- I been a professional photographer since I worked for the US Government documenting Test and Evaluation of Research and Development projects for the US Army and US Navy in the later half of the 1980s. I came home to Maine to finish my Marketing Degree at USM and began to work full time in Market Research and Marketing for many years while documenting weddings and occasional photojournalist and commercial jobs on the weekends. In 2001 I again returned to photography as a full time trade and have never been a happier man. I love working with creative individuals, couples, small businesses and select Non-Profits and can’t imagine working in any other trade. In 1987 I was lucky enough to wed my high school sweetheart and we now live in a cozy little solar powered, recycled bungalow a mile deep in our woods in the Western Hills of Maine with our two brilliant home-schooled teenage daughters and our three cats.
2005 Popham Beach Beltaine
(WARNING: The large version of this photo at this link is over 300k in size)
Each year since about 1982, Maine Pagans have gathered at Popham Beach State Park on or about the 1st of May to celebrate the Beltaine Sabbat (The midpoint between Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice and a time to celebrate fertility in Nature.)
This year, well over 100 folks were in attendance from all parts of Northern New England in spite of the blustery wet start to the day.
The May poles are brought back to the beach year after year and placed in an erect position on the beach to be readied for the spiral dance.
Older poles will accumulate a lot of layers of ribbon over the years and they tend to be treated with a bit of respect.
The Popham event has grown to the extent that one portable Maypole is not enough to accomodate all who wish to take part in the dance. For the last several years two Maypoles have been used. This growing interest and participation in even the tiny state of Maine corrolates with the statistics that show that Paganism is among the fastest growing religions in the US today.
As the dancers move in two opposing circles around the pole they weave in and out passing each other first on the left and then on the right. This causes the individual strands of ribbon that each of the dancers holds to weave into one unified web around the central pole.
I see this dance as symbolic and as emblematic of the singular strands of ribbon that we all carry through life as individuals as we weave in and out of our interactions with others... If we dance well in life, even when moving in opposition to many of those we meet, the greater universal web is woven well. If we ignore or remain ignorant of the fact that we are all connected to the same "Maypole" (in Deity) and are in fact weaving this web together, then we'll do nothing in life but create knots in our lives and in the lives of those whose ribbons we cross.
Fred (gray cloak) and his wife Leigh (not shown) are basically the hosts of this annual event. They held the celebrations here 7 years before they helped found the EarthTides Pagan Network and made the gathering even more popular beginning in 1989. Fred and Leigh have since moved from where they used to live and now voluntarily drive about five hours one way just to continue to host this gathering each year.
As the dance progresses, the web moves its way down the Maypole the dancing gets faster and faster and the crowd gets tighter and tighter.
As each ribbon is danced to an end, several ribbons are braided off securely to the Maypole for the rest of its 'life.'
As the modern era of NeoPaganism has now been expanding again since the late 1960s, it is interesting to note that such open public celebrations are again as multi-generational an activity today as they were in PaleoPagan days.
Here, off in the distance, you will see a crowd frantically running toward you. Actually they are running toward the torch that is in the foreground during the annual Beltaine torch race. Harper Meader organises this race at the Beltaine every year and he jokes that this is the longest running Pagan footrace in honour of Pan in North America. (Now in it's 5th year!)
This may actually be the very first photo finish of any Pagan foot race held in honour of Pan. The Druid known as Aspen was this year's rightful victor.
Aspen has earned the honoured and esteemed title "Fleet of Foot and Beloved of Pan" for this year and is awarded with the Silver medalion by the race's organiser Harper Meader.
Labyrinth artist Kelt always donates a nice labyrinth on the beach to be walked each year. The kids love this as much as the adults.
Two brave souls dancing in the waves. The temperature at the beach this year was hovering around 48 degrees. The water very likely was no where near that warm.
After the ritual and the race on the beach, everyone gathers back at the picnic area for a huge potluck feast. This is never as photo worthy as the beach activities for me, so I have completed my report with the above.
Hereditary Maine 'Yankees' are generally accepted to be the decendents of a puritan congregational people who relied more on democratic, localised and independent 'authority' for their religious lives then their home nations would allow. I find it interesting that this independent streak continues strongly in Maine Paganism today.
(all photos here were created with a Canon SD300 in Manual mode, -1ev.)