May 1st is rapidly approaching and spring has finally reached my frozen homeland. Preparing my garden has been an anchor for me, a reason to get some sun, fresh air, and exercise. It’s a new hobby for me, and seems like an excellent avenue to explore my polytheistic faith – after all, crop fertility was kind of a big deal for the ancestors who inspire my practice. A time for the Ploughman.
But it’s also a time of action, and May 1st isn’t just a significant holiday in pagan culture – it’s also International Worker’s Day, a time to reflect and act on the sacrifices working-class people have made to earn basic human rights from an oppressive ruling class. Though this holiday has been watered down in North America, instead replaced with a lax “Labour Day” in September, its roots are re-emerging during a time of rising income inequality. A time for the Warrior.
The snow has melted, and April showers have finally brought a downy green coat to life from the grey, littered landscape the melt left behind. These rains have special properties, and are the source of the spring renewal alongside the warm sunlight that takes the edge off the cold winds that still blow in every now and then. The sun came first, a gift from Belinos to reawaken life, and though the snow is long-since melted, this isn’t the case every year. Sometimes the snow doesn’t melt away completely until early May, when the tulips emerge from thawing ground to meet the warm sun. It’s these flowers, the warmth of spring light, and the dripping of melting snow that bring me closer to him. But spring is also known for rains, and these are also a powerful force, a force that can be less pleasant – and sometimes dangerous as river banks threaten to burst – but a source of fertility nonetheless. Though the rains come from above, Gallo-Brittonic polytheism is nothing if not muddled in it’s distinction between the ouranic and chthonic. Nodons, cloud bringer, King of the seas above Dubnos, sends us new life from the depths. The cycle of water in our world keeps the cycle of seasons turning, and we give Nodons thanks for the health and fertility his rains bring.
It’s this latter concept that piqued my interest when looking into celebrations around this time. Nodons is commonly thought to be cognate to Lludd Llaw Eraint (“Nudd of the Silver Hand” if you will), a king from Welsh myth who, among other feats, captured 2 dragons whose battling was causing strife to his lands. He did so, in part, by burying a cauldron of mead in the center of Britain and luring them in, on the eve of May Day. This imagery brings to mind the Gundestrup Cauldron, and a statue of British Mars holding 2 horned serpents, but the story also came to mind when I noticed that the Feast of St George falls on April 25th. St George, of course, was a Middle-Eastern saint who was brought back to Britain during the Crusades and is now known as the slayer of dragons. Additionally, he was said to have slain his dragon near Oxford, which is also the the location of this mead ritual performed by Lludd…
I then began looking into St George, and learned that there may be an etymological link to “plougman”, which also caught my attention. Ambactonos, the Brittonic “divine plougman” god, has previously caught my eye as I explored hunting mythos in the fall; the general idea is that the hunter and the ploughman are divine opposites, a theme I hope to explore and develop as my practice grows. So here we have a dragon-slaying holiday with possible ties to ploughing at a time when I’m preparing my vegetable garden, with mythical ties to burying mead and restoring life to the land. The deal was sealed when I learned that a bit of wine can act as a fertilizer when mixed into soil.
I did have 3 problems: the first is that I ordered a load of compost for later in May (like I said it’s cold up here). Oh well, I can still sprinkle some mead around the area this year and time it better next year. The second: turns out I shouldn’t be digging up all my soil, as it musses up all the good soil bacteria (information courtesy of Drunertos, who is knowledgeable in these sorts of things). Again, better luck next year. For now, I’ll just do the ritual in the patch that is already turned over. The third is that I missed St George’s Feast completely due to a horrible bout of stomach flu – at least I’d booked the day off, I needed it. But Drunertos very kindly wrote me a ritual, I have a bottle of mead in my fridge, and I have recovered just in time for May Day eve – I’ll take my wins where I can get them.
So I invite anyone who’s interested, particularly if you’re also exploring crop fertility and polytheism, to join me in a little May Day ritual (you can find the script here). If you don’t have mead or wine, I’d replace it with some sort of juice or even fertilizer/nutrients – we are asking for a good harvest after all.
Social justice cultus is an inherent part of Sepânioi Rotî’s theology, so the inclusion of International Worker’s Day into our calendar of holidays made perfect sense when it was brought up by Aerioitos Aldwyn. This can be a day of somber reflection – particularly during a Feast – or a day of action. My city happens to be hosting a May 1st rally for worker’s rights, a perfect time to take part in some social justice cultus. Now as I mentioned earlier, last weekend wasn’t nearly as restorative as I had hoped, instead costing me several days of severe illness. The result is that I was unable to draft a ritual in preparation for this protest; a shame. I will include, instead, some guests of honour one could invoke for anyone wishing to craft their own ritual or say some prayers, either in preparation for action, in absentia for others carrying the torch, or in reflection for the actions of others that cost so much for basic human rights:
• Brigantiâ: source of Galâ (Valor, Courage, Ability), she inspires us to fight for our touta (tribe, home, friends and family), a defensive goddess of war and creation; for creation of safe havens.
• Cocidios: the shielder/striker, a god who guards against attack and strikes with ferocity when attacked, inspiring us to take action against injustice; for proactive social justice.
• Camulos: the classic warrior, god of the boundary, he rouses the warband to battle when external forces threaten the livelihoods of the working class; excellent for counter-protesting against fascism, protecting the vulnerable.
• Taranos: as steward of the Wheel, he grants us the strength to turn it, enacting change and breaking free from stagnation; a god of justice and order.
• Cernunnos: as a liminal deity, he watches over periods of revolution and change; as a god of prosperity, he inspires the fight against wealth disparity; when syncretized with Dionysus, a god of revolutions, breaking of the status quo, and people pushed to the boundaries of society
• Senisamanos: the ancestors, those who came before and have continued this fight through the generations; to be remembered on this day, and to make sure their sacrifice was not in vain.
I hope my health recovers in time to attend this May Day rally, but I also need to remember to find balance and prioritize my own needs every now and then. Writing this post has been a good reminder of that, so I will play this weekend by ear. If all else fails, a short rest, some mead in the ground, and some prayers to those who came before will inspire me for my next step.
So to all who celebrate this time of year, I hope the sun shines warmly, the rains bring life to the land around you, and the ancestors rest peacefully.
An snemude rotos aiwi