April 30, 2011 (“May Eve”)
Night on Bald Mountain
Tonight is one of the oldest northern European holidays, the magical evening just before May 1st – a night with such ancient, pagan roots that (along with “May Day”) it hasn’t yet been “Christianized” into the Church calendar. In Teutonic lore, tonight, Walpurgisnacht- “Woods Purging Night” – is the night when the dark forces of nature are unleashed on the mountaintops. Bonfires are lit and spirits rise from the woods to float up the high pinnacles and into the night sky. Walpurgisnacht is the night when Goethe’s Faust traveled with Mephistopheles to the sacred German mountain, the Brocken, to seek powers from these same primal forces of darkness. In this Night on Bald Mountain – as so powerfully depicted in the Disney film Fantasia, accompanied by the pagan rhythms of Moussorgsky – we see the dark forces dispelled with the approaching dawn of May Day. Coincidentally, tonight, April 30, also marks the 66th anniversary (as described in my book, The Magic Circle) of the suicide in a Berlin bunker of someone who unleashed a dark cloud of his own over the past century: Adolf Hitler.
Perhaps on this particular May Eve, it is time to do a bit of purging of our own woods: weed out the dead wood from our past year – prejudice, resentment, hatred, envy, strife – any debris that wastes our time and burns a hole in our energies, our pockets or our hearts. Let’s break this all into kindling, toss it onto the bonfire, and help everybody illuminate the corners of the dark forest. Then let’s get the heck out of here and go build a maypole that we can dance around, all throughout the coming year!
The Lusty Month of May
May is named for Maia, mother of Hermes (an incorrigible child who grew up to be messenger to the gods and the father of alchemy.) Maia herself was a mountain nymph who later became one of the Pleiades, those stars called Seven Sisters. The first day of Maia’s month (in old Irish, Beltaine or “Bel’s Fires”) marked the beginning of Celtic summer, the time each year when love, lust and mating rituals flourish, along with plants, birds, bees and other critters. Just as Hermes played a key role in my book The Eight, so his mother Maia has likely inspired a few mating rituals in the book I am writing right now! Wish me luck!
Happy summer to all!
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