Spring is finally, incontrovertibly back after a long and harsh winter, which gives us all a reason to celebrate by attending the 24th annual iteration of the Center for Symbolic Studies (CSS)’s Celtic Beltane festival in Tillson this Saturday afternoon. It’s always a fun-filled, family-friendly day, dedicated to marking Beltane or May Day – the point in the Wheel of the Year directly opposite to Samhain or Halloween, when the cold and dark have been vanquished (at least temporarily) – with music, dance, a parade featuring giant puppets, knights and ladies on horseback, food, crafts, pomp and pageantry.
The setting at Stone Mountain Farm – an expansive meadow surrounded by woods at the foot of the Shawangunk cliffs, featuring a circle of dolmens – is stunning, especially at sunset. After dark there’s always a bonfire, a ritual and group singing. By daylight everyone is invited to participate in a Maypole dance; the intricate-looking moves that interweave the long colored ribbons are surprisingly easy to learn. “In Celtic tradition, the Maypole points toward the center of the galaxy,” explains CSS director Robin Larsen. “According to the Celts, the galaxy is a spiral castle, home of the Goddess. For shamanic people, this path is the road of the spirit, and the Maypole dance is a sacred spiral.”
Fans of the singer/songwriter, Celtic harpist, Incredible String Band founder and brilliant storyteller Robin Williamson have an extra-special incentive to show up this year. Alas, no – the Scottish bard will not be on hand himself. But one of the most entertaining and memorable tales in his repertoire, The Fisherman’s Son and the Gruagach of Tricks, will be performed through song, dance and story by the Vanaver Caravan Dance Institute & Youth Dance Company, the Storycrafters and the Stone Mountain Choir. It concerns a poor young fisherman taken as apprentice by a powerful and vengeful wizard, and how he manages to escape his captivity (and win treasure and the hand of a princess, naturally) by employing the tricks of his new trade, transforming himself into a series of beasts, birds, fish and objects. Bring the kids – they’ll love it. Musical performers will also include Indigo, the Breath Collective and Bagad.
Celtic Beltane runs from 1 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 3 (rain date: Sunday, May 4), with the procession and pageant getting underway at 4 p.m. Bring lunch and a blanket and picnic on the grass, or purchase refreshments from vendors on-site. Alcohol, dogs and firearms are prohibited, and this year there will be no camping. Admission costs $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and teens and is free for children age 12 and under. All parking will be on-site this year, with a $15 fee; attendees are urged to carpool – or arrive on foot or bicycle via the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. It’s just a short hop from the newly opened trestle over the Rondout in Rosendale.
Celtic Beltane festival, Saturday, May 3, 1-10 p.m., $10/$5, parking $15, Stone Mountain Farm, Center for Symbolic Studies, 475 River Road Extension, Tillson; firstname.lastname@example.org, www.symbolicstudies.org.