The following is an excerpt from chapter 7 of Dancing the Sacred Wheel: A Journey through the Southern Sabbats (TDM Publishing, 2014) the first book written by the Temple of the Dark Moon’s very own High Priestess that explores the eight seasonal festivals commonly found within modern Paganism from both a traditional point of view as well as providing insight as to how they can be adapted in the Southern Hemisphere. Having taken nearly 10 years to research and write, this 292 paged book can be purchased from Amazon.com and all other affiliated stores.
The preference for spelling Bealtaine as such is because the word Bealtaine is believed to come from the Irish Gaelic, with Bealtuinn the Scottish Gaelic equivalent. Both words mean bel-fire.
Chapter 7 – Bealtaine – The Sacred Union
As the sun has now reached the midway point between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, it continues to bring more and more warmth and light to the waiting earth. The hours of daylight lengthen as the nights slowly shorten with each rotation of the earth and get increasingly warmer.
In the southern skies, Bealtaine heralds the return of the brilliant constellation of Orion the Hunter. To the northeast, the reddish star Aldebaran has joined the Pleiades. The Great Square of Pegasus is prominent, straddling the meridian, and in the southwest Scorpius is setting, with the Southern Cross lying on its side just above the southern horizon.
For the Ngarrindjeri people, the Pleiades, also known as the “Seven Sisters”, (now at their highest point in the Southern Hemisphere) marks the time when initiations into cultural wisdom and knowledge takes place. This is the time when “… swimming is restricted when the waters are full of life, too dangerous for women to enter”.
Along the waters of the Coorong, flocks of Australian pelicans (Pelecanus conspicillatus) (the totem animal of the Ngarrindjeri people, known as Ngori) catch the warming air currents, which allow their large bodies to lift effortlessly in the skies. The Ngarrindjeri people refer to this time of the year as Luwadang, the time of warmth, which lasts from November to January.
In the Top End, the Bininj/Mungguy brace themselves as Gunumeleng is about to arrive. From mid-October to late December, the pre-monsoon weather arrives as the humidity increases along with the temperatures. Thunderstorms build to bring rain to the dry land. With the increasing amount of water, birdlife and new growth soon appear. Barramundi move from the waterholes to the estuaries where they breed and the local people seek shelter from the approaching storms and the impending Wet Season. Along the Cobourg Peninsular (some 350 kilometres from Darwin), it is Barligar time, which means that the mangroves become favourite hunting grounds for mud crabs.
The Australian Bealtaine arrives when the native bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.) is a mass of beautiful red flowers. The flame trees erupt into fire with their brilliant scarlet red flowers as if they too are acknowledging that Summer has arrived.
A favourite chant that can be heard during this time of the year is taken from Rudyard Kipling’s “A Tree Song” from Puck on Pook’s Hill:
Oh, do not tell the priest our plight,
or he would call it a sin,
But we’ve been out in the woods all night,
a-conjuring summer in,
Good news we bring by word of mouth,
good news for cattle and corn
Now as the sun comes up from the north,
With oak, and ash, and thorn.