After the Beltane Festival

Kinesthetic religion: my left arm was a little sore on Sunday from helping to carry the Maypole in procession—a pine trunk the size of a smallish telephone pole, ridden by a zaftig May Queen. And yes, we heard every ribald variation on “riding the pole” shouted from the onlookers. It was Beltane, after all.

The arm remembers the procession and the raising of the Maypole. What was said is not remembered. “Imagistic” religion trumps “doctrinal” religion—my take on Harvey Whitehouse’s work.

As for the workshop that I was fretting about on Friday, it produced a small but interested group. Contrary to the suggestion of one of my commenters, I did not resort to a joke book but gave them the “Calling It Nature Religion” chapter from Her Hidden Children and the “Where You At” quiz from “Nature Religion for Real.”

Every Pagan festival includes workshops, but I think that the larger the festival, the smaller the percentage of attendees that go to them. Is that workshop-learning model still working?

What draws the crowd are large-scale rituals and entertainment. Beltania, in fact, is billed as a “MusicFest and Beltane Festival” in that order. This year’s acts included Kenny Klein, Tuatha, Wendy Rule, Lunar Fire/INTI, Pandora, Mythica, and Skean Dubh.

And it was Lunar Fire, the biggest and showiest act, playing after dark in a haze of wood smoke and blowing dust, that really pulled the crowd. (Lots of free-range kids there—that’s good to see.)

Half the fun of festival-going is people-watching. You have those who remove as much clothing as possible to display their Pagan body art—and after a day at 6,700 feet elevation, their sunburns. You have the mild moments of cognitive wardrobe dissonance: black guys in kilts, a tattooed cholo-styling guy in a Renn Faire-ish velvet robe.

Then there was the guy who came to my workshop sporting a spiffy Panama hat. I saw him later during the Luna Fire set. Among all the dreadlocks and glow sticks and Pagan T-shirts and flowing robes—not to mention the billowing smoke—he appeared in the same Panama, plus white shirt, dark tie, and seersucker sport coat. He looked like the stereotypical Englishman in the jungle—definitely a contender for Best Costume.

7 thoughts on “After the Beltane Festival

  1. lynn

    No, YOU have the mild moments of cognitive dissonance. I would no sooner bat an eye at a black guy in a kilt than I do at the legions of white trustafarians wearing dreadlocks.

  2. lynn

    I don’t either.

    But there’s no rule that black folks have to only wear clothes that are “Afrocentric” is there? Maybe that guy has Scotland ancestry somewhere in this past, or maybe he spent time there. Or maybe he just likes kilts and wearing one is his way of connecting with the holiday. It’s all good.

  3. Perhaps you are thinking of the black American writer whose surname was Mac-Something who went to the clan gathering in Scotland and was fully accepted. But the guy in kilts still does not get my “best costume” prize, which goes instead to the fellow who wore his Panama hat and blue sports jacket to the Lunar Fire concert.

  4. lynn

    ^^Never heard of that writer, actually. I was basically just referring to the fact that most black Americans have some non-African ancestry. I have Irish on both sides, and my earliest ancestors on this soil were an Irish indentured slave girl and the man she would later marry, a free black in Virginia (1700s). My great-grandfather was Seminole. And my great-grandmother on my mom’s side was Irish. Those are just the ones I know about. And I am hardly unique. So just pointing out that it’s really not all that weird for a black guy to be in a kilt when you consider the history of it.

    Then there are all those American Catholic school girls who grow up wearing kilts. They may not have any Scottish ancestry, but you can be sure that wearing them feels as natural to them as blue jeans. Not just girls of Irish or Italian ancestry, but many black and Latina girls as well.

    With all that said, I should also add that I enjoy your blog and come by at least once a week. Stop by mine sometime:

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