The call of the outdoors as the sun shone on the new green leaves, bird song filled the air and flowers decked the hedgerows was strong! Twenty of us gathered in the early morning mists to share our thoughts on the outer seasons of nature and the inner seasons of our own wild natures before listening to Ronnie’s beautiful version of the Demeter and Persephone story.
It explored the mother daughter relationship, the similarities we take for granted and the difference we don’t always (want to) notice….the call of curiosity for the young Kore, the yearning of the souls in Hades for a Queen. Persephone planted a garden in the underworld while her mother walked the world in search of her, finally encountering Baubo and Hecate and taking her advice to ask Helios the sun God if he had seen what happened to her daughter.
Demeter’s rage threatens to destroy the earth and so Persephone is granted licence to return. But Hades, the dark Lord of the underworld, gives her a pomegranate from her own garden and on her long walk back she tastes the seeds of what she herself has become. So Demeter encounters a daughter who has become a Queen and Persephone encounters a mother aged by grief, loss and wandering…..still, the earth comes back to life, joy fills the world, but Persephone makes her annual trip back down to the underworld in the Winter to tend to her garden there, also.
Many responses came out of the story: memories of loss, encounters with the goddess of crossroads, Hecate, and musings upon the irrepressible Baubo. This is a story rich in feminine archetypes walking the earth and experiencing very human troubles and joys.
In meditation, we moved from the element of water to that of Air. Giving our breathing kind awareness and exploring all sides of the cauldron of ourselves: top, bottom, back front, sides and the connections outwards from there, we touched into the airy element of our beings and carried that into our time of quiet. A different set of reflections were offered to the wisdom pot after this and then it was time for lunch.
A Wood Sister Gathering bring and share feast is always a thing of wonder, but this Beltane brunch was especially abundant in colours, tastes, textures, including cakes to celebrate the anniversary of Donna (& Jo) joining the Wood Sisters, one year and two years ago, respectively. We were so full!
From there we moved to garland weaving and poetry-making. One group created a joint poem which is printed below. Meantime the musicians warmed up and the maypole stood waiting! Soon we were skipping round in the long grass to the tunes of Cuckoo and Here we go round… and the Dance of the May King and Queen. Thanks to Laura Salmon for her wonderful playing and to the drummers who joined in.
Our ceremony began with each of us walking the path of the Eleusinian mysteries accompanied by Abigail’s exquisite harp music – an imagined recreation of the cult of Demeter and Persephone in early Greece and further back. As Demeter, we walked with a candle, searching, carrying our grief and lit a flame for our loss. Then we were around the camp-fire getting into Baubo mood: flashing skits, rude jokes and bawdy songs, which first caused Demeter to smile, to hope, and to come back to life from her grief.
On to Hecate, triple goddess, midwife of our futures, whose one head sees from whence we have come while the other two see the choice of paths before us. We stood on Helios/Apollo’s balcony and looked back on our lives with hindsight and perspective and were welcomed back to the circle with hugs and spring wreaths as Kore/Perspehone, the Spring Maiden. It was a short but moving and sweet chance to inhabit the very differing personalities of these ancient goddesses and to see our own lives through their filters.
We shared poems, chants and reflections before finishing a very full day with a leap over the Beltane fire….the golden sunshine causing us to linger and relish the connection and the energy of this festival gathering.
Green song shoots in the warm haze
Green fire flames flower-birds,
May-fire sings the flowers of cuckoo,
Vibrant birdsong repeating the unstoppable fire.
Thighs leaping fire, fleshly food,
Whip the fullness of your fertile passion.
From Jo: “Spent a blissful day celebrating Beltane in the sunshine, with the Woodsisters. A very rich mix of meditation, a great telling of Demeter and Persephone, dancing round the Maypole, a journey through the Eleusinian mysteries, harp music, deep sharing with a wonderful group of wise women, finishing up with a leap over the Beltane fire.”