Beltane has always been about the return of the Goddess and the start of rebirth. You can see it in nature as everything starts to bloom again and new shoots start making their way to the surface of the land.
Animals begin to prepare for the new births to come, birds are busy building nests and lambs can be seen frolicking in the fields. The weather gets warmer and the nights get longer. It is the time that everyone and everything in nature welcomes after the hardships of winter.
The years have followed this pattern for as long as I can remember, but this year seems a little different…..
In the last few months Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter have been experienced in chaotic order, sometimes all the seasons have shown themselves in one day. Confusion has been obvious in nature as trees have begun to blossom on one side and still have crinkly Autumn leaves clinging to their old branches on the other side of their trunks. Daffodils bloomed amongst the snow and hail and the rains and grey skies have seemed endless here in Ireland.
Usually around March I start to get restless and know I have to spring clean the house and get it ready for the year ahead. This year was the same, but I found numerous things blocking any spare time I had so the spring cleaning was done in a more scattered fashion than usual. Some of it still remains to be done. There is a restless chaos about the world right now and I think it is affecting us all.
We have a lot of jackdaws that roost around our barns and land and it is always entertaining to watch them build their nests, they work tirelessly and frantically as Beltane approaches. This year they have the same restlessness and urgency, but I have also noticed they have become very creative and opportunistic, more so than usual.
We came across a nest near the house that have silver spoons and screwdrivers woven into their nests, we have no idea where they came from but we know where they are. The nests are being lined with the hair that our horses shed as their winter rugs come off and their new coats grow in.
Watching the jackdaws and thinking about how they utilise everything they can in their nests made me think about how we as humans can sometimes do quite the opposite. We can be a very wasteful bunch at times. We throw out things that no longer serve us and abandon other things that we once thought we could not live without.
As an animist I like to take my cue from nature and this year I am thinking that Beltane is not just about rebirth and nor should it be. Rather it can also apply to ‘repurpose’, We donate to charities when we have clothes, objects etc that we no longer use, so that others can hopefully find something they will use. But as well as that, I think more of us should repurpose things we already have. Who said that once something has stopped being useful in the way we have always used it that it should be disposed of? Surely we can use the same thing in a different way?
Currently I have a project that involves an old cracked Belson sink, it cannot be used as a sink any more, but raised up on breeze blocks outside the kitchen door turns it into a lovely little herb garden for the more culinary herbs.
Some of the things we are doing are simple and many of our friends are doing the same, for example. The rugs the horses use over the winter keep the cold and rain from the horses, so that they are still snug and dry. Often by the time spring/Beltane comes around they are in tatters, having been caught in the bushes or on tree branches, or even just when the horses are playing.
We take the straps of the ones that cannot be saved as spares for other rugs and use the main body parts to line outdoor kennels and beds for dogs and cats that prefer to spend time outside in nature rather than trapped inside all the time.
Another friend collects old chairs that have been thrown out and repaints them with Disney pictures on the seats and backs, they find their way into children’s nurseries rather than at the dump. Old tree stumps that have been blown down by bad weather become seats to sit on when resting from a walk. Wildflower seeds collected last year are sown to bring more beauty to surrounding barren patches of land. Young trees that have sprouted near to their parent trees are moved into more open ground so that they can grow big and strong in their own places.
Plastic drinking bottles can be used as mini greenhouses if you cut them in half and put seeds or cuttings in the bottom and use the top to cover them in their own microclimate. All of these ideas are simple and can easily be done by everyone who has the time. They cost nothing and nothing is wasted. You can make your own compost from waste that you have collected over winter, by now it should have broken down and become useable. You can add it to old soil beds to give them a new lease on life or use it to grow new plants in pots if you don’t have much garden space.
Mixing the old and new to me is like all the seasons mixing in one day, unusual, but also showing that nothing stays the same. Our climate is changing and we must change with it. It starts with the small things at home and spreads out like little branches, that will weave their way into everyday life as we continue to grow and learn.
I think Beltane this year is a little different from the Beltane of my younger days. I will still be dancing round a campfire and welcoming the Goddess in all her glory, but I will be giving new gifts made from the old and repurposed. I think she will like it 😉
Black Sheep Druid lives with her husband and many animals in Co. Limerick, Ireland, working as a full-time artist and assistant horse trainer.