Sunday, May 1, 2011

Beltane and the Royal Handfasting

Beltane is upon us and we celebrate the greening of the Earth our Mother, and the joyful union of male and female to create new life. All around us, the joy of Spring abounds, with flowers in bloom (and for some of us, the attendant allergies in bloom!).

Beltane is the traditional day for the joining of the King and Queen of the May. The idea of the fertility of the village or tribe being represented by a royal or sacred couple is very old, and goes all the way back within documented history to the Sumerians and the marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi. As the royal or sacred couple joins in the sexual act, they perform an act of magick, in order to ensure the fertility and prosperity of all of their people. Throughout the ages, this has been an important function of royalty itself. In the modern traditions of Beltane, the King and Queen of the May are crowned and then wrapped into the Maypole to receive the blessings and wishes of  the people, and then in a more private ceremony, consummate the wishes and hopes of their temporary "subjects".

In that respect, this portion of the Royal wedding of William and Kate caught my eye, when their hands were bound and they were proclaimed as joined. This tradition hearkens back to the old idea of handfasting, where the couple's hands are bound together and they are joined in marriage, and I find it fascinating that the idea has been so powerful throughout the ages that it is still represented in the Church of England's wedding ceremony. The choice of the royal couple to have their joining so close to the holiday of Beltane is an interesting one as well, and although we hesitate to pry into the lives of the newlyweds, we can wish them a happy and fruitful Beltane tonight indeed!