As in so many earlier years, I will spend Saturday night in Berkeley so as to be up before dawn, drive up to Inspiration Point in Tilden Park, and watch Berkeley Morris  dance up the sun.  Whenever I’ve been in northern California on Beltane I try to see the Morris Dancers at dawn. Even in a downpour they are out, and so am I and many other Pagans. One year I watched the Apple Tree Morris  here in Sebastopol, and it was a wonderful event.  But Berkeley is not far away and it was the Berkeley celebration that first penetrated deeply into my spirit. I tend to return to it whenever I can.

The first time I saw Berkeley Morris I was new to Paganism.  As I joined the large group forming the circle within which the dancers were performing, something indescribably ancient seemed to pervade the place.  Here were people celebrating the triumph of life and fertility as they had in one way or another for thousands of years.  Rather than being on the leading edge of “progress” we were deeply immersed in a place of timeless meaning.  It was very magickal, and I have never forgotten it.

It is usually cold, and we stand huddled under coats and cloaks and blankets, the occasional thermos of the “water of life” making its way slowly through knots of friends and strangers.  As the earth slowly brightens a tall bear, a very medieval bear, makes its way around the circle, sharing pieces of a delicious Morris cake. Sometimes the bear selects a member of the crowd for special and often embarrassing attention.

Most times it is not raining, and the eastern sky slowly and beautifully lightens before the sun’s first rays hit our eyes and beginning illuminating the verdant green hills of a California spring. Everyone cheers.  Day comes rapidly then, and the crowd disperses, sometimes to work if it’s a week day, but this time to parties, feasts, and additional celebrations. That night I will serve as High Priest for a Sabbat whereas the night before I was a guest at another.

We will have properly celebrated the energies of life and the life-giving energies of the sun, as so many have for so long in a chain of sacred observance that extend back far longer than any country or culture

Here is a small group of Berkeley Morris performing in much better light. And another of Apple Tree Morris.

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