Rites of May, by Molly Remer

I rose early seeking Beltane dewdrops
with which to anoint my brow.
the cupped violet stems and clover
were dry
and I found no dewdrops
in the chickweed stars.
Instead, I put out oranges
for the orioles,
ran my fingers through the dandelions,
and pressed my nose into the lilacs.
I spotted green flowers
on the mulberry trees,
found the first wild pink geraniums
and tender bells of columbine
and came face to face
with the quiet black eyes
of solemn deer in the raspberry bushes.
These things
their own kind of anointing,
their own small and significant
rites of May Magic.

As a family, we traditionally celebrate the May by making a Green Man face in our field, using natural items that we find that day. As a goddess-focused person who walks an almost exclusively goddess-centered/nature-based path, this is one of our few family rituals that centers around more masculine sacred imagery. It is a favorite for my kids—rituals involving multi-age groups should always be as highly participatory as possible. I have written several times for FAR about how my hearth-priestessing has evolved over the years, letting go of more and more control, doing less and less planning, and being more freeform, spontaneous, flexible, and playful. My four children now range in age from 7-18. We have celebrating the turning of the Wheel of the Year for their entire lives. I love how our memories of past rituals inform the present—for example this year’s Green Man had the same rock for a nose that we used for last year’s Green Man.

This year, May Day was bright and sunny with a wild wind. We circled near the driveway, building our Man on the gravel, where his features would stand out against the brown rocks. We gave him antlers formed from cedar branch and white-tailed deer and a crown of a split stump of gray oak. My oldest son trimmed off cedar branches for his beard, my husband pruned the hydrangeas of last year’s dead growth to frame his face, my sixteen year old gathered golden stalks of dry bluestem grass for a mustache, and my 11 and 7 year olds gathered pieces of grass and cinquefoil to trim his hair and beard.

We stood around him in admiration for a few minutes and then I spoke of the bounty, growth, and renewal of this time of year. We stood hand in hand and read the following blessing together (me calling a line and then all repeating it):

A sweet blessing
of the singing sky
to us.

A slow blessing
of the shining flame
to us.

 A strong blessing
 of the crashing wave
to us.

 A soft blessing
of the pulsing earth
to us.

We then offered a wish to one another in turn with a spritz of “Valiant Heart” spray (from Honey and Sage Co). For example, I spritzed my daughter (11) and wished her curiosity and creativity and then she turned to her father and spritzed him wishing him health and prosperity.

I gave everyone four rose petals (whole flowers would have worked well, but I was working on the fly!) and invited everyone to kiss each petal in turn and then offer it to the Green Man (the wind whirled most of our petals away as we released them, which was pleasant as well—our wishes, accepted), based on this past poem:

Find four flowers
and bring them to your lips
one at a time.
One for wonder.
One for joy.
One for love.
One for magic.
Make your promise
invite them in,
one by one
the spell is done.

We sang a few lines together, laughing, from one of Tom Bombadil’s ditties in The Fellowship of the Ring and shouted out, “Happy May!”  after finishing our raucous rendition:

Now let the song begin! Let us sing together!
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather,
Light on the budding leaf, dew on the feather,
Wind on the open hill, bells on the heather,
Reeds by the shady pool, lilies on the water…

We then each took a handful of wildflower seeds and sang “Call Down a Blessing” over them, each of us plugging in a blessing word in our turn.

Call down a blessing
Call down a blessing
Call down a blessing
Call down
__________before you
__________behind you
__________within you
and around you.

This song is based on Cathy Parton and Dave Para’s song, but is sung collaboratively with each person choosing a blessing to sing together in the blank space. (A recording of our women’s circle singing this together during a ritual is available here.) We then scattered to plant our handfuls of seeds in whichever place we wished to do so.

This whole ceremony took less than thirty minutes and we closed our largely spontaneous ritual by joining hands and offering our family’s usual closing prayer (learned from our own dear Carol Christ): May Goddess bless and keep us, may wisdom dwell within us, may we create peace.

It is important that we share these rituals of celebration and affirmation with our sons as well as our daughters. Men, too, should know the power of joined hands in a circle, voices lifted in song, and sweet words of connection surrounding one another on a bright spring day.

My oldest son is graduating from high school this month and this week I took him to register for his first college classes. At this threshold moment in parenting, I feel the odd psychological sensation of overlapping generational “timelines,” sometimes feeling like I, myself, have become my parents, while at the same time, feeling like I am a college student myself. But, for now, at this moment, we stand here together under a Beltane sun, laughing together around a Green Man in the stones.

Molly Remer, MSW, D.Min, is a priestess, teacher, and poet facilitating sacred circles, seasonal rituals, and family ceremonies in central Missouri. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses at Brigid’s Grove (brigidsgrove.etsy.com). Molly is the author of nine books, including Walking with Persephone, Whole and Holy, Womanrunes, and the Goddess Devotional. She is the creator of the devotional experience #30DaysofGoddess and she loves savoring small magic and everyday enchantment.



Categories: Children, Earth-based spirituality, Family, Goddess Spirituality, Magic, parenting, Ritual, Seasons, Women's Spirituality

5 replies

  1. Oh, this is just beautiful Molly! Thank you for sharing. I applaud your family appreciation of the month of May that includes everyone…. It will be interesting to see how your children take this appreciation for nature into the world. Blessed be!
    My morning walk with the birds and may flowers along the brook and through the woods brings me to the edge of deep appreciation for what is the GREENING that is spring. Again, blessed be!

    Like

  2. This is beautiful, Molly. I love the freeflowing nature of the ritual, really reflecting integration, which seems would be very empowering to your kids and their own practice. I also can’t believe how grown you’re kids are! It’s so cool to see 💕

    Like

  3. Wonderful! The Green Man is my favorite pagan character, but I’ve never created a Green Man like your family does. I love it that it’s your whole family that does this joyful work. Blessings to you and your Green Man and your ritual and to a bright Maytime for us all.

    Like

  4. Lovely, Molly! I loved seeing how old your kids are. And how healthy and happy.

    Like

  5. What a great Beltane celebration, Molly! Thanks for sharing it with us. Blessed Be!

    Like

Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: