The Beltane Sun Caught in the Sea Monster’s Gaze

The Green Man of Glastonbury

The Green Man of Glastonbury

Last weekend, pagans, ritualists and those interested in honouring traditional seasonal ceremonies celebrated the festival of Beltane, which marks the beginning of summer in the Celtic calendar, the return of the Green King and the moment of his marriage to the May Queen.  Glastonbury is one of an increasing number of towns across the UK that mark this day with a carnival style parade and ritual enactment of this seasonal drama.  A band of virile men carrying the maypole down Glastonbury High Street, the alchemical weaving of the red and white ribbons of fertility, so aptly re-enacted in a town where a red and white spring conjoin.

Maypole Dancing at Wildheart

Maypole Dancing at Wildheart

As for myself, I was in Ashdown Forest in Sussex at the Wildheart Gathering, celebrating Beltane with a group of like-minded folk, reclaiming our relationship with the Mother Nature and honouring her cycles of transformation through the seasons.  We danced around the maypole and engaged in a powerful piece of ritual theatre to welcome in the Green King that will stay me for a long time.

While 1st May is the traditional date of celebration for Beltane, as an astrologer I have often considered that a more appropriate date for this festival would be the 5th or 6th May, when the sun reaches the midpoint (15 degrees) of Taurus, which marks the true quarter point of the year.  The same came be said of the three other “quarter festivals”, Imbolc, Lughnasadh & Samhain, which occur around the midpoint of the other three fixed signs – Aquarius, Leo & Scorpio respectively – and which are celebrated on the first day of February, August & November respectively, in each case a few days ahead of when the Sun actually hits the midpoint of the sign.

Perhaps this year of our UK General election, where so much appears to hang in the balance politically, it would be particularly apt to honour a cross-quarter moment today, for not only is the Sun at the midpoint degree of Taurus, but the last quarter Moon squares the Sun at the same degree in Aquarius, and Mars at 15 degrees Leo makes up a t-square, first being squared by the Sun, then opposed by the Moon.  I’d like to thank Marcia for pointing this out and for making the following observation that at this time of springtime’s abundance occurring in conjunction with a “harvesting” soli-lunar phase, we are also fiercely engaged with the zodiac’s warrior deity, Mars.   And so the election battleground commences!

Marcia has also pointed out that from a visual astrology perspective, when the Sun is at 15 Taurus, it is directly caught in the Gaze of the Sea Monster (constellation Cetus). She writes: “This has been so ever since the conversion to the Gregorian calendar in 1582.  What does it mean, every year, to have the monster staring up at the Beltane Sun, when abundance and joy in the physicality of life is supposedly the order of the day?  It reminds one of the many fables told to children to make them watchful and guarded instead of playing in their innocence; also of many horror films which have a peculiar “morality” built into their plots: the first sweet young thing to submit sexually to her lover will be the first to die at the hand of the monster/killer.”

The Beltane Sun Caught in the Gaze of Cetus

The Beltane Sun Caught in the Gaze of Cetus

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