Beltane, St Teresa and the Greening
by Maria Ede-Weaving
I am often struck how in the depths of winter there is a point when the trees have been bare so long it’s hard to imagine them with leaves. Equally, in the midst of summer, it becomes difficult to imagine them ever being naked again. We adapt remarkably well to the change. However, this time of year brings that incredible, pivotal point between those two extremes and everywhere this extraordinary explosion of life is played out in the colour green; not just any green – this green is the green of pure joy. It is one of those particular shades that impacts upon the emotions with such immediacy and power, it is hard not be lifted, impossible to resist the catching of our breath. The whole world is a sleepy face and that spring green a handful of cool water; Mother Nature wakes our beleaguered winter spirits with it and as if the year had never grown old and tired, we are in one glance renewed.
Looking out over the Island at present, across the downs, fields and woodlands, it is the dominant colour. There is always a point in the year when that brightness mellows into the gold of summer crops and hedgerows but for now that irrepressible shade hums happily, the purples and pinks of bluebell and red campion; the whites and yellows of stitchwort, wild garlic, celandine and late primroses set beautifully against it.
My neighbour’s apple trees have blossomed, that wonderful, delicate, pinkish white peaking over the tops of the high fence. I love apples trees; orchards are mysterious and intriguing places. There is something very moving about gnarled and aged apple trees blossoming; I find the same with hawthorn too. There are some incredibly old hawthorns up on the downs here, their branches ribbed, twisted and snake-like. These ancient, bony old ladies blossom with all the beauty of young maidens at this time of year. As I grow older, the sight of these extraordinary trees so stunningly dressed helps me to remember that the joys of Beltane are not just for the young; love and desire burn as strongly in all of us, no matter what our age. Getting older offers us the gift of the realisation that this passion and desire for union can be felt not only with a lover but with the entire world around us; it also drives our relationship with the Divine. Even in religions such as Christianity – where sexual desire might sadly be seen as less than holy – those links between the ecstasies of the flesh and the spirit can still be found. If you don’t believe me then check out the extraordinary devotions of St Teresa of Avila:
I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it…
Beltane is so much about the urge to connect, to blend and merge; to feel a part of something extraordinary; to at once lose one’s sense of self in that merging but also to paradoxically feel more absolutely and truly oneself because of it. In the desire to penetrate life’s mysteries, we need also to open ourselves to them, surrendering to the power of love that it may have the opportunity to transform us. Great things are born in us at such moments of union; this place of merging is where the tap root of our creativity feeds, without it we feel dry and disconnected. If that magical, alchemical moment of connection and merging were a colour, I suspect it might be perceived as many beautiful, vibrant shades but it foundation, I feel sure, would be the green of spring: ecstatically joyful – the irrepressible life and desire that leads us to love. As St Teresa once wrote:
It is love alone that gives worth to all things.