right. And, and when it's apricot ear, you're begging people to come and take your Apricot's away.

Right? They're just, we get these little golf ball sized Apricot's that just are everywhere. And the birds love them and everybody loves them, but it's just this very awake time, but it's almost, you're almost ready to go. You're almost out there, but it's not quite time. So it's, you're just getting ready to run and the birds are all back.

And I saw the first few hummingbirds last, these last couple of weeks, and it's just a very alive time. With a little bit of cling still to that coldness. it's wonderful. And finally, we can be outside barefoot and running around and, and getting sunburns and my freckles are back like crazy, you know? So yeah, love this time of year.

Mark: Yeah, well, it sounds like what's in common is that it's a very energizing time of year. There's a feeling that the outdoors has become welcoming when it wasn't for a long time and there's so much energetic going on in the natural world. And in the agricultural cycle happening right now. So. To me.

I, I mean, there are the metaphorical meanings of Mayday or Beltane that I celebrate, but then there's also just that, that, that youthful, energetic, creative, fertile kind of juice that, that happens this time of year. That's just so exciting. It feels so good.

Yucca: Yeah. And so terms of the, of your wheel of the year, your experience of the different holidays. What is this holiday for you? One, what, what do you call it? So there are so many different names. And what does it mean for you?

Mark: Sure. Well, I call it Mayday, which is unfortunate to some degree because sometimes I have to celebrate it on some day, other than May 1st, but I still call it Mayday. And the reason that I do that is that I don't really connect with any prior culture. I might. People who've been in the United States since 16, 20, any recollection of connection with people from another place is forgotten.

So on this sort of generic American kind of quasi secular white guy, and And what that means is that I don't connect with the Celtic names for for holidays around the course of the wheel of the year or Norse names or Greek names or. You know, Egyptian names or whatever it might happen to be.

But I do celebrate a cycle of holidays that is eight stations around the course of the year, which was invented by Gerald Gardner in creating Wicca in the 1940s. And. Basing that in some traditions that go far, far further back. But no culture that we know of actually celebrated all eight of those stations around the course of the year.

The reason that I find that meaningful and that I celebrate that we live the year is that it's rooted in astronomical reality. It's the solstices and equinoxes. And then the mid points between each of those which creates a natural evenly spaced wheel with these eight spokes. And May Day is one of the so-called cross quarters, which means it's a midpoint between the spring Equinox and the summer solstice.

And I do draw many of the traditional meanings of modern Neo paganism into my metaphorical understanding of this time of the year. I tend to map. The wheel of the year is not only the agricultural wheel of the year, but also the arc of a human life. So birth that you will and infancy at the February Sabbath, which I call river rain and kind of.

Childhood generally, you know, the childhood of elementary school pre preteen at the spring Equinox. And so this holiday becomes the holiday of young adulthood. It's entry into sexuality, it's entry into taking on some adult responsibilities. And and agency in ways that that people younger do not have yet.

And so it becomes a time of celebrating that sort of empowerment and also just very joyful sensual pleasures, taste, touch, feel scent Eating delicious things and just enjoying bodily pleasures. How about yours? Yours is probably about bugs.

Yucca: That's next that's next time.

That's no, the art that you're close, but that's that's for solstice. So, for, for us, we do, we don't really map the human life. Or the relationship between people or things like that for us, each of the holidays in each of the seasons, really? Because the holidays are just the midpoint of the seasons and they're fun too.

They're fun. And they're wonderful and they're celebrations, but it really is about the whole season for us. And so which particular day we celebrate the holiday, it's kind of flexible. But for us this time, which is second spring although sometimes we'll end up using Belton or Mayday neither of the terms, I really connect with that much, although I do very strongly connect with the Celtic side of things.

I don't speak. Any of the Gaelic languages. So I'm on the brittonic side and we have a different, so, Gwanwyn would be spring. But this is a time that we're celebrating the annuals. So each season we celebrate a part of the larger biosphere, an ecosystem or a type of living thing that really is impactful to our lives as human animals.

So this is the animals. This is the flowering plants. Although there are many perennial flower and plants as well, but this is the time to celebrate those, those quick growers, those annuals, the. The vegetables, the leafy fees, all of those things that, that are only here for a short period of time, they come in and they burst out of the soil and they collect that sunlight and they, they transform the energy from our star into biotic right there.

The transformers from the avionic to biotic. And it's just magical and amazing. And it's this rush and then it's, and then they're gone, but they lay the foundation for everything else. They're the first stage and succession. They are the food for many of the creatures, they're their own beings to themselves.

And so this is just delight in that. That recognition of that. And really also for us getting ready for, for beginning the annual garden, because it's about to be a lot of work.

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: So we're starting to harden off the plants and resisting putting them in the ground. But the ones that we've started by seed our tomatoes and peppers and all of those.

Want to put them in the ground, but not doing it. And yeah, just and loving the flowers in the spring and outside and playing.

Mark: Well, I think there's a real similarity there in particularly in that, that sh very short, that very short life cycle, which kind of grabs at the opportunity of life and thrusts up out of the earth and spreads out some solar panels and starts making sugar. And and immediately goes to work, starting to arrange for reproduction of itself and then dies. Which is the story of life on earth by and large it's it's, it is a rarity for something not to live that cycle for a multicellular life, not to live that cycle. And you know, we, we happen to be fortunate in that we, we get to live for a little while, not very long in, in any kind of grand scheme of things, but.

You know, a handful of decades is it's a pretty good run for a multicellular animal on planet earth.

Yucca: It really is. I mean, considering that. Most multicellular animals on earth are Beatles

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: they really get it. They get about a season typically and that's it. Right.

Mark: right.

Yucca: We get, you know, handful of decades, maybe, you know, I'm shooting for I'm shooting for that hundred personally. see if we make it, but you know, that's what we get.

And that's, it's amazing though. Think about what the transformation we get to see, but compared to a Redwood

Mark: To lettuce,

Yucca: or compared to let us yeah. That's even,

Mark: let us basically thrusts these leaves up into the world and shouts come and eat me. Because I'm delicious.

Yucca: yeah

Mark: and yet somehow manages to survive, even though it gets riddled with holes or has herbivores come by and just crop it off entirely. Somehow the species manages to bolt and send out all of these seeds everywhere.

Just like, just like that Cottonwood tree we were talking about before we started recording. Or the junipers that you were mentioning in your neighborhood right now. And they start the cycle all over and there's something that's very wonderful to me about that profit legacy. There's an unashamed muchness about the, the plant world that it contrasts with the culture of the society that I grew up in a lot.

And And that's why I feel it's very important to have a holiday that acts that is enshrined to acknowledge sexuality because we've got so much stuff around it. Just so many issues and arguments and guilts and shames then. And. And debates over even people's existence, you know, debates over whether non-binary people even exist.

It's ridiculous. The, the degree to which we're all bound and twisted up around this one particular aspect of our existence. But I feel that. One of the things that Gardner got right in Waco was in assigning a holiday to the celebration of sexuality, because that's a truly revolutionary act that is truly an in your face rebellion against the Christian shame filled Abrahamic.

Understanding of why we're here, what we're supposed to do, what the rules are, who we're responsible to what we're accountable to in life. The whole time idea that you have to follow this kind of random lists of do random list of do's and don'ts otherwise you get thrown in a pit of fire is Somewhat primitive in my opinion, and probably not very well based in reality.

And I, on the other hand, I look at this and sexuality is one of the places where people can have deep and abiding joy and pleasure if they don't get in their own way. Obviously consent is important, but I know people who are so bound up in their shame over their desires, that. It's like an anvil around their neck, if it's just a terrible thing and they come back to this shame again and again and again, and inevitably it's what mom told them or what dad punished them for, you know, something, something so sad like that.

So I, I personally feel that that. Neo pagan branding of May Day as a holiday, celebrating sexuality is something that is a value.

Yucca: Yeah, I share that. Definitely. There's some places that I personally would like to see some expansion. I see there being a big focus on it being often, especially within the, the theistic side, the relationship between the God and the goddess and this very this very specific idea of what sexuality is.

Very heteronormative. Yeah. And. Not to say that there's anything wrong with that, but that, that's just one of the many expressions that I think all humans can have that we don't, you know, no matter where somebody identifies on that spectrum that we are very fluid creatures and have a lot of different ways of experiencing that.

And I think it's wonderful also to, to. To look at the rest of nature. We often anthropomorphize nature and we look at it and we put all these human ideas and modeling on it, the separating the world into masculine and feminine and the sexism, things like that, where I think sometimes there's some real value in trying to, I don't know what the word would be.

Eco to, to try and turn it around and see ourselves as part of the, of nature and part of the larger picture and recognize the mortifies ourselves. And really just get into the whole. Flower thing, right? Thinking about how amazing you were talking about the, the unashamed, just presentation with the plant world.

Thinking about flowers. I mean like, Oh yeah. They enlist. They evolve to say, Hey, B. Butterfly come on over here, help me out. Right. Let it let's help me out between my my fellow flower over there and me. Right. And just looking at that from a broader perspective, I think is just an amazing opportunity for this time of year.

Mark: I think so, too. And part of, one of the things that makes me very sad about sort of the state of sexuality in the, in the Western world. And I think this is evolving. So, you know, I think there is some hope, but one of the things that makes me very sad is that humans share the quality of being both. Sexual beings and being very curious, we're very exploratory kinds of creatures, but these iron Gates come down around what you're allowed to do as a person in a male body or a person in a female body.


Yucca: That there

Mark: That there are people that are in other bodies that don't really fall into either of those categories. Right. So all of these strictures are in the way when the truth is that. An ordinary healthy person might have a variety of different kinds of sexual experiences throughout their life with different kinds of people.

And that would just be a matter of exploring the world that they're in, which is what we do. It's what humans do from the minute that we can crawl. We're B even before that, from the minute that we can work our hands, we're beginning to explore the nature of the world around us and. Curiosity, man, you know, the day you lose, your curiosity is the day you start to die.

I just feel like it's so important for us to be able to have experiences without shame. Even. Even experiences that afterwards you might say. Yeah, I didn't like that. Actually. I thought maybe it was a good idea, but now I don't think it was such a good idea. So that's in, that's in my rear view mirror.

Now I won't be doing that again. That's perfectly okay.

Yucca: that's valid. Yeah. That's important. Right. It's really important to experience what you don't like and be able to identify that.

Mark: Yes without punishing yourself for it just saying, well, I learned something I've had sex with men. I don't like it. I didn't know that. And I wouldn't have known that until I had sex with men. And I was very, very clear that that's what I needed to do. So it's just a matter of. It's just, it's, it's a matter of getting this shame thing out of the way this, this, this guilt, this sense of not matching up to some idealized gender role model that is often toxic and disempowering. There's so much to be said around this, but anyway, we're talking about Mayday.

Yucca: Yeah, well, you can't help, but, but yeah. Touch on these ideas though, because these are all connected in with this idea.

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: yep. Now we already have really been looking at it within the, the larger pagan community, but there are some types of traditions. There are some aesthetics which are really popular.

This time of year things like maypole and dances and bonfires and things like that.

Mark: And it's a time of year when the, the climate tends to be very congenial. So it's a nice time to gather outside, especially if you've got a big bonfire going in the outdoors. You don't do that in California because it's, then the whole state burns down. But in other places it's possible to

Yucca: So basically not this half of the continent, maybe people on the other side of the Mississippi might be able to, but yeah.

Mark: Yeah, yeah. This half of the continent. It's very difficult to do that unless you are in a true desert where there's just not much to burn and you can clear dirt. So you've got bare dirt for like a hundred foot circle or something like that.

Yucca: Sand dunes there.

Mark: Yes, that's that's about all. So if yes, if you're in an ashtray, you're you're able to have a fire.

But there's something about that gathering around. Gathering without artificial light gathering around a fire gathering to celebrate, gathering with meaning behind, you know, with, with a celebratory intention. You know, it's not just, we're having a party. It's this is the time of year when we do this, you know, we're, we're going to dance around this bonfire tonight and we're going to exercise.

All of the things that hold us back from being as fully human as we possibly can. And then tomorrow we're going to put up a maypole or we're going to dance around it and weave the ribbons together. And, and this very, very old tradition, this tradition that is at least at least a thousand years old is something that we will do in order to say hello to history.

And also to affirm once again, that here in this moment, this interconnectedness of all of us is meaningful to us.

Yucca: If that's something that you really connect with, and that helps you with the connection to history then. Wonderful. But you aren't under any obligation. If you don't connect with that. That's okay. That's one of the things that, that we often really encourage on this podcast is creating your own wheel of the year or wave of the year we talked about with maybe in the tropics, you might have something that isn't quite a wheel, a wheel or something like that, but what is it, what does this time mean to you and how do you cultivate that?

How do you support that and how can it enrich your life?

Mark: Yes. Yes. And particularly for people who are in the pagan community and are asexual, they can feel really besieged at this time of year because all of this sexual imagery and innuendo and so forth kind of comes raining down. Because. People who are sexual or excited and kind of raring to go. And boy, this is really cool.

Have this celebration. There's a, there's a blog post on the atheopagan ism blog. That's about may celebrations that have nothing to do with sex. And we'll link to it in the, in the podcast notes for you folks that just. Aren't doing it that way. Because you know, your way is as valid as anybody.

Else's the most important thing is that you're defining a path for yourself. And if it's working for you, then it's good. If it's not working for you, then it needs fixing.

Yucca: Exactly. And some of those types of celebrations that might not be appropriate for your nine-year-old. Right? Not to say that we don't want our children to grow up with a healthy relationship to all of that, but there are some things that. Depending on your family and the maturity of each person in your family.

There's different things that are appropriate at different times. So, yeah. So with us, we're not talking about any of the sex side of it with our young children, but we are talking about flowers and spraying and you know, all of that and putting ribbons in trees. But you know, it pulling back on some of the phallic symbol symbols and things like that.

Didn't tell him. A little bit later on, right.

Mark: And it, and this is a caveat that is really important to introduce, which is that here in the pagan sub culture, we like to believe that. Within the, within the circle, that's drawn by this culture. We're free to create whatever culture we want to. The truth is we're still subject to the laws of where we live. And this was a war that I had with people that had some sacred land and held a belting festival every year North of where I am here. Now I won't go into details about who and where, but. They had a built-in festival, which included very sexual Mae games to to, to choose the main King and make queen for the year.

And there was just a lot of very erotic sort of play and a lot of nudity and it was. They invited families to come. And a lot of the families were like, yes, this is sex positive. I want my kids to be raised in a sex positive environment. And the truth is we're in the state of California and there are laws.

People could lose their kids. People could lose their licenses to practice as therapists. There are serious consequences to exposing children to some of that kind of stuff. And you really need to think it out. You really do a lot of that education is going to have to happen within the home because it's just not safe.


Yucca: Yeah. So it's, that's a really important thing to bring up. Thank you for touching on that. That's something for everybody to be aware of and different places are going to have different laws and different expectations. And it's, this is just part of the world that we live in and need to be aware of.

Mark: Yes. Yes. And it's a shame at some level, and it's also very healthy on another level because one of the things about this place that I like to go to, and we had these magnificent belting festivals, they were three, four days long and they were, they were so joyous and so happy and so beautiful. But because they were not 18 and over, there were a couple of occasions where pedophiles creepy guys interpolated themselves into this community in order to, to do their routine.

And fortunately, they got booted before they did damage, but still. You know, people who are predators will look for opportunities and you just need to be very, very careful and clear. And of course, hearkening back to our last episode, teach your kids about boundaries. So,

Yucca: So what are some, yeah. Where do we go here?

What are a couple of the things that you will be doing this year? So May Day is next week. We're just a few days ahead. What will you be up to?

Mark: Well, May Day is a Saturday, Saturday this year. And that means that the Saturday atheopagan zoom mixer happens every Saturday morning. And so we will be doing a zoom ritual together. And I don't know much of what that's going to be about because I was working this weekend and the planning session was yesterday. So I will be learning more of what it's going to be about, but I'm looking forward to discovering whatever that is. I'm going to be going into my backyard and hanging ribbons in trees because ribbons and trees are cool. They look very pretty and it's It's a nice tradition to have. I'm hoping to make some may wine.

I need to get some dried sweet Woodruff and I there's a source here, but it may not be open very often because of the COVID pandemic. But may wine is sweet and sometimes slightly effervescent wine, like a governor's demeanor or a move re that has. Dried sweet Woodruff in it. And it's a very characteristic flavor.

It's unlike anything else. You leave it in the wine overnight and then filter it. And it's got this particular flavor that is characteristic of may. I like to drink mine with a strawberry in it. Very, very tasty central pleasurable kind of experience. And, you know, I'm sure that there's other stuff that I'll do as well.

I mean, no, I'll leave that stuff to the private rather, rather than, rather than go into it in in the podcast. But I'll celebrate the, the, the season in the way that I find meaningful.

Yucca: Sounds good.

Mark: How about you?

Yucca: Well, we will probably actually be celebrating. Right after we'll probably celebrate on Monday because that's what my weekend ends up being. The actual weekend is on Saturday and Sunday. I'm often very busy with work during that time period. But Monday the plan is the weather's looking good. We're going to do a little camp out in our yard.

Mark: nice.

Yucca: kids, we got them one, one of those little, they call them two person tents. They're two person, child tents. I don't think that my partner, I would both fit in a tent and we're not particularly large people. But we're going to do a, you know, no electricity lights out. Camping out. We've already been putting the ribbons and the trees and we've the kids.

My oldest is really getting into her drawing and writing. So she's been making little cards for people and we've made little paper baskets, and we're going to go and leave the baskets by the doors of some of our, our dear loved ones in the area. So we'll give them little May Day baskets.

Mark: That's lovely.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: Very that's utterly charming.

Yucca: So it's it's really fun because the oldest is, is getting old enough. Now that the holidays mean something, right. Like she remembers a little bit from last year and They both want it to be Halloween every day, but it's not Halloween. It's a different holiday, but we're making yeah, we're making,

Mark: want it to be Halloween every day? I know I do.

Yucca: yes. I'm pretty sure the littlest one just wants the candy though.

Mark: Oh,

Yucca: day? Yeah. Halloween day. But yeah, the oldest is getting very excited about that each of the holidays and Loves to put and wants to learn to braids so she can braid some of the ribbons that we put in the trees.

Mark: That's fun. I remember when I learned to braid, when I was a kid, I went through, I don't know how much yarn, just making braids and then tying them off and then making new braids. I had a stack of them.

Yucca: I had a, basically one half of my head turned into braids when I figured it out, the little tiny, you know, Pencil braids,

Mark: Huh.

Yucca: sticking out in every direction because when you pull it too tight, it just sticks right out. So braids are wonderful.

Mark: must've been adorable.

Yucca: Well, this has been great.

Mark: Yes. And I really wish all of our listeners, you know, the joy of the season the, the, the sheer, the sheer exuberance of, I mean, even if it's as little as, you know, if you have a privacy fence, just go and sit in your backyard naked just to something that says, yes, I'm alive. Cause this is the time for it.

This is when the plant world is saying yes, I'm alive. And and we can follow up with that. We can, we can we can join them. So, thank you all for listening. Once again, if you have questions or comments or suggestions, we're at So and we look forward to hearing from you. Thank you so much for this Yucca. I've really enjoyed talking with you today.

Yucca: Likewise Mark. See you next week.

Mark: Bye-bye.

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