Symbolizing union and interconnectedness by using the colours of national flags
In these times of war I think it is important to stay connected to the people in all countries. Opposing one another will only lead to more distance, to the feeling that we are different. There may be differences between cultures, and of course it is difficult to forgive certain individuals for what they have done wrong. There’s no excuse for invading another country. And there’s certainly no excuse for acts of crime, such as shooting civilians, torture and rape, for destroying complete cities and depriving people of food, medicine and a safe retreat. In short: for ignoring the Geneva conventions. But a war is not the choice of the people. One way or another the inhabitants of the aggressive country suffer too. In the case of Russia because of the lost lives of the (some very young) soldiers, the lost jobs and incomes, the economy gone to shatters because of the sanctions and because the money goes to the army instead of to the inhabitants.
Treating the ‘opposing’ people as the enemy may lead to feuds between countries, which can lead to new wars in the future. We have seen the results of the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. We have seen the results of previous battles in the Balkan countries, in Rwanda, et cetera.
Someone who wants war, starts by describing ’the enemy’ as non-humans, as vermin. Who would allow a cockroach to live? Who wants to be friends with rats? It is so much easier to kill people you don’t know and don’t consider to be your equal, your relatives.
So what better way to oppose war itself than by viewing every people on earth as equals, as relatives and friends? To make a connection over the boundaries of country and culture. After all: we all bleed when we are wounded and we all love our children. We all wish the best for the ones we love. So let us extend the group of people we love to a larger group, consisting of people we do not know in person, and who live on another part of the planet, Knowing they are basically the same as we, only born elsewhere and maybe in other circumstances. They could have been us. We could have been them. In a next life we might be born into their family.
And if you find it difficult for now to really feel love, use the word ‘compassion’, for that is the kind of love that I mean.
My suggestion is for an addition to your May Eve ritual, your next Full Moon ritual or for a special ritual on another day. (I welcome everyone of a different faith or world view to join in whenever suits you). Suggestions for special dates: in the Netherlands May 5: Bevrijdingsdag. May 8: Day of the Red Cross. May 9: Europe Day. Or May 16: International Day of Living Together in Peace!
Very appropriate for the Beltane ritual is to use ribbons. This time not (only) the usual ribbons in white and red, or white, red and green, but colours that are common in flags.
The symbology of European flags dates back a long time, to the Indo-European civilizationi. The European flags were taken as example – and the ideas behind them formed the base – for flags in many (newer) nations outside of Europe.
Red is the colour of power and combat. White or yellow is the colour of sovereignty. Green, or blue, or black, is the colour of reproduction, of (the masses of) the people, of fertility, welfare and peace. The Netherlands share their flag in red, white and blue with France, Russia and Iraq. And with the UK, the USA, Slovenia and Slovakia1i.
So try to find ribbons – or knitting wool – in twelve colours: red, white, green, (warm) yellow, black, light blue, middle blue, dark blue, turquoise, orange, lighter yellow and brown. Those colours cover just about any national flag. If you use three colours, choose red, white (or yellow) and either blue or green of black.
If you are celebrating with other people, you might use the may tree or an equivalent to tie the ribbons to, and to dance around. That way you can weave all the colours, and thus all the countries and people the colours represent, into a fabric that stands for the interconnectedness of the world. You may want to give words to your relationship to all the people on the earth. For instance:
As East, so West. As South, so North.
We are the same, so call it forth.
We are all people, we share the Earth,
Everyone is of equal worth.
When you work alone, dancing while weaving is more of a challenge. But you can make a braid, with three colours if you are a beginner, but if you’ve done it before, braiding twelve colours may work too. Tie the ribbons or the yarn together or to a starting point, one that is stable and can take some pressure (pulling). The handle of your (heavy) cauldron can do, or a branch of a tree, or a door-knob. If you want to be able to take the braid of, use an extra piece of ribbon or yarn as accessory. That way you can cut the extra thread when the braiding is done.
While braiding you can use a chant or visualise being connected to the other people of the earth. We breathe the same air, we drink water that has passed around the globe many times, and the same sun and moon shine upon us all. While you braid the strands, keep in mind that we are united in diversity, that we are all humans, with the same needs and hopes: hoping to live in peace.
You can use the braid as a talisman, of hang it above or next to your altar.
If you are alone and braiding is not your forte, use a (white) candle and add the three or twelve colours to it in an appropriate fashion, for instance spiralling next to each other around the candle. Focus on the equality of all humans, and on your relation with other people, all other people, and on your hope to live in peace. When you are finished, dress the candle (use oil to anoint both poles to dedicate it) and light it tonight and tomorrow, until it is burnt up.
Final suggestion is to make a cake and decorate it with the three or twelve colours, and share it with people you do and people you don’t yet know. (Try to avoid allergenics and taboo ingredients, and be sure to have a list of ingredients at hand when you share it.)
Speak of your sense of connectedness and your hope for peace. Listen to the stories of other people.
And be thankful of your luck, when you live in a country in peace!
i Gerard de Haas: Publieke religie. Voorchristelijke patronen in ons religieus gedrag. Baarn: Ten Have, 1994.
1 Among more countries, such as the Czech Republic, Thailand, Paraguay, Chili, Puerto Rico and Cuba: