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Our Protogrove celebrated Beltane a bit late this year, though it really worked out well for everyone involved. It was especially good on my end, as I was able to make it to the annual May Day Parade here in the Cities and then celebrate with the group after final exams had ended.
The parade was wonderful, as usual: this is only my second year attending, and I even got swept up by the end of it! A puppet theater runs the main show, and then after the "official" parade is done other groups can have their go at entertaining and informing the crowds. It was a lot of fun to put on a silly mask and march down the way for a while.
Sunshine came and went, large clouds blown with a fair breeze patterned the ground with cool shade as we watched the colorful beings wander along. This being the Chinese year of the Tiger, there were a good many paper-mache tiger helms and claws on eager kids and adults alike. We growled and roared and breathed along with the grain-bearers, sea creatures, and even a polar bear ambling by.
Afterwards, we gathered in the park and wandered past food vendors and group stands. The pagan community is rather well-represented at the parade, with holistic healers, local pagan groups, and other folks all coming in to stand at a booth and rub shoulders with all manner of folk.
The ceremony started a little later. Woods, Plains, Sky, and River all came to greet us, their heads towering over ours and hands spread wide to enfold the people as we watched. This year's theme was breaking free of all those bonds we have in life: debts, worries, doubts, all those things that weigh us down and can break our spirit. The symbolic death and resurrection was followed by the sun's journey across the lake, and our roars of triumph at its return to our lives.
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Just this last Sunday, we got together for Beltane with my Protogrove. Again, we couldn't have asked for a nicer day to hold it outside--sunshine, new folks, and the usual amazing potluck spread made for a very relaxing afternoon.
And it was when I sat out in the sunshine and looked across the farm fields that I realized just how weird I'd been lately. Weird here is defined as getting so caught up in material wants: new purse, new shoes, drooling over things I could never afford and would probably only use or wear a few times in the summer anyway. Now seriously, I've been spending hours browsing for stuff online, and it's been eating away at my sanity well before final exams were over.
Yet once I get outside--in the car on the way even--it all melted away. That self-imposed burden of "I need that stuff or I will not be happy" was replaced with sunshine, a gentle breeze, and a calm and clear mindset I had not known for too long.
What was going on?
I knew that my newfound obsession with fashion was getting unhealthy, yet somehow I wasn't able to turn away. It got in the way of my studies, free time, and sleep... well, I was very stressed about my final exams, and the internet does offer an easy escape from textbooks and practice tests.
An escape, but no cure.
Going to ritual with everyone--going outside, and being out there away from the city--cleared my mind and calmed me like nothing else did. It reminded me why I had been drawn towards the Pagan path in the first place.
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As a young girl, I remember that our old house was a pale butter yellow; small, but large enough for a family. We were lucky enough to have some wonderful trees on our corner lot: a towering spruce to one side, and two large crabapples which bloomed a deep pink every spring. I remember laying beneath one of them on the grass, just looking at the world around me.
One day my parents decided that I was old enough to go to church with them. I got ready to go to wherever this was, and before we left Dad showed me a magazine lying on the couch. The cover had a dark background with big bold words that he wanted me to read. Now, I've always been good at English, but then I was young enough to just pick out simple words (and even now I sometimes get dyslexic). He pointed at a word, and I said "dog". Dad said, "No, try again" and I said "dog", sure that I was right.
Exasperated Dad then told me "no, it says God. Come on, we're going to church."
and no matter how they tried to teach me that the dogma was right and I had to have faith, I always thought it was weird to sing inside that big dark building. How could God hear through the roof?