The old religions, the ones based on nature and the progression of the year, have always fascinated me. Midsummer (Summer Solstice), Midwinter (Winter Solstice), Beltane and Samhain are my favorites. The Daughters of Women in my Books of Sinnis are witches of sorts, and through them I pay tribute to the old ways. I enjoy combinding the old with the new and adding a dash of fantasy and imagination to invent their own celebrations and holidays.
In Ishtar Bound, the Daughters celebrate Mother's Midwinter. It was a lot of fun inventing that section. Doing so gave me a real insight into how the Daughters believed.
I wrote a short story of Sinnis called Gwyneth's Anchor as free content for my website. It follows Gwyneth through her first Beltane and her mating with Nurzhan Turel, her Nephilim Guardian.
I chose this excerpt because it explains the what, why and how of the Daughters' Beltane celebration, plus there is a little teaser of the romance between Gwyneth and Nurzhan.
"Beltaine used to be a celebration of the beginning of summer, a prayer for a good growing season, and a celebration of the Great Marriage. Like with all holidays, the Daughters had put their own spin, their own traditions over those of old. For them Beltaine was a celebration of the joining of Ki, mother earth, and Yahwe, the Shinar who fell in love with the blue planet and its life. They became Kiyahwe. Beltaine was to thank Yahwe for choosing Ki and to thank Ki for accepting Yahwe.
The strength of the shield, or veil, that protected the life on earth from being harvested by the Shinar was cyclical. Twice a year it was at its weakest. It was not coincidence that these fell on Samhain and Beltaine when ancient religions believed the barrier between the world of the living and that of the dead was thinnest. Many superstitions are based in truth that could not be understood at the time the traditions were set in place. Such was the case with the Beltaine fires and White Dancers.
They hoped to trick the Shinar, if they were able to vaguely see through the veil, into thinking that they didn't need to come through because other Shinar were already here. The bonfire simulated their bright glowing power and the dancing people dressed all in white were costumed to reflect that light, mirroring the Shinar themselves.
Most of all, the holiday was just an excuse for a party. All cultures needed traditions and celebrations. They built a sense of community and common purpose. The first part of the celebration was for everyone, every age. Family appropriate activities included maypoles, feasting and flower wreath making. After dark the activities became more rigorous and sensual. There was dancing around the fire, judging of the huts, selection of partners, couples dancing and then retiring to the huts.
The fire was lit and the children tucked into bed. Gwyneth and Lillian held hands, their hearts aflutter. There were a lot more people here than either of them expected. Other branches of the Daughters had sent representatives and many of them were men. The Nephilim were in abundance and, as soon as the dancing started many of them displayed their true forms. Giant and winged they glowed in earnest, not reflected light. Nurzhan didn't seem to be among them.
Gwyn and Lilly lost themselves in the dance. They spun, circling the fire, alternating their sides so that one wasn't always too hot from the flames and the other chilled by the night air. They threw their arms and legs up with abandon. The music wove a spell with its techno lulls and crescendos overlaid with tribal beats and deep bass.
They collapsed laughing on the cool grass and lay watching as the sparks rose up reaching for the moon. A guy about their age, maybe a little older, approached them, somewhat timidly. He had two cups filled with mead, which he offered them. “May I sit with you at bit?”
They sat up and took the drinks. Lillian must have answered him. Gwyneth didn't care. The honey sweet liquid was cold and it soothed her throat and quenched a thirst she hadn't known was there. As she lowered her now empty cup, Nurzhan came into view. He was dancing around the fire.
His skin glistened with the sweat of his exertion. He wasn't holding anything back but his glance Gwyneth's way said he wasn't losing himself. He was dancing for her. She had never seen so much of his flesh. He was wearing a pair of pants that were white leather. Their edges didn't meet on the sides and were held together by a single lace that criss-crossed itself from ankle to hip, leaving a wide four inch strip of skin visible. A strip of fur hung in front of his important bits, a loincloth tied around his waist. There were feathers tied in his hair that fluttered with his movements. His wings were tucked tightly behind him, blacking out most of the fire when he turned towards her. His birthstone, the blood red teardrop, hung on his neck.
Gwyneth wanted more than anything to have tonight go well. She wanted this to be easy on Nurzhan, the beautiful creature who danced for her. She wanted this to all be over so they could be together like they were supposed to be.
With a single down-sweep of wings, Nurzhan shot into the air. He circled a minute before landing at her feet. He held his hand out and she took it. He pulled her up. “You look beautiful, Gwyneth. This is the perfect night to make you my Sinnis.”
Standing so suddenly had made Gwyneth a little woozy. The mead on an empty stomach didn't help either. Maybe it was the nearness of Nurzhan or the anxiety for the events of the night, but she was uneasy. “Dance with me first?” She wrapped her arms around Nurzhan's neck and closed her eyes. He pulled her tight against him. The music was softer now but the rhythm just as driving. The dancing was more like having sex with clothes on.
Nurzhan whispered in her ears, his breath taunting the skin it grazed. “I have always been yours. Tonight I make you mine.” She threw her head back and he kissed the column of her neck. He spoke against the hollow there between the clavicles, “Here you will wear my birthright, marking your body's acceptance of mine.” Time slowed down for her while she was overrun with sensations. The world narrowed to include only Nurzhan."
If you enjoyed that bit (by far the most boring and educational of the story), you can read the whole story for FREE. Visit my website and download it. Gwyneth's Anchor was written to be read after Veil of Ishtar (book 5 of Sinnis). Sign up for my monthly newsletter if you would like notifications about new Sinnis Shorts or the sixth and final book of Sinnis coming out at the beginning of 2014. I have a great contest going on for the re-release of my gaslight-era horror book, Hateful Burden, right now too.
Have a wonderful Beltane and thank you for stopping by!
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