Today we celebrate Beltane which literally means “bright fire.” In many places, this festive holiday is celebrated with fire as well as flowers, braided ribbons and the May Pole. May 1 is also International Workers Rights Day and marks the anniversary of many key battles on the way to securing basic labor rights such as the 8 hour day, the weekend, safe working conditions, and the right for workers to organize and bargain collectively. Here in the United States we don’t celebrate labor until September as the government sought to distance the holiday from its links to communism and the more radical fringes of the workers’ rights movements.
I tried to find a connection between this festive celebration of fertility and the renewal of life and workers’ rights. I could not find a direct correlation, it does not seem that workers intentionally chose this particular time or holiday to fight for decent and fair working conditions. Yet as I have been looking at the juxtaposition of these 2 events I have been thinking about how life is cyclical. That while the way we measure time is very linear with beginning, middle and end. Nature and the earth show us that a spiral is a more holistic vision. And it seems that history too is more a spiral, with what may have thought to have been settled in one era, comes back in new ways, with new challenges and new opportunities.
Beltane is one of the major pagan holidays and it marks the turning of winter to summer. In some traditions the story of the King of Winter and King of Summer is told, dueling out for supremacy until finally summer wins out. I know for us here in the southeast, we have been very ready for the defeat of winter and renewal of life and warmth. In ancient times of course this was literally a time of life or death. A hard winter took its toll on people, animals and the earth. Food stores would be low. The imperative of a good spring and the harvest to follow meant how well the people and animals would survive the return of winter. In our industrialized world we have lost touch with many elements of this. Most of us have the privilege of enjoying a bounty of food choices all year round. As we remember that in the midst of such bounty, many of our neighbors are suffering from food insecurity relying on local food pantries to make it through each month. The cold winter was hard but for most not life threating. We were grateful for heat pumps and lights and warm clothes. Yet I know for me this spring is deeply welcomed. I love the green on the trees, the blooming flowers. We have been following three families of geese along the canal as the goslings seem to get bigger every day. Even in this body that often lives disconnected from the rhythms of nature, I feel, see and smell the renewal of life. Yes the wheel has turned again and life is renewed.
I also sense the cycle of history turning again. We are once again paying attention to the deep chasm between the haves and the have nots. Another gilded age has emerged and with it a renewed attention to workers, wages and working conditions. Just this week the Senate considered a bill to raise the minimum wage. Just like before the fight for justice for working people will not be easily won. It will not come quickly. It will come too late for many. Yet once again, people are organizing, they are talking and they are taking action for an economic and labor system that is more just. The wheel turns again and once again the rights of workers calls for our attention.
Here in the Outer Banks the season is also shifting. The tourists and seasonal residents are returning. Spring break had the pottery place where I do office hours filled with patrons. There is more traffic on the road. Many here are ready and already busy with the rental season, homes being cleaned, residents in and out.
Here at UUCOB the annual pledge drive is underway. The letters have gone out. We reflect on what this faith community has meant to us. What gifts has it given? What is our gift to this community? How can we do our part to support financially the life and work of this liberal faith community here in the Outer Banks? Our nominating committee is hard at work searching for leaders … those who will give of their time to help the important work of this community move forward. The wheel turns and life renews as some of our leaders step down or take different jobs and others step up. The wheel turns and we start a new fiscal year in just a couple of months celebrating all that we did this year and looking forward to what we can do next.
What in your life is shifting and changing? What cocoons and hibernations are shedding? What new possibilities are emerging? As new life emerges around us, what is emerging within you? What hopes do you plant for this spring and summer? What do you hope to harvest? This is the season of planting after a season of dreaming. What dreams do you hope to manifest?
In a few moments, we will go outside and dance the May Pole, Its meaning is to ask for an abundant harvest, a blessing of the land. That new life would be abundant – animal life, plant life, human life. It celebrates possibility. As you dance the May Pole what are we hoping to move from possible to probable to real? What is waiting to be born within each of us? Within this community?
Come let us celebrate the possibilities!