Archives: Arran Beltane Pilgrimage

Tour Guides: Nancy Sherwood with Maria MacKenzie-Cann

The spirit call to the Isle of Arran was too powerful for Traveller’s Joy to ignore and so seven of us from Canada answered it. We asked for the protection and guidance of Brigit when we first gathered over dinner in Halifax. Our group purpose was to strengthen our connection with the ancestors by experiencing Arran, which is so diversified in geography and by the history of many cultural threads that have been woven into its history for thousands of years that it is called a “miniature Scotland”.

We stayed our first night in Scotland on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond at a lodge called Rowardeenan. With shell rattles and a drum we sang on the gentle shores of the loch. We were aware of the dragon (elemental) energies in the earth and our need to respect the space we were entering. A local elder sat comfortably by, watching and he said, “Whatever you are doing, keep doing it.” We felt that benediction when we went to bed.

Riding through Scotland the next day along the hills and water gave us a lasting sense of Scotland’s landscape. We stopped to exploring the beaches, playing, singing and laughing as we waited and watched for the North ferry to Arran. While the winds blew and the mountains solidly loomed ahead in ordinary reality, we had the sense of being taken to the Other Realms, The weather never stopped happening on Arran and we quickly adapted to constant changes in light, temperature and mists.

We found our well situated cottage at Lamlash, a village named after sixth century St. Molaise whose name means Light. Our smiling host was John and we were joined by Hugh, a Scottish-born guide. Machrie Moor had “chosen us” for our evening Beltane celebration and so we quickly headed there to experience the sun going down. We welcomed the joining of the male and the female principle embodied in the goddess and the green man. Ancient songs came through us from the spinning, weaving, dancing, and lullabies. We had the sense of being connected to the people that had lived on Arran in times past, and for whom the spiritual was connected to all aspects of life.

We were glad to have brought our flashlights on Beltane eve because Hugh had a midnight expedition planned . We made our way up a hill in the deep forest, to an ancient grave site where the sleeping spirits lay. Faery lights danced around us, teasing us, leading us. We got to discover the roots of the “wake” tradition. The ancestors hosted us at a life/death/ rebirth party . From our ritual play there we allowed some part of ourselves to die to our own individual pasts and to learn gratitude for our present lives.

We had time most days with our group altar in the cottage and made ritual objects for celebration, for attracting spirits, and directing energy. We explored the creation myths of the island by spirit journeying. Most days no one ever knew when one of us would “break out” and hit the road dancing. We joined the spirits of the travellers of history who had roamed and responded to each place they came to with music and song. We experienced the veil between the worlds dissolving. We traversed the veil going from prehistory to merry times at evening meals with contemporary people living in Scotland today.

Faery group on Arran IslandIvy, the plant of birth, initiation and love became one of our allies. The 5 points of the leaf directed us to earth, air, fire, water and spirit. The qualities of each person on the journey revealed deep beauty and creativity. Laughter became a hallmark of our Beltane sojourn. We learned to walk lightly through our serious intent. We discovered the flower Faeries while dancing in a castle garden, and in the magic of the moment released ourselves from our usual personality identities into the embodiment of archetypes older than time.

Tour group on Holy IslandOur day trip to Holy Island was marked by the generous spirit of the place estalbished in historic times by St. Molaise and continued today by Buddhist stewards. Nancy was welcomed back by one of the gardeners from the Peace Mandala Garden who had taken photos of prayer for ribbons from a Traveller’s Joy ritual for lost children the previous year.

Nancy with tour participant on Holy IslandPeople had precious solo time on Holy Island and the group circled up again at the Holy Well for ritual and celebration of the primeval earth energies of the Mother Dragon.

A day’s walking, shamanic drumming, and ritual at the Seal Beach and Faery Glen energized us and started the preparation for returning and grounding our experiences. We were visited by Tibetan spirit emissaries and by Egyptian spirits who had messages of protection and wisdom. There was a moving ritual under the weeping skies for the ancestors of those whose descendants founded Glengarry County, Ontario, Canada.

Our host, John, had arranged a piper for our goodbye party and one of our Nova Scotia dancers started the Highland Fling so that we all “broke out” once again under the hills of Arran.

It was not 'til on the crossing from Brodick that one of us found a dragon legend on the wall of boat that spoke of the creation legends of Arran. Intuition had led us true.

The last night in Scotland we slept in a castle hostel on the Eastern shore of Loch Lomond. We found ourselves leaving in the blessed state of the holy fools again, expressing joy and gratitude for our coming together and sharing such timelessness and mystery before returning to our lives a little “larger” than we came.

Read one participant's account of the trip on the testimonials page