In many magical and seasonal calendars, the twin festivals are celebrated from April 30 sunset till May 2 sunset, as mirror images and two halves of the same whole.
The beginning of summer brings hope of better times ahead as the days grow longer and Midsummer offers her golden promises just weeks away.
At the same time Samhain is the mourning time for the continuing losses and destruction of war. shortages and suffering. For even as we dance and cast ribbons and flowers towards the vibrant flower maiden of May, the old woman of winter is casting down her holly staff at Beltane and slumbering until the next Samhain beneath her rock tomb and womb.
She is one and the same as the laughing dancing feted May Queen, transforming her sorrow, but never forgetting the blossom tossed carelessly by a sudden chill breeze.
So too is the Maytime Jack of Green who says laugh today as he whirls the Maiden of flowers in the ever-turning dance, one and the same as Jack o’ lantern walking between worlds with only his pumpkin for light because he was too afraid to cross the river to immortality. Darkness and brightness, sorrow and rejoicing are never still but always changing places and sometimes we have to run fast to catch the Wheel of the World which turns regardless of our expectations.
That old hag of winter, Cailleach is just one of the names of the fierce but loving grandmother who broke the winter ice that the moorland animals might drink. She hears the May-time music from beneath her dark sheltering rock and knows we must rejoice; but at the same time does not forget what the past 12 months have taught us about the need for compassion, kindness and sharing however much or little we possess not just materially but in practical help and compassion.
To integrate Beltane and Samhain, wherever you live, take an apple, divide it in half, eat one half or offer it to a child, partner or friend and say, I absorb Beltane fertility into my life to achieve what I most desire and that peace and understanding will grow in the world we share sometimes unwillingly or greedily.
Scatter the pips and shred the core on soil to be absorbed in their own way.
Take the second half and bury it, saying: I bury unfulfilled Samhain efforts to transform in its time to new growth and the ending of war. poverty and hatred wherever they occur in the world.
As we reach this point in the wheel six months from now as Beltane becomes Samhain and Samhain becomes Beltane, may you know health, happiness, laughter, kindness, wisdom and above the rebuilding what can still grow and bear fruit.