With Mardi Gras coming up, I am musing on the magical potentials of carnival traditions. Because I was not raised catholic, this holiday has no traditional religious associations for me, and as I have never had a taste for alcohol, I also to do not view it as an opportunity for excess. Nevertheless, I have a romantic affinity for New Orleans, and whenever some intense festival energy is being generated somewhere, I think about the potential magic that can be generated. In parts of the world where Carnival is practiced, masses of people are brought together, often in masked dances and processions, which moves streams of energy through a community, similar to what I have discussed in my posts on the “feng shui of Halloween.” Unfortunately, although Carnival is very colorful, it lacks the profundity of Halloween, because it doesn’t make that Ancestor World connection, (even if masking opens spaces for spirits to enter). There are many other world masking traditions, and most societies seem to have some form of these, even though not all at the same time of year or with the same celebrational intent. Some sort of anthropological-psychological principal seems to hold that it is less important that societies have such “reversal” holidays at a particular season or for a particular reason, than that they do have them at some time of year, for some reason.
Although I say that masking traditions may be found in different seasons, that doesn’t mean that the nature of the seasonal celebration is irrelevant. The different practices are more meaningful when viewed in context of what is going on in the world of nature. In my present case, we seem to be experiencing an early spring, (at least here in Michigan). As we had a mild winter, there isn’t so much snow melt to speak of, but one nevertheless sees—and hears—the continuous movement of water through the landscape. The water is not just swelling streams, but moves through otherwise dry ditches and gutter runnels. This can hearken to what, in New England, they call the season of “Unlocking,” though it’s a little early still, as Unlocking applies more to March. This movement of water also involves the movement of chi through the landscape. By this token, anyone doing some masking and parading at this season might think about aligning with these energies of Elemental Water flowing through Nature, which is all the more appropriate, as this is the Year of the Water Dragon. By the way, when I drove to town this morning, I saw that the sugar buckets are already out (on the maple trees), which means that the sap is flowing. The maple sugar producers have to watch the seasonal changes closely and act on them quickly, so as not to miss out.
One can also wonder if ritual movements in early spring hearken to ancient traditions of awakening the Earth. Although I’m getting a little too far ahead in time, I am reminded of the German belief that on the first day of May, the witches must dance the last of the snow off the mountainsides. So, the idea is that the actions of magical people move the seasonal cycle forward—but then, the seasonal cycle moves on different time tables in different regions. This suggests a question you can put to your tarot or oracle cards: “Please show me how to dance my way into Spring, in alignment with the moving energies of Spring.” You might want to bring in “the principle of the fantastic” by trying this with some whimsical deck like the “Paulina Tarot,” which is partially inspired by New Orleans Mardi Gras.