A pilgrimage is simply a journey for the purposes of adoration or worship or spiritual exercise or all of these and perhaps even more unstated personal reasons and purposes. I travelled to Hastings, East Sussex, in the last days of April. My intentions were complex and not entirely wholly spiritual (Sussex has fine traditions in creating tasty Cask ale!). Yet all my intentions focussed on ‘connection’.
Connection to the County of my birth. Connection to one root of my familial past. Connection to the ebb and flow of the tides and the light of the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse. Connection to ‘Jack in the Green’ festival that represents English folk traditions. Connection to the Holiday of May 1st itself, the one bank holiday of the ordinary working people. Connection to modern pagan practices of Beltane. Connection to good hospitality and friendly acquaintances. Connection to the magic of the senses: smells, tastes, sights, sounds and touch that the Hastings Jack in the Green facilitates.
Jack in the Green, as the organisers would tell you, is not a pagan festival in Hastings. It is a folk festival. Reviving traditions that are a approximately four centuries, probably more, old. Because of its date, May 1st, it does have many connections for pagans. Many pagans make use of the weekend for their own purposes as well. So a happy, if not always syncopated, confluence is available over the weekend.
All I will share here is this: I loved it. I loved the folk music. I loved the various Morris Dances from across the UK. I loved being a part of the festival in all its official events: The Copper family presentation of their family’s songs, sung for now the 8th generation! I appreciated once more that one of the roots of my life is in Sussex and became aware that I have a root in County Durham, in Darlington now, as well. In my Pagan practice, as one of those Druids to whom the Wheel of the Year speaks, Beltane’s fire flickered as I passed through it and prepared myself for the growth of and cultivation of new crops in my life. I have work to do, and a desire to reap a harvest.
There is a need for a May 1st Pagan family festival of music, food, hospitality, dancing and public display somewhere. Just as Hastings ‘Jack in the Green’ was revived in 1983 after a hiatus of some 80 years: a pagan family festival being created in similar vein would definitely create new traditions and as I would say, new roots for our communities. Traditions were all novel, once.
I’ve included just two of the photographs I took to whet the appetite. Did I mention Giants?
By Shane (Syre Byrd)