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Beltane, and the Goddess Creiddylad.

By Danu Forest

Beltane the 1st or 5th of May, marks the most fertile season of the land. Beltane is a festival of outdoor revelry, when people gather from far and wide to spend the night outdoors in the company of nature spirits and the faeries, who also celebrate this time by processing across the land, blessing lovers and playing tricks on the pompous or unwary.

It is said that at Beltane Gwyn ap Nudd, the King of the faeries of Glastonbury Tor, and god of the underworld, known as the Winter King, battles Gwythr ap Greidawl, the Summer King, over the hand of the maiden goddess Creiddylad. It is recorded that this was decreed by Arthur, but the tale of Gwyn and Gwythr predates Arthur by centuries, and it is one of many versions of the sacred and ritualised struggle between winter and summer. Beltane is a turning point of the year, when the last breath of the cold season finally retreats from the land, and the resurgence of summer is seen in the buds on the trees and in the new life that is burgeoning at this time.

The goddess Creiddylad is largely forgotten nowadays, but her role as the royal maiden who is fought over by the summer and winter reveals her to be one of the ancient goddesses of sovereignty, fertility and the land, over which the dual forces of life and death eternally struggle. Creiddylad is the daughter of the sea god Lyr, and as such is probably that mysterious figure, The Lady of the Lake. Throughout the winter months, Avalon is shrouded in water and mist, but by Beltane the waters have transformed the land into verdant meadows, and orchards sighing with new green leaves and the promise of blossom and fruit. For Creiddylad, like Blodeuwedd, is also a flower maiden, a lover goddess, quickening life in all she touches, a goddess of blossom and nectar as well as the sacred living waters. Like all water and river goddesses, she represents the primal and sacred source of the fertility of the land. Without her all becomes barren as she retreats to the underworld in the winter months, her return at Beltane restoring the fecundity of the earth itself. A sexual goddess, much of her tales are forgotten as are the deeply sexual aspects of Beltane itself, and in recent centuries she has been honoured for her virginity, not her sexual energy. But traces of the old ways remain, in the symbolism of the phallic May pole for example, and in the sacredness of the May blossom, the hawthorn, at this time. 

Both Creiddylad and hawthorns are associated with sacred sexuality, and like them both, the energies of the earth rise in passion at Beltane. Once men and women went ‘a-maying’ at Beltane, to make love beneath the stars and the children of such unions were considered to be especially blessed.         

Beltane is traditionally held at the first full moon after the hawthorn flowers, due to the tree being sacred to the goddess as maiden mother and crone. The blossom is her maiden aspect, yet still she is protected by the thorns of the crone, insuring only those worthy of her love may enter beneath her sacred boughs. Hawthorns are faerie trees, and only faerie friends may cut their wood, and only ever with permission. Hawthorn is also associated with the heart, and this is s a clue to its ancient magic; that to befriend the hawthorn you must learn the wisdom of the heart, and by that attain inner sovereignty. Only a king can wed the queen of the May, by learning this Mystery and proving his worth.

This Beltane, seek the blessing of the god and goddess, and honour the wisdom of the heart yourself. Looking out for the faeries at twilight, remember and bless all the love in your life, in whatever form it takes. To have a heart filled with love is a worthy quest indeed, and makes kings and queens of us all.

Blessed Be! 


©danu forest 2013

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