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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in spring traditions
Reveling in Love and Lust: A Beltane Tryst

Beltane is the sexiest high holiday for witches and one that is anticipated all year. I always look forward to having a joyful “spree” every May. Witches begin to celebrate Beltane on the last night of April, and it is traditional for the festivities to last all night. This is a time for feasting, dancing, laughter, and lots of lovemaking. The Celts of old made this day a day of wild abandon, a sexual spree, the one day of the year when it is okay to make love outside your relationship. On May Day, when the sun returns in the morning, revelers gather to erect a merrily beribboned Maypole to dance around, followed by picnicking and sensual siestas.

Ideally, celebrate outdoors, but if you are stuck indoors on Beltane Eve, pick a place with a fireplace and have a roaring blaze so celebrants can wear comfy clothing and dance barefoot. Ask them to bring spring flowers and musical instruments, including plenty of drums! Place pillows on the floor and serve a sensual feast of foods from the following list, under the title “Oral Fixations,” along with beer, wine, ciders, and honeyed mead that you can make or obtain from a microbrewery. Gather some of spring’s bounty of flowers—roses, tulips, and my favorite, freesias, in your favorite colors, or whatever is blooming with the most vitality where you live. Set out candles in spring colors—yellow, pink, red, green, white, purple. With your arms extended, point to each of the four directions and say, “To the east, to the south, to the west, and to the north,” and recite this Beltane rhyme:

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I'm in the front yard clearing away the last of the Winter detritus from around the shrubs when I hear the tinny sound of the Summer's first ice cream truck.

All around the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel.

It's playing the first phrase from the old kiddie classic, Pop! Goes the Weasel. Unfortunately, that's all that it's playing, over and over and over again.

All around the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel.

All around the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel.

All around the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel.

After only a few truncated repetitions, my teeth are already on edge. I wonder how the driver manages to deal with it for hours at a time. Surely he must wake up at night hearing it in his head. Not having heard of any curbside massacres recently, I presume that after a while the thalamus kicks in and you just stop hearing it. Thank Goddess for sensory gating.

All around the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel.

A few seasons back, the neighborhood ice cream truck played some cowanish Christmas carol; I can't recall which one. (Silent Night, maybe?) I was never sure whether this was intentional or not. Christmas = Winter = cold = ice cream seems a pretty straightforward set of linked associations. Certainly the seasonal incongruity successfully caught my attention pretty much every time.

On the other hand, a lot of local ice cream trucks are owned and operated by immigrants, many of them from the Middle East. I suppose it's possible that the Winter-themed music was no more than a product of blissful cultural unawareness.

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Chirping With a Cardinal

Spring is about to bloom this Sunday and all the little critters outside are feeling quite frisky about it. Squirrels are chasing each other scurrying up trees, the first robin hopped into view the other day on my nature hike, and a bright, red cardinal flew across my path to alight on a tree branch directly diagonal from me. Staring at his brilliance a moment as we regarded each other, I decided to try and communicate with him. I attempted a few series of whistles that I remembered being close to a cardinal bird call. After a few tries, he trilled back loud and clear. I answered him, mimicking back the chirp as loudly and accurately as I could muster. We went back and forth like this for a full five minutes, much to my delight. I probably would have stayed on longer, but the park gate was set to close at 3 p.m. and I didn't want to get shut out to the quicker path back to my residence. He continued to trill happily after me, after I bade him goodbye. I gave a few extra return calls over my shoulder in appreciation. When I looked back, I noticed that he had hopped up to a higher branch to see me and stay parallel from me as I left. I know that they say that birds can be souls of departed loved ones come to visit, and I couldn't help but feel that special connection with our exchange. My grandmother's favorite bird was the cardinal, and my birthday is next week. She used to love St. Patrick's Day and celebrating her Irish heritage, so I definitely think something divine was at work, here. Even if it was a male bird, I don't think the spirits worry much about gender. It filled my heart with joy as I walked back home.

Ren Faires and the Spring Equinox

My Spring Equinox guest for "Women Who Howl at the Moon" this month is Melissa Starks. She sometimes goes by the moniker "Mistress Penny" and has even hosted a sauerkraut eating contest at one of the faires! She has had quite an interesting journey as a "road renny," stockbroker, substitute teacher, and chainmail jewelry maker. (Peruse her handmade designs at You can hear all about her adventures on my SoundCloud page. Think about the new things you'd like to coax into springing forth on your own journey. What can you make bloom?

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 Drunk Birds? How a Small Minnesota City Stumbled Into the Spotlight - The  New York Times


The first robin of Spring sits in the snow of the front porch roof.

He looks cold.

Pleased as I am to see him—the gods grant the omen—I'm also surprised. Being eaters of worms and insects, robins usually follow the thaw northwards. But it's been a cold Winter here in Paganistan. Not only is the ground still frozen—in fact, the frost-depth is deeper than usual this year—but it's still covered with snow.

Why the robin, then? Easy.

He's here for the party.

Going upstairs one sunny morning in early Spring several years ago, I found myself thinking: What are those birds making such a ruckus about? Looking out the back window, I saw an amazing sight.

The branches of the crab trees on either side of the back gate were filled with robins, all squawking—not singing—at once. First off, this was odd because robins are not, in general, flocking birds.

Moreover, maybe a dozen more were actually rolling in the snow on the roof, a very un-birdlike behavior. As I watched, one staggered and fell over.

In fact, they were drunk.

Late Winter's repeated freezing and thawing ferments the sugars in the hard little crab apples. Birds and animals all know this and seek it out: robins, deer, bears. Think of it: a drunk bear. Now there's an encounter best avoided.

Back when I used to work as a waiter, my fellow servers would often gripe when they got a table of non-drinkers. This is understandable: a few cocktails and a bottle of wine can double a tab and up your tip percentage accordingly. Me, I never minded non-drinkers though, for this very good reason: people that don't drink are much more likely to order dessert, and not just one for the table, either.

In Mormon Utah, where, for religious reasons, many people don't drink alcohol, the per capita sugar consumption is higher than anywhere else in the country. The same is true of Hindu India and the Muslim Middle East. Everybody likes a buzz, and sugar is a powerful drug.

Well, it's been a long, hard Winter. Things are unsure. Food is beginning to run out, and we're not going to be seeing much from the garden in the near future. Meanwhile, we're seeing the worst inflation in decades, gas prices are way up, and Putin's war in Europe could just possibly spell the end of the world-order as we know it.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember reading a magazine article about how a train car carrying corn had overturned in the rocky mountains. Instead of tryin
Celtic power plants and spring green magic

It’s blossom time! Nature abounds and the fields, forests and hedgerows are full of plants that can support us at this point in the year.

Cleavers (Galium aparine) makes an excellent spring tonic to cleanse your lymphatic system. Can be juiced, and added to smoothies etc, or as a tisane or herbal tea, but I prefer to use it as a cold decoction- place the leaves in a jar of cold water, leave in the sunshine for a day, and leave overnight to drink the next day. Cooled in the fridge its a refreshing drink which tastes like cucumber. (Warning: Fresh Cleavers plant can cause a severe contact dermatitis for some people. If this is you, wear gloves when harvesting Cleavers. Strain infusions and tinctures of uncooked Cleavers carefully to avoid throat irritation.)

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Spring Equinox

Spring Equinox

The Return of spring, time of holy equality. The landscape is still winter-rough and wind-blown. Walk outside and feel the raw possibility. The world is made of stories, and we need to change the narrative. 

Poised in the season's symmetry, ask: what does another world look like? 

The anxieties hover—climate change, nuclear holocaust, environmental devastation—but let us not stress only existential apocalyptic tales. How de we stop devouring the planet and instead energize stories of plenty and repair?

From the ballast of balance, begin to notice The Commons, that entire life support system that we hold in trust for future beings. Envision a healing parallel economy producing air, diversity, wilderness, asking only respect in return. Collect bits of wind-blown trash for a day. Gather in community, sharing the common wealth.

Remember that the root word for "religion" is "re-linking"; when we speak in the language of longing, we re-enter the mystery. 


Expanding the Sisterhood Grid © Qutress 2017 

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The Flower Carol

The famous anthology Piae Cantiones (“Pious Songs”) was published in 1582, but the songs and tunes that it contains are thoroughly medieval. Among the collection's Latin hymns are to be found a number of songs that are, shall we say, differently pious. Probably the best-known of these “secular” anthems is the famous Tempus Adest Floridum, (“It is the time of flowering”), which was to provide the tune for that most vapid of English carols, Good King Wenceslaus.

I've seen several singable English translations from the original Latin text, nearly all of them unbearably clunky. (“Herb and plant that, winter-long, slumbered at their leisure/Now reviving, green and strong, find in growth their pleasure.” Groan.) Here's mine, which is not so much a translation as, let us say, a fantasia on the original text. If I may say so myself, it captures the expansive spirit of the original much better than any of the more literal renderings.

The little Latin hymn to the Goddess of Love which concludes the song is not part of the original; it comes from that other famous anthology of medieval Latin verse Carmina Burana, on which “20th” century composer Carl Orff based his famous pagan oratorio of the same name. Joel Cohen attached it to the version of Tempus Adest Floridum in the Boston Camerata's recording of songs from the Carmina Burana (by the way, that's CAR-min-ah, not car-MEEN-ah) to their original tunes. I liked the addition so much that I've included it here. I've also chosen to leave it untranslated; it would be impossible (for me, anyway) to create an English text as profound in its beautiful simplicity as the original. I have, however, included a literal translation so that you can know what you're singing.

This one would be appropriate for either Ostara or Beltane, or any time in between!


The Flower Carol

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  • Chris Sherbak
    Chris Sherbak says #
    I cherish my copy of your Solstice songs - and I'll just add this along. Thank you!!

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