“If you want to change the world, change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change.”
Recently I listened to a podcast of James Hillman speaking about what may motivate humanity to take care of our earth. He concluded that ‘love’ was at the heart of the solution. “We don’t usually willingly destroy something we love,”he said, suggesting that the way to re-kindle the love affair between mankind and our Planet was to re-learn to appreciate its beauty. “We fall in love with beauty,”Hillman explained. “Trouble is we’re anaesthetised by digital interaction, 24/7 TV, drugs, anti-depressants and stress. We need to open our eyes, wake up and appreciate the beauty of our earth.”
Gathering at Beltane in Cae Mabon it’s difficult not to be enthralled by the exuberant beauty of nature. This is the time, in our corner of the world, when trees unfurl their mantles, sunlight slants green-gold through woodland canopy, chasing mossy shade across forest floors ablaze with bluebells. Nature sings in extraordinary harmonies of colour and scent at this crossing point between spring and summer. No wonder the ancients revelled in its fertility and met rising sap with their own seed-rites round Beltane-fires.
To ‘beauty’ we added ‘inspiration’ and a celebration of the masculine and feminine. These gave form to our Blessings of Beltane gathering. Tantra teacher Annabel Newfield opened the retreat with a workshop that gentled us into the depth of ourselves and awakened a profound presence with each other. We developed trust, softened boundaries and began to flow in friendship. The next morning Eric brought us into our bodies, then together we raised voices, forming harmony from discord, holding the sublime tension of dissonance to resolve it into melting rainbows of notes, singing from our souls, sounding the universe’s song. It was already sublime.
As part of Sunday’s ritual preparation we split the sexes. In respective male and female circles we discussed our experience of womanhood and manhood. The conversations soon turned to the challenges and opportunities of these epoch defining times in which we live, when patriarchy and matriarchy are re-negotiating terms, and we strive through struggle and strife towards solace and solution. These were hard conversations that grew from moving testaments of pain and frustration, confusion and ache.
From the women’s group there arose a desire to share with the men something of the experience of being a woman in these times. Things we felt would be useful for them to know, that might help build bridges and deepen understanding and appreciation between the sexes. This would form our ‘gift’ within the ritual.
As the sun dipped low, turning Llyn Padarn to molten ore, we opened the ritual around the fire just outside the roundhouse. Then, men and women processed separately uphill towards the riverside ceremonial area. We women brought song from the woods and the Fachwen River, to be met by men drumming the heartbeat of the earth. Women formed a circle, the drumming ceased and we invited the men into the centre of our song, into the heart of our circle, into the epicentre of our heart-song. It was both lullaby and keen, arising from birth and death, menarche and menopause, first love, betrayal, fulfillment and the devastation of dreams. We shared it all in note and howl, melody and scream. Then we spoke, one by one, addressing the men, holding them in the core of our truth:
“I grew up believing I needed to be a man in order to survive and to succeed. It took years for me to celebrate my female body and the gifts of my sex.”
“As a woman, I feel everything and I’m overwhelmed by it at times.”
“I want to walk the beauty path, but I’m holding too much.”
“We carry the burden of thousands of years of negativity towards womankind.”
“I’m tired of being marginalized, spoken over and silenced. I have a voice, and I will speak and hold my ground, not just for my own self expression, but to own that space for our daughters and grand-daughters.”
“Not all my emotions are welcome. Unwelcomed emotions lead to shame, and shame kills.”
“I want the space to be seen in my fullness. Not objectified… and I am far more than a mother.”
“I want men to not fear our power and strength. Empowered women are good for the world, we’re a benefit to mankind, not a threat.”
“Men, when we women touch your soft, vulnerable places, don’t draw away. Let us love you.”
And from the youngest member of our circle, a wish for the future, for her teenage generation growing towards adulthood:
“I want equality between men and women, and for all our emotions to be welcomed.”
The men acknowledged our words. “We hear you,” they said. We gave them each a flower in gratitude. Then, the men responded with a declaration that emerged from their earlier group discussion:
“We motley men gathered from near and far and representing all and none do hereby declare:
We wish to value and honour the traditional masculine abilities to make tools and build shelter, to provide food and warmth, to protect and defend our lovers, families and community, our Planet Earth and life itself.
But we also know that masculine strength and power has led to arrogance and the brutal abuse of women, children and the natural world. We vow to do our best to stop that behavior both in ourselves and in other men.
We also vow to embody the fully human capacities of love, compassion and forgiveness in order to meet the women in our lives with equality and respect.
We know it is not easy to always live up to these noble aspirations. This is why here in this numinous place and now at this auspicious time of Beltane Eve we stand to make these vows again.”
They followed this with gifts of poetry and song. It was balm, we were well-met. We may not have danced around a maypole, but we continued to weave song, words and intention, beauty and the primordial truth that arises in ceremony. We become our deeper, magical selves, unfettered by linear time, in the landscape of the ritual which becomes a world, and which remains in that time and space for eternity, an indelible mark on the ether.
There was more, much more, but magic can neither be contained nor conveyed by words, and is tamed by the attempt. So that is enough. Save to say that something shifted that night, something was healed in each of us as we embraced a new way of relating, found a keener appreciation of the gifts of each sex. We were different at the end, and by our changing, in some small way we will change the world.