This is the perfect time of year. Bluebells are in their prime. Primroses and violets are in bloom. Plum, pear and apple trees are blossoming. Oak and hazel leaves are unfurling their fresh green innocent selves, reaching like their forebears to the sun. The ferns are spirals of delight. All it takes is a few rays of sun to light up the forest and wildflower meadows of Cae Mabon and this place is utterly enchanting.

    No wonder this has been a sacred moment in the calendar since time immemorial. These days – the end of April, beginning of May – this week, the Festival of Beltane, is the most beautiful week of the year. The Spirit of Spring has been fully released and life is renewing aplenty. It marks the onset of ‘the burgeoning’. Traditionally it’s the end of the Winter half of the year and the beginning of Summer. Beltane Eve is, in truth, Summer’s Eve. It’s a time of light and eros, expansion and fertility. As Life puts on a growth spurt, why not us too!

    In the mythology of these islands (a.k.a. the Island of the Mighty) Beltane Eve was also when strange, powerful, wondrous things happened.

    It was on Beltane Eve every year that screaming, battling dragons rose up from the centre of the island, bringing chaos to the people and wasting the land. The opposite of what should be happening then. Finally on one of those nights Lludd, the leader of his people, using subtle magic (imparted through an ear-trumpet in a bobbing boat on the narrow seas), captured the dragons, drove them on his cart (as piglets in jars) to the mountains of Eryri and threw them into a pool where they were swallowed back into the earth. In that place, Dinas Emrys, they were safely contained for hundreds of years. And the land flourished once more.

    It was on Beltane Eve that the firstborn child of Rhiannon, Horse Goddess and Queen of Annwn, was mysteriously whisked away and exchanged with the foal of a faraway lord who, with his wife, cared for the golden-haired boy. Eventually they recognised the lad as the son of Pwyll and Rhiannon and returned him to his parents. His mother, released from her agonising bonds, named him Pryderi, meaning Care, Concern, Worry. Or perhaps Love. And Pryderi, a divine youth, became the only hero to appear in all Four Branches of The Mabinogion, the foundation stones of Cymric myth.

    It was on Beltane Eve that Elphin, wastrel son of Gwyddno Garanhir, went to the salmon weir for his father’s gift of many fish to discover there were none, only a leather bag snagged on a post. He slit the bag and out stepped a boy with a shining brow. He named him Taliesin, ‘Shining Brow’, and the child immediately began speaking sparkling verse. This was Gwion Bach who’d swallowed three drops of inspiration, been chased by Ceridwen and transformed through the shapes of Hare on the Earth, Salmon in the Water, Sparrow in the Air and Grain of Wheat in the Fire. After being swallowed by Ceridwen as a Hen he was born again, then cast out in a leather bag upon the waters. There, rocking on the oceans of the deep, he absorbed the wisdom of the world. So, Beltane Eve is also a time for the birth of inspiration.

    Last Beltane Eve I walked into the northern hills and curled up in the renowned Maen y Bardd (‘Poet’s Stone’) burial chamber on the ancient trackway through the Pass of the Two Stones. I communed with many of the demigods of these lands that night and returned refreshed and inspired. Tonight I’ll be staying in the place I reckon to have been Caer Dathyl, the home of Math son of Mathonwy, Bear son of Bearlike, Lord of Gwynedd and key figure in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion. Let’s see what comes this time.

    It’s always good to visit mythic places at this sacred time of year. But whatever you do be sure to celebrate Beltane and perhaps you will find love, flourishing and inspiration. Make magic happen!

    30th April 2017



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