Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Beltaine Celebration Novel Excerpt

May 1st marks the ancient Celtic Festival called Beltaine. The word Beltaine means the magic of flowers. It is the season where nature's life force reawakens from winter's deep slumber, bringing us the budding and blossoms of spring. We feel the vitality of summer approaching, its greening energy courses through our veins. Fecundity abounds, making spring, and Beltaine, a natural season for lovers. 

Beltaine is also named for the ancient Celtic god named Bel - the bright one. And -tane stands for fire. The Celtic tradition honors a god of bright luminosity as the male force that is one half of the cosmic act of creation.

In honor of Beltaine, I am sharing an excerpt from my novel, Carry on the Flame: Destiny's Call. The main character, the young priestess Sharay, recalls how she first learned about Beltaine from her mother and the priestess elder, Rosheen.

Hawthorn Blossoms, special to Beltaine


Sharay felt a cool mist spray her face and hands. She turned to her left, to the foot of the Tor. There, a chalky white spring tumbled out a rocky fountainhead. The font was banked against an earthen wall that sprouted a living, perfumed tapestry of hundreds of delicate purple and yellow flowers. The branches of a gnarled apple tree hung low to the ground, brushing against the sides of the font. A pathway to the left led into a small café and gift boutique, set into the banks of the Tor. Both shops were closed for the evening.

The milky waters of the White Spring prompted unexpected memories for Sharay. She crossed the narrow Wellhouse Lane and sat on the rocks that enclosed the small spring. She remembered splashing her hands in its waters when, as a child of five, she had visited it with her mother and Rosheen.

In the glimmering light of that early summer day, she had sat in the exact spot she sat now. Her mother, close by her side, had readied bright red ribbons to string on the nearby apple tree branches. The sun had dappled the water into diamond hued clusters of bubbles, colored just like the ones she used to make when she blew soapsuds through her fingers during her bath time.

“Make a wish,” her mother had said, handing her a ribbon. 
“And bind your prayer to the magic of the apple tree with your ribbon.” She helped Sharay tie a silken knot around the branch above.

“I wish...” Sharay had closed her eyes tight, silently wishing she would grow up to have a laugh just like her mother’s. Light and lilting, her mother’s laughter made her feel warm inside, warmer even than when she drank a cup of her favorite hot cocoa.

On that day long ago, Rosheen had joined company with Sharay and her mother, as she often did. Her long brown hair caught the sun’s rays and shone like new spun silk loosely woven with fine strands of silver. Sharay thought it was almost as pretty as her mother’s light blond hair.

Rosheen had sighed contentedly. “Now this is what magic is all about. The Goddess orchestrating the White Spring to flow so close to our own Red Well.”

Always ready to teach, she had pointed her fingers for Sharay’s sake, first to the White Spring beside them, then to the Red Well a mere fifty yards across the lane, gurgling behind the rock wall that enclosed the well and flower gardens.

A car’s headlights flashed along Chilkwell Street, but Sharay was so lost in memory she barely noticed, incorporating their high beam into her recollected images of that dazzling bright day with her mother and Rosheen.

“Let’s sing the Beltaine song, Blanche,” Rosheen had said, her face lit with enthusiasm.

Rosheen and Sharay’s mother began to sing the poem in unison. Sharay loved the tune, and the sound of their voices singing was high and pure. The words they sang rose up in Sharay’s memory—words heard repeatedly as a child, mysterious words she hadn’t understood then, but did now. 

She softly sang along with the memory of her mother and Rosheen.

“Milky white water, fluid male seed, vitality of the Father,
springs from deep within the Tor, releases near rounded womb of Mother. From the earth we see Her bleed,
Red Well water
joins with the seed.
In coupled chorus they sing,
and dance in harmony.
Male and female unite!”

The masculine White Spring rippled in harmonious compliment to the feminine red water, the Red Well of the priestesses, bringing Sharay further memories of that bright sunny day.

“What’s male seed, mama?” Sharay had asked after the song had completed.

Her mother had smiled at her, that special smile saved for Sharay alone. “Well... it has to do with the rites of Beltaine.”

“Rosheen taught me about Beltaine,” Sharay had said, proud she remembered Rosheen’s teachings.

“And what did I teach you?” Rosheen asked.

“Beltaine’s one of our holy days,” Sharay had replied dutifully.

Rosheen beamed. “That’s right, Sharay. Beltaine is a special time of the year. It’s the time of year when the star formation called the seven sisters rises low on the western horizon. Remember, we showed them to you last night?”

Sharay nodded yes, recalling how she’d marveled when the seven sisters twinkled and pranced across the night sky.

“Beltaine is when the first white hawthorn flowers bud, just like this one.” Her mother plucked a cluster in full bloom from the bush next to her and lifted it to Sharay’s nose for her to smell. Its many blossoms tickled Sharay.

“We celebrate the fullness of the flowers and the fullness of being a woman,” Rosheen said.

“It’s when the well waters rise high. The young men and women make their plans for the passionate Beltaine holy day,” Sharay’s mother added.

Sharay’s attention drifted from her mother’s voice and was drawn to a shiny black beetle crawling through the delicate white bloom of the hawthorn. It fell upside down on the rock she sat on, its legs wiggling wildly as it tried to upright itself. She touched her finger to its feathery legs and it lay still. She tried to help it stand.

“I remember my first Beltaine,” her mother reminisced, turning to face Rosheen. Her back was to Sharay, which usually meant adult conversation.

“I wasn’t with Jarred, but I was taught the pleasures of the Goddess.”

Sharay wanted to be included, wanted her mother and Rosheen to teach her some more. “What does that mean...the pleasures of the Goddess?”

Her mother smiled. “It means the depth of sexual union offered up in Her name. Something I’ll teach you about later.”

She picked up the hawthorn bloom, tickled Sharay’s nose, and turned to Rosheen once more. Sharay watched the beetle crawl slowly across the valleys and hills of the small rock enclosure around the font of the white spring.

“Jarred certainly benefited from what I learned on that Beltaine,” her mother said to Rosheen, her rich, lovely laughter punctuating her words.

Rosheen sighed wistfully. “And I remember my first Beltaine.”

Her mother grew serious. Sharay looked up from the beetle when the tone of the conversation changed. She wanted them to laugh again. She pulled eagerly on her mother’s skirt. Her mother reached down and stroked her hair, tucked a lock of it behind her ear, then turned to face Rosheen.

“I’ve heard from Dillon. We received a note this morning.”

“How nice. What news is there?” Rosheen’s voice was high and bright, almost forced.

“He says his grandson’s magical training is coming along nicely. That the boy is talented. Quick to learn.”

“I’m not surprised.” Rosheen looked down at her hands. “Will he visit us?”

“He didn’t mention that he would.” 
Her mother paused. 

Sharay carefully pushed the black beetle away from the spring water where she was sure it would drown without her help.

“Oh, Rosheen. I take it Dillon stopped writing you?” her mother asked.

Rosheen nodded. “There’s really nothing more he can say, Blanche. We took each other as Beltaine lovers to honor the Goddess. That was a long time ago. You know there’s no more to it than that.”

“Don’t minimize the power of your union, Rosheen. You honored each other in the Beltaine ritual. That’s a very special bond.”

“Yes, I know. And he’s always been extremely dear and kind since then. It’s just that...” Rosheen wiped a sudden tear from the corner of her eye. “It’s just that I managed to fall in love with him, and he managed to fall in love with another.” She shook her head and smiled. “Look at me. Years gone by. Me married to George. I really do love George, you know. Yet I still shed tears over Dillon.”

Sharay traced her finger along the rocky crevices of the White Spring well’s enclosure where the beetle had crawled that day long ago. Conversation that had little meaning back then, suddenly brought her new understandings. Dillon and Rosheen. The true meaning of Beltaine.


Jodine Turner is the award winning, best selling visionary fiction, fantasy author of the Goddess of the Stars and the Sea series about young priestesses who have lived in Avalon down through the ages to today. www.jodineturner.com