Tuesday, April 12, 2016

New window display for Beltane

The Museum's main window display contains a fantastic stag's head (made by Marti Dean).  As the wheel of the year turns, we change the display so that it fits with the current season and festival.  To celebrate Beltane we've decorated the stag's head with red and white ribbons and put a pair of Horned God and Goddess statues in the window.  Here is the text as it appears in the window and some photos.

The Wheel of the Year
The Ancient Festivals
The year can be divided into eight major festivals which mark the passage of the Sun through the year and relate directly to the agricultural cycle.  This is significant to many people (including witches).  The current festival is: Beltane (Eve of April 30th to May 1st).
The ancient festival of Beltane is celebrated on the evening of April 30th through May 1st.          
In former times villagers would dance around the May Pole and bedeck their homes with greenery gathered overnight, May or hawthorn is popular to gather today.
The celebration of Beltane recognises that the warmer weather is with us, and Spring gives way to Summer. The countryside is blossoming, Morris dancers are back and fertility is in the air!
Traditionally the Horned God also known as Jack-in-the-green unites with the maiden Goddess at Beltane resulting in the re-birth of the Sun Child at the Winter Solstice.

The Festival of Beltane is celebrated across Europe and the Celtic countries.

Stag’s Head by Artist Marti Dean
Of the animals connected with witchcraft and magic, the stag is closely associated with the Horned God of Witchcraft. With roots set in the pagan histories and traditions of Europe, the symbolism of the stag has been represented in a variety of ways, from the Neolithic painting of the antlered 'Sorcerer' within the cave Trois-Frères in France, to the Gundestrup Cauldron, a piece of Iron Age silverwork depicting the Celtic antlered god Cernunnos.
For some modern witches, the stag–god Cernunnos is recognised as the horned god of nature and magic, and thus is celebrated in the rituals, art, and magic of modern witchcraft. This anthropomorphic sculpture of a green stag with branch-like antlers symbolises the magic of the regenerative force in nature. The objects hung on the antlers will be changed throughout the coming year.

For Beltane, the stag has been used as a Maypole and is decorated with ribbons.  Dancing around the Maypole is said to symbolise the union of the Horned God and the Goddess (the ribbons intertwine and represent their union).

Maypole Ribbons
Dancing round the Maypole occurs in many communities at this time of year.  It seems to have originally been a fertility ritual. 
The phallic symbol (the pole) is danced around by the young people of the village.  Some traditions say that the ribbons should be red (to symbolise the female) and white (to symbolise the male)  The two are twined during the dance as male and female join together.

God and Goddess figures [1119]
Pair of plaster figures - Moon Goddess in silver dress with garland of grapes and crescent moon on head and a naked bearded God with antlered black animal head as head-dress were handmade and donated to the Museum by White Witch.
The Horned God, the masculine is represented by the pole in the Maypole dance.  The Goddess is represented by the ribbons and (typically) female dancers.  Beltane (May Eve) is the time of their union. 
The Horned God and the Goddess mean many different things to different people but a brief attempt at summarising their symbolism has been attempted below:
The Horned God represents the masculine, the hunt, the killing of food and the winter months.
The Goddess represents the divine feminine, creation, birth, food gathering, agricultural plenty and the summer months.  

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