Reclaiming the Earth-centered holidays

If May Day could save the world

May 1 is a day filled with a lot of cause to celebrate. As it is celebrated, May 1 is a day in which people remember the proletarian struggle for liberation from the oppressive rule of the bourgeoisie.

If May Day could save the world

May 1 is a day filled with a lot of cause to celebrate. As it is celebrated, May 1 is a day in which people remember the proletarian struggle for liberation from the oppressive rule of the bourgeoisie.

The story goes that May Day’s association with the working man began in the 19th century. Seeking to limit the work day to eight hours, a fed-up group of factory workers in Australia decided to seize control of their lives by opting out of work for one day of celebration and joy.

The tradition quickly spread around the world and has been adopted into a proletarian holiday, which for many still serves as an inspiration for reflecting on the plight of the working class.

What some people may not realize, however, is that May 1 celebrations go back much further than 19th century Australia. Like many of our nationally celebrated holidays, May Day has roots in pre-Christian, Earth-centered (pagan) religions.

But unlike many of the pagan holidays that were adapted and remanufactured into Christian celebrations (such as Easter and Christmas), May Day does not have a related Christian counter-holiday.

So our predominately Christian-raised population has collectively forgotten about May Day and the positive associations which, for centuries, made May 1 a time for self-renewal and personal discovery. It was a time to praise the Earth for her richness and to honor her generosity with reverence.

May 1 is Beltane, one of the eight Solar Sabbats celebrated in pagan religions.

For pre-Christian followers of divinity, Beltane was a celebration of the abundance of life as it is returned to the Earth each year. Some call it a “celebration of flowers” or a “holiday of delight” because it was designed to bring forth happiness in recognition of the fecundity of spring.

Typical celebrations would include dancing around a May Pole, singing and reveling in all of the new life that unfolds from the renewal of the Earth. It was a holiday that fostered within people a respect for the divinity of human sexuality, as it is a tool for creating life.

Because Beltane is about rejoicing in fertility and abundance, the symbols of the holiday are ones of primal proliferation. The god and goddess associated with the holiday are the Green Man of the Forest and the Maiden of the Field.

Portland’s own Green Man myth is likely based on the same Green Man of Beltane, who pollinates new growth and protects the land. He is the personification of the fertility of man. The symbols of the maiden represent the womb and include fruiting trees. Women are especially revered during this time because they are the vessels of all life on Earth.

May Day was a time built into every year when people were able to freely discuss issues of healthy sexuality, the roles of men and women and the value of life and the importance of love.

But, as time passed and Christianity moved into dominance, May Day celebrations began to fade.

Clearly, a holiday designed to glorify such things as honest and open sexuality, personal happiness and the sanctity of the female form would not last long in a world subjected to Christian authority.

Christian dominance over American traditions has robbed us of our connection with the Earth and each other. People have stopped celebrating the Earth-centered holidays and, as a result, have stopped using holidays as a forum for the betterment of global harmony.

Christian counter-holidays have bastardized Earth-centered celebrations to make them about the glory of God. These counter-holidays have removed all thoughtfulness from their practice so that people no longer use celebrations as a means to grow intellectually or spiritually or to affect happiness.

Thanksgiving has roots in reveling in the glory of a successful harvest and giving thanks back to the Earth. It was a time to recognize the ability of man to work in union with the natural world. But passed through the scope of Puritanism, it has morphed into a day of nationalistic pride and gratitude for “God’s favor.”

The idea that God favors this country is a huge problem.

Because of this, people in America have a bloated sense that God is intervening in their daily lives. Everything that happens to them is either the direct result of God’s blessings or God’s trials. Sometimes the devil is thrown in for good measure, as a tempter or as a force within a person to do “bad” things, but it is always an outside force which shapes the lives of modern Christians.

Suddenly personal responsibility is dead, as every occurrence is attributed to either the action or inaction of a supreme ruling being.

Counter-holidays perpetuate this problem with Christian-dominated societies in the modern age, and it has resulted in a lack of consideration for earthly actions. Combined with the apocalyptic aspect of Biblical scripture, it somehow allows the Christian to feel like maintaining the earth is ultimately unnecessary.

It allows them to write off things like global warming, because to them it is all in God’s control, or part of “his master plan.”

We need Earth-centered holidays to return our sense of communion with the Earth and with it the desire to protect the harmony of that communion.

Christian counter-holidays have given Americans the attitude that their God and their country are the greatest cause for rejoicing. Earth-centered holidays like Beltane renew our connection with the natural world and acknowledge that we must preserve it because it is divine.

Earth-centered holidays were designed to generate a deep respect for those aspects of life that seem so often subjugated and diminished in modern times.

Many look at the business within our nation’s Congress right now and the prevalence of Wall Street greed and notice there seems to be a war against women in this country, a war against youth and a war against the environment.

Earth-centered holidays would help us reclaim an admiration and respect for those things for which Christian counter-holidays have allowed us to forget.