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(BELTANE; 4/30,5/1)


Below is pictured a 100 year old statue of the Roman Goddess Diana,
which resides in Sutro Park on the Pacific coast in San Francisco. 
To me Diana embodies the spirit of this holiday which I have named
after Her, though most witches call it Beltane.  She is a warrior and
an independent woman who will stand up for her beliefs and defend
the precious and the tender.  Diana is the Virgin Goddess, "Whole
Unto Herself."  She and Her Greek counterpart, Artemis, run wild in
the forest with their hounds and their sisters..  She is the Crescent Moon,
said to be Her magical Bow from which She aims Her unfailing arrows. 
She is young Womanhood in the fullness of Her Power, as the year
waxes and She claims Her Selfhood and Her Path in Life.  She is the
vanguard of the women's movement, the archetype that has informed
our breaking free, risking for our truth, and coming into our own.
She is the Amazon Goddess who belongs to no man.

People leave offerings at the feet of this statue in San Francisco. 
The place has become a kind of grass roots shrine.  She is in a small
but very lush and green little park, windswept by the sea She overlooks.
There is magic there, and I have made pilgrimage to this sacred spot a
few times...sometimes alone, sometimes with circle sisters. 

One time I went brokenhearted by myself to weep at Her feet and
ask Her why the sisterhood of women is so scattered, so fragmented
...why is there so much competition, jealousy, betrayal, disconnection
between us?  What happened to the wonderful vision of women together
in circles, safe, mutually supported, every voice honored and heard? 

And Diana answered me through my inward hearing.  She said:

"Women need to learn to walk strong alone before they can walk
strong together."

Yes!! I thought.  That explains so much.  Women have been dependent
on the system for so long and it has weakened many of us. We must
develop the ability to survive, to love ourselves, to stand on our own,
to walk our talk, to attend to our healing and our souls, to have good
boundaries, to take risks for our truth, to pursue and reach our goals...
all qualities embodied by the archetypal Diana/Artemis/Durga/Oya/ and
other cognate Goddesses of cultures worldwide...She is the wild part 
of us that needs to be strong and free.

On my way home, riding in a car down the west coast along Highway
One, Mama Sea embracing us and the land to our right, wild grassy
windmown hills to our left, and a sparkling blue sky above us... I
looked up and saw a flock of seagulls flying in the same direction as
our car.  They were flying in synchronized formation, several arm-
spans apart from one another... yet flying as one. 

I felt breathless when I saw that.  It was a message straight from
the Goddess that even when it looks like we are flying by ourselves
we are still part of something larger and we are still connected. 

Alone together.     All-one to-get-Her.

Most Pagans I talk to nowadays tell me that they are solitaries.
There has been a decided movement inward and a necessary seed
period.  Part of this is the need for inward growth and healing.
Part of it is from disillusionment with groups.  Many of us have ex-
perienced betrayals, disappointments, and unresolveable differences
in groups.  I believe this happens because of our old patriarchal
ways of interacting; that it is possible to frame circles in a
different way.

I look for the time when we will reach the next stage, when
we will be able to truly walk strong together.  I still believe that
lasting circles of sisterhood are key to true world transformation.
I think we are getting closer to this every day.

Nowadays it is still a pretty radical idea to set aside a holy time
that celebrates women's autonomy.  Yet the ancient myths stated
that men dared not invade Diana/Artemis' sanctuary, lest they be
torn to pieces by Her hunting hounds.  Personally I have no incli-
nation to eject males so violently from my universe, so I wonder why
Diana's stories would include such an extreme reaction?  Perhaps to
bring home to the reader how sacred and important it is to preserve
the female divine. That the wild energy of the Goddess, unmixed
with that of men and gods, is needed for the health and balance of
our world.  Without it we see what happens... societies deteriorate,
wilderness dwindles. Honoring this Goddess is poignantly relevant right
now, this April 2,004, when the March For Women's Lives has just
taken place in Washington, and though no one invoked Her out loud,
Diana, the pro-choice Goddess was surely there. For what is Her in-
violable sanctuary, if not the bodies of women?  None knows so well
as She that that no one has the right to invade a woman's sacred
rites of womb and sex, of birth and blood . It is time to welcome
back the Amazon Guardians of our Holy Gates. Whenever anyone
stands up for the women's right to control our own bodies, Diana is

Or, perhaps those were patriarchal versions of the myth, that
expressed men's fear of women's power and painted the indepen-
dence of the Goddess with a violent brush?  An autonomous self-
fertilizing Goddess says to women that we can be ourselves, that
we can be free, that we can make it on our own, that we do not
have to be dominated or controlled by anyone, and if we choose
to make commitments and interact with men or women,, we can do
so from a place of true desire and equality. 

Diana's day, then, like all the eight holy days on the Wheel of the
Year, has a strong political side. This is a good time to take
stands on the issues, to demonstrate and speak out.  Since main-
stream pagans are usually celebrating the union of Goddess and God
and erecting phallic Maypoles, it is radical even among our own.  But
in the women's Wheel we need a time to honor our Selfhood. 
Diana's wholeness was not about celibacy and the word "virgin"
meant whole, not a-sexual.  She could make love as much as
She pleased and still belong to Herself .  I've often wondered if
the original maypole was actually a Goddess Tree, changed later
by patriarchs to represent male sexuality.  Or, why don't we dance
around a representation of the Yoni, the sacred genitalia of woman?

Menarche, the onset of menstruation is, after all, a primary theme
for this time.  The Goddess grows up and becomes Woman, and her
sexuality awakens.  It is not the full blown sexuality of Summer
Solstice , but the opening of the flower .  "She Flowers" is another
epithet found in ancient texts that described Her menstrual cele-
brations.  Spring rains were understood to be the Goddess' mens-
truation, the magical fertilizing liquid that brings new life forms. In
early times people were in awe of "She Who Bleeds Yet
Does Not Die," for men can only bleed through injury or cutting .  The
earliest takeover of patriarchy was the theft of menstrual rites, replaced
with male circumcision and "infibulation" - the slicing of the male genital
lengthwise, that men might call themselves "the one with the Vulva."
Thus, the first cut, that separated the genders and set men "opposite" to
women. From the adoration of Hera, the Great Mother, we went to the
emulation of Hera-cles..Hercules.. the heroic god who represented the
bloody cut through acts of violence, prowess and war, for the
"proving" of "manhood."

Before that bleeding was usually gentle and pleasurable, associated with
fertility and darkmoon time.  Since the moon was the biggest light in the
sky, women generally all menstruated at the same time.  Priestesses would
put their moonblood on the altar, the original sacrament that later became
the wine, just as the bread of the body of the Goddess later became the
wafer . Sisters would save their moonblood and use it to water their
gardens, and of course the plants loved it and flourished. For Hers is
the Body that offers us nourishment, and Hers is the Blood that gives
us hope of renewal; without suffering, without violence.

In Marija Gimbutas' amazing books The Language of the Goddess, and
The Civilization of the Goddess there are references to the menstrual
rituals women had in ancient times.   Tiny sculptures of women were
found among the archeological icons she explored with zig-zag designs
painted on them that represented menstruation.  These statuettes were
found placed in circular bowls in the temple ruins, so that they were
seated together in a ring.   Clearly women had their powwows at the
time of their flow, and deepened together to find insight and make
decisions for the tribe.  Bleeding time, as many sisters know is a very
psychic and sensitive time .  How wonderful it  must be to live in a
world that honors these things, and taps into their uses and blessings.
How differently women must have felt about themselves and their
bodies, compared to our current society where menstruation is cursed
and taboo, hidden, shameful, called unclean,frought with "PMS," and
yes, commonly referred to as "the curse!"

In our age we have the task to remove all the curses placed on women's
blood mysteries, and return to them as blessings. Thus our Beltane rites
honor the natural blood cycles of women , as well as our autonomy, our
strength, our power, and our selfhood. 

(Image of Diana at top of this page is from the wonderful website
"Women in Greek Myths" at http://www.paleothea.com/

(The beautiful flowery background in this cavelet is from Absolute
Backgrounds at  http://www.grsites.com/textures
Thank you !




Wear red, bring red foods (stawberries, beets, radishes,
red cabbage, red potatoes, red peppers, rhubarb, red apples...)
Decorate the altar with red draperies, red flowers, stones can-
dles...and an image or statue of Diana or a wild free Goddess of
your choice...

Cast the circle by chanting Her name
Raise the cone

Invocation - Sing or chant the Charge of the Goddess:

Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess
The dust of Whose feet are the hosts of heaven
She Whose body encircles the universe:
"I am the beauty of the green earth
And the white moon amongst the stars
And the mystery of the waters
And the desire in women's hearts
Call unto your soul
Arise and come unto Me
For I am the soul of nature
Who gives life to the universe
From Me all things proceed
And unto Me all things must return
Before my face beloved of all
Let your divine innermost self be enfolded
In the rapture of the infinite...

Let my worship be in the heart that rejoices
For behold, all acts of loving pleasure
Are my rituals
And therefore let there be beauty
And strength, and power, and compassion
Honor and pride, mirth and reverence within you

And you who think to seek for Me
Know your seeking and yearning
Shall avail you not lest you know the mystery
That if you seek Me and find Me not within you
You will never find Me without
For behold, I have been with you from the beginning
And I am with you endlessly... 


-Adapted by Shekhinah from an earlier version compiled from ancient
anonyms texts by Doreen Valiente


Celebrate women's Blood Mysteries -


As a babe in blood I am born
As a maid with blood I flow
As woman in blood I birth
And from blood the milk doth go
With age comes the ending of blood
And the shadow of death I know

Libation - Water a plant with collected menstrual blood - unless there
is concern about risk of AIDS... in which case use red juice, wine or
hibiscus tea - the "blood" of the Goddess... (This too is a political
issue - our very blood is contaminated!)  Pass and drink red juice or
wine around the circle, saying "We all come from the blood of
woman."  "There's power in the blood of a woman..."

Pass the rattle or talking stick and share Menarch or First Blood
stories.  Speak your truth and listen well...

Fabulous feats - share stories of strong, brave, empowered, creative
and liberating things you have done... Cheer and celebrate each
woman's accomplishment.   And/or - take turns demonstrating fabulous
skills and accomplishments ... like jumping over a fire or enacting a
magic story...showing a piece of artwork ...offering herbs you have
grown...wood you have chopped...

Meditation - Do a visualization together to clear all oppressive energy
out of women's wombs and sexuality.  Then call on Guardian Amazon
Goddesses and ask them to resume their vigil at the Sacred Gates of
every woman present .  See them arriving and planting themselves
there. Call their Names. Welcome them. Thank them. Chant:

How long blood mysteries been cursed?
How many women been raped?
How many abortions been botched?

etc. etc. add your own words...

Shielding:  (This suggested aspect of the ritual requires lengthy advance
preparation, and like all the segments offered here, may or may not be
included.)  A gentle woman warrior tradition: Every participant creates
her magical shield ahead of time; selects/creates her magical "weapon"
as well, and brings them to the  circle. For details on creating and
consecrating your magical shield and symbolic "weapon," go to "Celtic
Women's Spirituality" by Edain McCoy; widely available in bookstores
on and offline.  To see Shekhinah's shield, go to Aphrodite's Shrine
and look on the altar...perhaps it  will inspire you to design your own...

In this segment of the ritual shields and "weapons" can be consecrated .
Sisters can voice their commitments as magical warriors for the Goddess
and women.  Magical names can be taken and acknowledged.

End this segment with a standing circle in which each woman displays
her shield before her, creating a circle of shields.  Declare your solidarity
with words of your choosing..and/or you can use the chant below.

Solidarity chant:

If only one woman finds some freedom
Then so do I, love, so do I...

If only one woman's oppressed and hurting
Then so am I love, so am I...

If only one woman's raped and beaten
So am I love, so am I...

If only one woman's cherished and sheltered
Then so am I love, so am I...

If only one woman's heart is broken
Then so is mine love, so is mine...

If only one woman finds some healing
Then so do I love, so do I...

If only one woman's power is broken
Then so is mine, love, so is mine...

If only one woman claims her power
Then so do I love, so do I...

If only one woman's voice is silenced
Then so is mine, love, so is mine...

If only one woman's voice is heard
Then so is mine, love, so is mine...

If only one woman's forced to be pregnant
Then so am I love, so am I...

If only one woman's forced to abortion
So am I, love, so am I...

If only one woman chooses what she needs
So do I love, so do I...

If only one woman's child is taken
So is mine, love, so is mine...

If only one woman's child comes home
So does mine, love, so does mine...

etc. etc. add your own words... :0)

Women can adorn themselves with red flowers, or give each other
flowers..crown each other with garlands of red flowers while the
chant is going...hugs and eye contact are appropriate too. 

This chant can expand into dancing, drumming, and joyful abandon...

Ritual can close after this, with a grounding, and opening of the circle,
followed of course, by feasting and comraderie...


Be blessed dear ones
At this holy time