Peter Pan, Beltane and the Pleiades

I recently had the pleasure of watching my granddaughter in an amateur production of Peter Pan, and the climax was when the audience had to shout, as one, “I believe in fairies!!”. This was in order to resurrect the dying Tinkerbell ~ but the event could not have been better timed. For we’ve reached the point on the Wheel of the Year known as Beltane.

But what is Beltane, and why is it so important and …. well, what does it all mean? First, the etymology …

The word Beltane is the anglicised form of the Old Irish Beltain and Scottish Gaelic Bealltainn, and it is thought to be derived from the belo-te(p)niâ, meaning “bright fire”, or “bale fire”, which means “white and shining”.

It falls on what’s known as a Celtic quarter day. Some have tried to link these old Celtic quarter days to the midpoint between the equinoxes and the solstices, but actually that doesn’t work astronomically, because Beltane would then need to be on 5th May.

In fact, the timing of Beltane comes from a much older strata of astronomical lore than that of the solar priesthood that built Stonehenge ~ a time much earlier than that of the Celts. It comes from those whose calendars were lunar rather than solar, and whose lives were dictated by stellar and planetary movements.

Beltane marks the time when the white and shining constellation of the Pleiades begins to rise above the horizon. It’s sister fire festival in November, Samhain, takes place when the Pleiades begin to set.

The Pleiades by Corina Chirila of Korinna’s Universe

In Ireland, and increasingly now in Scotland, these great stellar fire festivals are being revived. This photo shows the illustrious and upstanding members of the Beltane Fire Society celebrating on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland.

But apart from making a change from the usual Friday night pub crawl, why else would you start channelling Arthur Brown on Beltane? The ancient first peoples to settle these Isles, apparently, believed that the fire had a purificatory function, and protected you from malign influences. Even today, this is understood by magicians, alchemists and shamans alike.

For it is said that Beltane is also a threshold or portal time. This is when the liminal walls between the dimensions are at their thinnest and we are more likely to encounter the Fae, otherwise known as the Tuatha de Danann, the Sidhe or the one I prefer, the Gentry.

Some people call them fairies, but according to those that have seen them, they’re not the least like sweet little Tinkerbell. The tiny delicate winged flower fairy in gossamer dress was a Victorian confection which took its inspiration from Christian angels, but has no grounding in ancient lore. R J Stewart in his book The Living World of Faery says that some of the Fae are really enormous, like giants. Others are the same size as us. The ones that I get to meet look just like me… and they don’t have wings.

They are the spirits of the Land ~ they maintain the ferility of the Land, which to them, is sacred, and it is from these beings that the Sovereignty comes. They inhabit a parallel dimension which is known in mythological lore as the Underworld or the Land of the Ever Young – which J M Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, turned into the Never Never Land. He got the name Peter Pan from the King of the Faeries who is sometimes said to be the great god Pan — rumours of whose death, it now turns out, were grossly exaggerated.

As we no longer believe in these faeries, they are ‘dead’ to us … and that is the meaning of Tinkerbell’s resurrection, when there is a change in that consciousness. Do you believe in faeries? I do!

Pan


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3 comments

  1. Pingback: Sunday Service: Beltane | Lizbeth's Garden
  2. Caigwyn

    Lovely blog, thanks Ishtar.

    Personally I like the Welsh version of the Fae, the Tylwyth Teg. And you’re right, they are definitely no confections, more malevolent mischievous, changeling placing things…than pretty little disney concoctions.

    C

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