Saturday, April 28, 2007

Epona and the Handfasting

Saturday April 28, 2007

The ivy flapped against my cheek as I picked my way slowly down the steep path to the circle of oaks. I had fashioned the crown from the excess of ivy crawling all over my lovely garden and its green tangy smell filled my nostrils. I was feeling very green and alive.

In the oak-grove, the trees were in new leaf. All was held, the city sounds fading into the distance as we gathered and made our circle.

I had offered to invokeEpona. Closing my eyes, I imagined her, white against the greening of the leaves and the shadows beneath the trees. A distant soft foot-fall, the sound of her blowing through her nostrils as she emerged, her white mane rippling gently in the breeze. Was that a woman in the shadow beside her, or was she both a woman and a horse? She shifted and tossed her head.

Far away, I heard many voices chanting, echoing in the early summer air.
“Epona ride with me,
Epona won’t you ride with me?
Epona, we shall all be free”.

I heard her hooves pounding on the earth as she ran, eager to win the race. I felt the exhilaration of her victory as, despite being heavy with foal, she beat them all. I saw her running into the sea, and it foaming around her white main or hair. I saw her emerging; birthing her foals and new that she was here.

My mind returned to a previous encounter with a horse goddess. In my dream, I had been walking on the heath. I had come to Boadicea’s mound and had climbed the fence. As I Walked through the trees, I caught a glimpse of something white against the shadows. Emerging into a clearing, I saw what at first seemed to be a white horse.

She was half horse, half woman. The height of a tall woman, her long silver white hair framed a strong, ageless face. She was bear breasted and shapely. Her lower body was that of a white mare.

Back in the oak-grove, we moved and circled, chanting and clapping as we took it in turn to leap the Beltane fire. In turn, we let go of what we no longer needed and made our Beltane wishes. In our protective circle, lovers renewed their vows and I knew that I had something I must do.

My fingers touched a ball of green wool I had pocketed earlier when making my preparations for the ritual. I had not known what I wanted it for back then, but now I did.

Stepping forward I asked the group to witness my self-handfasting, my dedication to true self-love, to working to be the kindest of companions to myself as I continued to grow and change as I journeyed with the goddess. I called upon air to bring me truthfulness and clarity of mind, fire to bring me passion and transformation, water to bring me compassion in flowing love and earth to bring me the solidity to manifest my purpose in life – to fight for justice and freedom from oppression in my sphere of influence. If I wanted respect and honour for the oppressed peoples of the world; I must respect and honour myself first.

I offered my wrist to be bound three times round with the green wool. As the knot was tied, in the distance, I swear I heard a horse blowing quietly as it stood and watched.

Untidily but enthusiastically, clutching brightly coloured ribbons, we wove in and out of each other, weaving our dreams and wishes into fruition along the tall shaft of the maypole. Taking hands, we spiral-danced through the oak-grove chanting our Beltane song. The voices echoed around the trees, growing louder as the energy shifted, until we raised the cone of power, sending our wishes born upon its song out into the world.

At last we were still and quiet. Epona moved through the trees shaking her mane as I acknowledged her presence and thanked her. The circle now opened, we were released to a haphazard summer picnic. Sitting on the ground with the hot sun beating down on our faces, we feasted on the bounty of the green, green earth. Sated at last, I handed my crown of ivy leaves to a companion, and got up stiffly from the ground and began to make my way out of the oak-grove and back up the hill, our Beltane song still playing in my mind.

“Jump the Beltane fire with your heart’s desire,
Let the smoke inspire your love.”

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