Thinking About: Beltane, Going Deeper, and Re-investigating the Basics

Well, we made it to the end of one month and the start of a new one. An apt description for how I manage my Druidry and Paganism – one day at a time. Though that does conjure images of McKenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli….but I am essentially carbon-dating myself with that reference. Essentially, we’ve reached May Day, Beltane…whatever you want to call it. We’ve reached another spoke in the wheel.

Sometimes, I like to take these spokes and compare where the turn of this year’s Wheel is to where things were in previous years. A few years ago, I had been troubleshooting one of the largest SQL queries I had ever written. I had found that a data-type mismatch that I had been unaware of previously was the culprit in making this monster query take over a full eight hours to run. After changing the error that I had made, the query ran in less than a minute. That was the culmination of eight months of constant troubleshooting. Just a simple data mismatch. But the investigative methodology taught me more about query writing than I had ever known. I had to get down to the basics of HOW the query ran, in order to understand WHY it ran so slow. That investigative process taught me a lot about how to go about the process of digging deeper. Just a few months later, I found myself using the same process to help me go even deeper into the woods with my own Druidry. Those initial steps were not easy ones to make and not easy ones to continue with today.

Almost every Pagan and Druid I have talked with has made mention of the moment when their Path suddenly took a downward turn. Not downward in terms of being “bad” but downwards in terms of getting “deeper.” One individual explained it as wading into a pool at the shallow end. The water is usually about hip deep. You can swim if you want to, but you can wade just as easily. Your typical walking gait is severely slowed as your legs push against the force of the water. The depth of the water slowly gets higher as you walk further down the length of the pool until the it is just below your armpits. Each step forward becomes slower and more difficult until you feel your body start to float. Now, you need to swim. She described the swimming part as realizing that she needed to change her approach to the water she was engulfed within. Merely floating was not enough. She learned how to keep herself above the water line so that she could breathe. This was dogpaddling. Not floating, but not swimming either. She was becoming acclimated to her environment’s change in depth. Her perception of the water had changed. After a time, she realized that when she cupped her hands in a certain manner, she could literally pull herself across the surface of the water which allowed her to traverse the length of the pool much quicker. Her perception of the water had changed. She could travel through it freely. But if she held her breath, she could slip beneath the familiar, comfortable surface of the water to descend into a scenario that was far different from what she knew at the surface. Here, she could only spend short periods of time beneath the surface before she had to surface for air. Underneath the surface, she could perform somersaults and gymnastics moves that she was unable to do in the air-filled environment she was used to. She could descend to the bottom of the pool and with some effort and determination, she could slowly walk along the bottom. Later, she found that she could spend greater amounts of time within this new realm through the usage of breathing equipment, such as scuba gear. The more time she spent in that watery environment, the more she learned how to interact with it in ways that allowed her to do so much more. That didn’t even account for the wider world she would encounter when she finally took the chance to swim in the ocean, where her perception was a mere speck compared to the vastness of what potentially awaited there.

When my friend was describing this piece of perception, her purpose was to get me to understand her perspective in going deeper in her own Pagan studies. She’s a Wiccan, so I didn’t think I would find myself grasping her analogy all that well. Plus, I’m not a swimmer (honestly – I don’t know how to swim). It turned out it was far easier for me to understand than I had realized.

As a Druid, my personal analogy has always been the forest. I have always talked about going deeper into the forest. The first steps have the trees quite a bit apart. The sun is able to get through the branches easily enough. To see the clearing that you’ve left, you only need to turn around and look back on the way you’ve come. But the deeper you go, the closer the trees become. The branches lower to the ground are devoid of foliage. The sunlight comes through in single shafts of light because of the dense foliage on upper branches that have ready access to the light (Maples versus the Oaks, anyone?). The bare limbs nearer to the ground will occasionally reach out and grab at your cloak or your shirt, attempting to hold you in place, slowing your pace through the forest. Occasionally, you can hear the sound of a nearby creature walking over the ground, which is covered in dead, musty pine needles. This thick, rotting “carpet” muffles the sound of those feet creating a dull thumping sound that seems to echo from under your feet. Looking back, you see the same thing as looking forward – an endless see of greyish tree trunks. Occasionally, you can hear a wind blowing through the leaves above, providing a hushed soundtrack to the landscape you find yourself within. The secrets of the forest are all around you. You only need observe to find the answers to those secrets. The riddles among the trees within the forest.

I’m not sure if either of these descriptive passages call to your idea of Paganism or Druidry or what have you. The perspective of uncovering the depth and breadth of the mysteries that we all celebrate. We stand at the spoke of the Wheel at the point of May Day, Beltane, or whatever you prefer to call it. We celebrate coming to this moment in time and what it represents to us within our own Spirituality. We are halfway between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. For many, this is the gateway to the Summer. Others see this as a potent time of fertility for the land, the cattle, for all. For me, this is a point in the Wheel of the Year where I seek a Path or direction and prepare myself to go deeper in my investigation of it. For this year, it’s a repurposing of who I am and my connection to this wonderful Path of Druidry that I am on. It is a time to go back and look at the beginnings again. Not to do things over. Not to rewalk the Path. But to stop and observe along the way. To see things again, but to look in minute detail. Perhaps, I’ll find a data-type mismatch in something that I had not considered before. Something that will not only reopen my eyes in wonder and awe but will also find me learning to swim in a deeper level of perception. Something that will have me listening to the whispers of the trees to learn the secrets of the forest that I had never contemplated when I was here last.

Have a wonderful Beltane, May Day or whatever you call it!

–T /|

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