I have been learning about the Celtic season of May Day, in Irish known as Bealtaine. The feast of the bright fire to herald summer. It is considered I understand as the threshold of the opposites. The yin and yang, masculine and feminine, good, and evil. One of the pairs of opposites I have written about over the years has been the moving on and holding still – and I have come to a conclusion that they are not opposites and I wonder if in these non-binary times, we might be being invited into a beyond opposites era? In the ritual with this festival you move between two fires or perhaps more modestly these days two candles. The humble flame inviting the extraordinary out from you. In every moment we meet, the extraordinary maybe hidden, and we might miss it if we do not take to the time to catch our breath or be curious.
There is a moment always to be met – catching the wave so you can surf to the shore, coming in with precision when the conductor calls upon you, standing firm when a bully is having their way. And how elegant it seems when these moments are met; there is ease and an oozing of confidence that builds trust with those caught in the same moment. Even those watching on can tell that the safety net is not needed, such is the dignity and evidence of practice visible by the actions that hold the moment firmly in place. These can be sacred, respectful moments.
There are so many opportunities in every day to notice what is emerging, what is being held firmly in place, what builds trust. Vulnerability is the courage you must show up fully to those opportunities, to be willing to risk, to enter the potential for danger, to be in a space inside yourself that holds at least a sliver of anxiety. Inside that space alongside anxiety, ego has also made a home. Detaching can help you cross that threshold and propel you to a new world. The liminal space of the inner and outer worlds meeting as we catch the moment of crossing and play midwife to our own edge.
I love to walk circular bushwalks leaving the car and being able to come back to it having hiked up and down a hill or two and finding my way back. I am comforted by a non-linear approach to destination, as I am never the same person at the end as I was when I first set off. I will have crossed a threshold or two though along the way and the journey not the destination is the pilgrim process. I often find I am out of breath, need water, invoking a Hail Mary to get up a hill, clinging to my walking sticks in case I fall. The opposites of up and down often make me laugh, I think to myself when I am going up well if I were going the other way I would be going down. There are times where I am ambitiously cautious about my edges and take a path more challenging than my level of fitness or capability. There are times too when I choose an easier path so I won’t get tested and my vulnerability stays intact.
These private spaces on my own on a hill, are instructional for spaces where courage is called for in more public domains. The inner and outer, public, and private, can feel very oppositional, although I know them more to be two sides of the one coin. When I am living whole heartedly and with awareness of the liminal it seems more likely vulnerability will turn up. Going to the edges is where radical transformation invitations are offered. Having the courage to meet those moments when the opportunities arise, and catching those moments, is a practice.
I took this photo of a fire in Santiago de Compostela at the end of walking just over 200kms on the camino. This was an inner and outer experience and am I am still on the pilgrimage. It is the blue flame of queimada – a Galician concoction of brandy, coffee, cinnamon and lemon peel. The drink is prepared as this incantation is said:
Owls, barn owls, toads and witches. Demons, goblins and devils, spirits of the misty vales. Crows, salamanders and witches, charms of the folk healer(ess). Rotten pierced canes, home of worms and vermin. Wisps of the Holy Company, evil eye, black witchcraft, scent of the dead, thunder and lightning. Howl of the dog, omen of death, maws of the satyr and foot of the rabbit. Sinful tongue of the bad woman married to an old man. Satan and Beelzebub's Inferno, fire of the burning corpses, mutilated bodies of the indecent ones, farts of the asses of doom, bellow of the enraged sea. Useless belly of the unmarried woman, speech of the cats in heat, dirty turf of the wicked born goat. With this bellows I will pump the flames of this fire which looks like that from Hell, and witches will flee, straddling their brooms, going to bathe in the beach of the thick sands. Hear! Hear the roars of those that cannot stop burning in the firewater, becoming so purified. And when this beverage goes down our throats, we will get free of the evil of our soul and of any charm. Forces of air, earth, sea and fire, to you I make this call: if it's true that you have more power than people, here and now, make the spirits of the friends who are outside, take part with us in this Queimada.