on 30 April 2005
This book is another in the "Lewellyn Sabat Series" where Llewellyn Publishing gets one of their "superstar" authors to write on one of the Sabats and collects much information together to explain, mostly to those not familiar with the Holiday, a general overview of what this Pagan Holiday is all about. Published in 2001, this book does exactly that, with a bit of a "pagan spin" that is so dominant in the series.
Raven Grimassi approaches "Beltane" with a collection of myths and lore and some spells, art and recipes that are specific to this time of the year. Unlike many of the other books, the author takes some of his material from "non-pagan" sources, as well as the usual pagan author sources. Check the bibliography for some interesting references. There are some interesting sources on English and Fairy folklore.
Many may be familiar with Mr. Grimassi from his books on "Traditional Witchcraft" and his "Italian Witchcraft" books. He has also done some books on Wicca and has a very thorough "Encyclopedia" which makes for interesting reading. We see much of his background influencing the material contained in this book.
Mr. Grimassi has collected the stories of the May Pole, the May King and May Queen, The Green Man, Jack-in-the-Green and so many of your favorites for this time of year. He even includes a bit on Mummery (for those who know Loreena McKennitt song "Mummers Dance"). Of course he also covers a variety of Fairy lore and some lore on flowers as well.
While much of the focus of these stories is the Celtic lore of the May Day, the Roman invasion of Britain and their influence on the culture is touched upon. Some may find this interesting, others will find it speculation. Mr. Grimassi has some ideas of his own, based on his own research, and is an interesting addition to the mix. However, the story telling is the Celtic versions and is the foundation for the material included.
Mr. Grimassi includes much on Fairy Lore, and again, we see some traditional sources as well as other material that Mr. Grimassi has included. While including stories from the traditional Scotland, England and Ireland, he also includes stories from Italy and Denmark, which I thought was a delightful addition.
Included is lore on flowers, which includes a correspondence table of flowers and meanings, some basic lore on trees and fairies, sacred plants of the Goddess, magical correspondences of trees, and a spells and recipes section.
There is a recipe for some "Quick May Wine" that sounds yummy, and a microwave recipe for custard for the modern Witch. The "May Wreath Cake" recipe appears to be off, as it calls for only ¾ cup of flour, and I believe this is a typo on their part.
The spells section contains the usual spells for money, love, success and such. There is a brief overview on divination. There are some herbal mixes for fertility, much associated with this holiday, that come with the warning in bold letters "Do not use any of the following remedies without first consulting a doctor to ensure that these herbs are safe for you as an individual". Words to the wise.
The arts and crafts section has some instructions for wreaths and garlands, but I really liked the "pentacle hair braids". If your hair is long enough, and you have someone who can braid your hair for you, this is a very novel idea.
There is also a "ritual" section, containing the basics for ritual and two complete short rituals, one for solitaries and one for group practice. Again, a good overview, and easy enough to do.
I must mention the black and white graphics by Ann Marie Garrison. Bold, broad pen and ink drawings which add to the merriment of the presentation. And her cover art is attractive and eye catching. A good choice, in my opinion.
This book is just chock full of information and projects for the celebration of Beltane. I found it easy to read, light hearted and what I have come to expect from Raven Grimassi.
There are errors, which I attribute to bad proofreading by the publisher. There is material that is totally the take of Mr. Grimassi, which again, is the prerogative of the author. But for a good overview of the holiday, especially for the beginner, this is not a bad choice for a primer. It is what we have come to expect from Llewellyn in their Sabat series. boudica