Seasonal News: Beltane

30 Apr, 2023

Haarlem Seasonal News

‘Mayday’, I wonder why this is an international call for help (answer at the bottom), as this day hails the beginning of the summer and is the traditional day for Beltane or Bealtuinn in Scottish Gaelic meaning Bel-fire, the fire of the Celtic god of light. Traditionally bonfires were built in the days leading up to Beltane and the 13th century Irish poem The Song of the Forest Trees lists nine sacred woods: Rowan, Briar, Oak, Alder, Holly, Elder, Birch, Aspen and Yew that were gathered for these fires. On the night of the 30th April the hearth fires would be extinguished and the Beltane fires lit, almost always on the tops of the hills. This year I’ll be going to the Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh on Calton Hill and have been promised there will be ‘cavorting’ with the May Queen and Green Man, representing growth and fertility. As a passionate and sensuous Taurean ruled by the planet Venus this is too good an opportunity to miss. Many happy solar returns to my fellow bullish friends amongst you.

This month we also celebrate International Workers’ Day, Ascension Day and Pentecost (Christian) and Shavuot (Jewish) with a flourish of gold and blue colour in the fields and champagne froth of blossom in the trees and hedgerows.

In Haarlem news, the pop-up shop is bursting with gloriousness at No. 15 St John Street so why not plan a visit, opening hours are 10-4 Weds to Sat. There will be a few events in the shop to look out for during the tenancy which will last over the summer so please keep an eye out on our social media channels if you would like to attend any of these.

This month we will be submitting a funding application to Arts Council England to bring a thrilling artist to exhibit in the Haarlem Gallery over the September festival period – think Brave New World, Doctor Who and Ithell Colquhoun but I don’t want to give anything more away. Please cross everything for us as we are buzzing with the possibility. A reminder too for Haarlem studio holders that towards the end of the year as the colder evenings draw in, it is the intention to continue with the studio holder show in the Gallery, just before we begin our wintering season.

This season’s poem is printed with kind permission from Mary Oliver’s estate.


And here is the serpent again,
dragging himself out from his nest of darkness,
his cave under the black rocks,
his winter-death.
He slides over the pine needles.
He loops around the bunches of rising grass,
looking for the sun.

Well, who doesn’t want the sun after the long winter?
I step aside,
he feels the air with his soft tongue,
around the bones of his body he moves like oil,

downhill he goes
toward the black mirrors of the pond.
Last night it was still so cold
I woke and went out to stand in the yard,
and there was no moon.

So I just stood there, inside the jaw of nothing.
An owl cried in the distance,
I thought of Jesus, how he
crouched in the dark for two nights,
then floated back above the horizon.

There are so many stories,
more beautiful than answers.
I follow the snake down to the pond,

thick and musky he is
as circular as hope.

Mary Oliver

Finally, more exciting news is that studio holder, Katayoun Jalilipour is featured in the recent The Face magazine article, Inside out with photographs of the Iranian diaspora. You can find more about their work on Instagram @katayounjalilipour including details on their new Substack and a link to their piece written to mark the 100 days of the Iran Revolution for gal-dem magazine an award winning online and print magazine committed to sharing perspectives of people of colour from marginalised genders.

Wishing you all a thrilling May Day and Beltane Night!

Cat (Rogers), Liv (Punnett), Paul (Carr), Sarah (Armstrong) and Ellen (O’Hara) – Haarlem Artspace Co-Directors