Beltaine: a Celebration of the Magic of Light

In my PaGaian cosmology I have been so concerned to be re-valuing the Dark (in a cultural context that denied its essential creativity), that I have perhaps not noted sufficiently the magic of Light. Light has indeed been paid a lot of lip service in new age and traditional religious/spiritual language; but I wonder how much of it truly appreciates the nature of Light’s magic, its capacity for physical manifestation and mind-shifting contemplations. Beltaine is an excellent time to be contemplating this magic of Light, when light is the dominating part of the diurnal day and yet still increasing: it is not turning or giving way to the Dark as it will be at Summer Solstice.

Laura Sewall Ph.D. author of Sight and Sensibility: the Ecopsychology of Perception says:

Once cast from the sun, light streams onto planet Earth like liquid. It freely enters us as both photon and wave. In daylight, we ingest billions of photons during every open-eyed moment. As waves, light vibrates into us. It is transduced, within several layers of retinal tissue, into electrobiochemical pulses surging deeply into the tissue within the mammalian brain. It shifts from wavelength to colour, from photons to pulse – and from pulses to hormonal flushes … When stimulated by light, the pineal gland releases a cascade of hormones drenching the body in hunger, thirst, or great desire.[i]

The late Australian molecular biologist and author Darryl Reanney, said that we may become aware of the human sense of time passing as an illusion of our limited perspective, by understanding what light is. He said: 

It is possible that our sense of the serial passing of Time … which we take for granted as a feature of the “real” world is very much a mind-construct, a feature of psychology not of physics. The point is, that our sense of passing time is not the world as it is, but an illusion. 

… Light is a stream of particles/photons. These photons are zero-mass and zero-time particles. So from the point of view of a photon – a quantum of light – time has no meaning. To it the universe is still beginning. The light that twinkles into our eyes from the stars at night, twinkles from millions of years ago, through time. Yet to light it is all just now. And if you would see timelessness, here and now, simply look around you.[ii]

cosmic microwave background radiation

And further to this perspective on the photons of light entering the eyes, the apertures of our bodyminds, is a recent word from physicist Brian Swimme:

… the primal light discovered in 1964 by Penzias and Wilson. This light, this cosmic microwave background radiation, arrives here from all directions. We know that each of these photons comes from a place near the origin of the cosmos, so if we trace these particles of light backward we are led to the birthplace of the universe. Which means, since this light comes from all directions, that we have discovered our origin in a colossal sphere of light. This colossal sphere, fourteen billion light-years away from us in every direction, is the origin of our universe. And thus the origin of each of us…[iii]

twin fires of Beltaine – Her eyes

In the old Irish language, ‘eye’ and ‘sun’ are the same word – suil: the fires of Beltaine may represent the fire-eyes of the Sun Goddess and were originally two concentric circles, and later twin fires, being Her two eyes of night and day coming together.[iv] It was a time of the year when She saw Her land, and that, Her vision, had everything to do with vitality and generativity.

Just so, we may become conscious of the power of how we see another, or see ourselves, what we express and receive with our vision: the power of the photons of light, waxing in intensity at this time of year, as it enters our beings. 


NOTES:

[i] Laura Sewall, “Earth, Eros, Sky”, p.22-25 

[ii] Darryl Reanney, conference paper, Climbing River Foundation, Melbourne 1990.

[iii] Brian Swimme, Cosmogenesis: An Unveiling of the Expanding Universe, but quoted in Big Think article, October 14 2022: https://bigthink.com/thinking/cosmogenesis-meaning-of-life/

[iv] Michael Dames, Ireland: a sacred journey, p. 195-199.

REFERENCES:

Dames, Michael. Ireland: A Sacred Journey. ELEMENT BOOKS, 2000.

Sewall, Laura. “Earth, Eros, Sky” in EarthLight, Winter 2000.

Swimme, Brian. Cosmogenesis: An Unveiling of the Expanding Universe. Counterpoint Press, 2022.

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Naturalistic Paganism

A community of Naturalistic & Humanistic Pagans

Celebration of Gaia

Marking Our Time on Earth

Stuart McHardy

A Lad o Pairts Speaks

Feral Words

Blog posts/essays & photos by William A. Young, linking travel, hiking, mythology, and some associated odds-and-ends

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