The Dance of Pagan Recovery: The Season of Sex

“Let my worship be in the heart that rejoices for, behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals…”

The sun is shining, the birds are singing.  The bees are thrusting into the flowers in a dance as old as life itself and we, as Pagans, welcome the season of desire and creativity.  The Earth warms with the kiss of the Sun.  All things awaken, feel the hunger, seek fulfillment.  The recognition of the sacredness of pleasure is one reason many of us chose this path.  Lust is a holy thing and satisfaction is a gift.

Especially, we are encouraged to go wild around Beltane.  It’s the time of year for it, more than any other.   The tumultuous growth of Spring is spilling over the land, like a wave of delightful chaos flowing through all of Nature.  It’s becoming warm enough to wander off and make love in the woods.  We invoke the lusty Lady and her horny Lord (and/or others, in many combinations).   It’s all heat and rut, poles and holes and sweaty frolics.


This can be a problem for those of us who learned to dance and kiss and make love while under the influence. We may have exploited our sexual power (or been exploited through it).  We may not remember what-the-hell-all we’ve done with our sexual power.  Sometimes the energy of Sex has become entangled for us, not with the bright ribbons of true affection, but with the hurtful cords of abuse.  So what do we celebrate?  What does “love and pleasure” mean to us?

In Feri tradition, we tell a creation story in which the primordial God Hirself crafts a mirror in the void and is enraptured by Hir own reflection.  The love-making that follows brings all things into manifestation.  We take this to mean (among other things), that the first love is always love of self.  The adoration of our own bright spirit is what makes our world come alive.  From this fullness, we go forth in service to create the beauty we desire for all beings.

If we want to redefine love and pleasure, this is where we begin:  our own reflection will teach us all that we need to know.  In gazing into our own souls, we find what touches us intimately.  This may or may not have anything to do with sex as it is commonly understood.  We may feel most deeply connected with all things when we sit on a rock and gaze at the river.  Our brightest experience of bliss might come with a long session of drumming, or reading poetry or just sitting in silence and observing our mind-states.  Painting or writing or singing or running or swimming or crying or laughing can all be avenues into our personal rapture. We are not beholden to anyone else’s idea of ecstasy.  We can walk away from the practices that endanger our sober health.

But what if we don’t want to walk away?  What if we feel like we are ready to stand in that flow of chaos?  How do we stay safe?

First, we have to be willing to give precedence to our sobriety (pro tip:  Sobriety Loses Its Priority = SLIP).  We hold to our commitments and remember why we’ve made them:  abstinence, relationship standards, other ethical considerations.  We are careful of what kind of situations we put ourselves in and who we are circling with.  You may have heard it said that “what happens in ritual doesn’t count” and I think we can all call BS on that right away.  But other times, it’s not that easy.  We have been in trance for a long time, someone’s drawn down; we have danced and sang and kissed and then someone passes the cup around and we are shocked out of our groove.  Or we go ahead and drink of the “wine of life”, and begin to undo all our good work.

We need to be thoughtful and wary.  We learn to be skillful and wise.  We think about what might happen and how we might react and then carouse accordingly.  Staying aware of our situation all the time isn’t easy, but it becomes a great blessing.  We get more present in each moment, difficult or delicious.

If you are drawn to get out to some ‘traditional’ festivities, start small.  Always give yourself an out.  Know where the exit is, literally and figuratively.  Travel with sober kin, or at least with folks who know your story and can support you in appropriate ways.

Go to the ritual or the party, but hold compassion for yourself while you don’t dance like you used to.  Let your participation look different.  Do what really feels okay in the moment, what allows you to feel clean in your interaction with the magick.  If you get tired, gently release your energy from the space (unless it is specifically your job in circle to hold it; then check with your priests).   You don’t have to do or be anything that isn’t good for you.

It’s okay to mourn what is lost.  We probably did have some fun along the way.  And then let’s come back to this moment and celebrate what is here, now.  Let’s breathe in the genius of the cycle of the seasons.  Let’s feel the flow of power that gives rise to all life.  Remember that your stillness is holy, your pain and your fear and your frustration and joy; all sacred.  Also your gentle persistence and your slow healing.

We can find what supports our intelligent exploration of the energy of Beltane.  The dark places we’ve been provide a rich bed for the growth of the beauty that is us.  We can rejoice in our own unique ways and give honor to our Gods and our own sweet selves.

The Dance of Pagan Recovery is published on alternate Tuesdays. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!


When Worlds Collide – Coming Back From Pantheacon
Alone In Her Presence: An Open Heart and a Naked Soul
Wyrd Words: Pagan Life Lessons – Adaptability
Socially Responsible Magic: Why We Need to Have the Hard Conversations
About Jenya T. Beachy

Jenya T. Beachy has been walking the Twisted Path of spiritual seeking for most of her life.  She is the originator of the Shapeshifter line of Anderson Feri tradition Witchcraft and for many years, she’s led classes, retreats, and workshops locally and across the country on Tarot, Practical Magick, Ritual Skills, Personal Empowerment, Shadow Work, Ancestor Connection and much more.  Now the core principles of self-sufficiency, curiosity and creativity so long present in her magick have found expression in homemade chutney and hand-killed meat. She makes her home in the mountains above the ocean in California with her beloved husband, a passel of animals and many, many jars. Find out more at her website: or join the conversation on FB at the Urban Pagan Homestead group. 

  • Michele Sauter Warch

    I wanted to thank you, sincerely, for your article on this topic. Being a pagan in recovery, I often have to explain that I don’t imbibe in any substance, including ritual cakes & ale or wine, nor do I participate in any other form of behavior that will endanger my sobriety. Those in the groups I frequent and belong to know and respect this, but the larger community will often make statements like those you mentioned, “It doesn’t count if it happens in ritual/at festival/etc…” Well, for me, it counts. Because, I truly am an addict, and when the taste is in my mouth (or my nose), I’m off and running in a direction that I swiftly lose the power of choice over.

    I’m grateful to hear others in the community thinking on the topic. In my coven, there is no alcohol or drugs as a part of ritual. Once I got sober, I realized that my numbing myself with substances also damaged my ability to tap into Divine source/energy/wisdom/etc. I’m clearer and much more intuitive and creative today than i ever was during 3 decades of use. I don’t knock people who participate in revelry that includes any of the things that I disuse. And, I ask that they do the same for me.

    Blessed be, sister, ODAT.

    • Jenya T. Beachy

      You’re welcome!

      Isn’t it strange that, in a path that is so fiercely independent, there can still be so much peer pressure?

      One of the things I found very empowering was how deeply we (as drunks/druggies/whatevs) are taught to go in our recovery, and how much richer that makes our experience. We know ourselves very well, most of the time, our weaknesses and our strengths. Learning to be honest and start where we are is great practice for everyone, IMHO :)

      • michele warch

        I completely agree. Self exploration of the type that’s encouraged in the rooms and an understanding of ego, self & motives are all things that improve my life dramatically and my spiritual practice.

        I sincerely wish I knew more pagans in the rooms but I am open about my own beliefs just in case they’re out there. I’m very grateful for finding this blog and the online community around it to discuss these things with.

        Blessed be.

  • Michael A Manor

    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, – Ecclesiastes 3.5 I know. This is from the Bible, but it is apt. This is a time to refrain from embracing. Our community is in free fall over the subject of sexual ethics. It’s time to reflect not react, but it’s also a time to refrain until the issue is better resolved.

    • Jenya T. Beachy

      I agree that it is important to be sensitive to current events in the larger community. The conversations on that subject are necessary; when something difficult is revealed, we can use the opportunity to get clear with ourselves and others. Addiction and compulsion destroy things. We know that. So how to engage this knowing in the service of healing?

  • Amy Wayne Haddon

    Jenya, thank you so much for writing this blog. I get something out of it every time and feel deep resonance between your musings on sobriety and, particularly, Feri practice. Since that resonance is often missing in meetings, its wonderful to find it here. So many blessings; please keep writing and teaching!

    • Jenya T. Beachy

      Thanks Amy!

      I’m so glad that you are finding it helpful. My flavor of Feri is deeply informed by my experience in the rooms, and vice versa. For both paths we go deep, feel the truth of where we are, seek courage, recognize peace.

  • Constant Reader

    There’s great advice here, whether you’re going to a Pagan festival or a family wedding where alcohol will be served: bring a supportive friend, and know and defend your boundaries. Energetic boundaries are important, too. One of the big reasons I drank was to turn down the “noise” of other people’s energies. When I first got sober, a couple of years of Celexa turned down that noise, but when I got off the meds, YIKES! I’ve found some practices that help (it’s one reason I started the daily practice that I’ve mentioned previously), and I also make sure I’m with someone who will understand if I need to leave an event early or disappear to go sit under a tree for a few minutes. Like everything else, it’s a work in progress.

    • Jenya T. Beachy

      Thanks Constant~

      Yes yes, damping the white noise of psychic emissions! Good lord, things are noisy out there! It is one of the things that they don’t really talk about in meetings, but a very real factor for those “with ears to hear”.

      • Constant Reader

        Oh, it’s definitely not something I’ve ever brought up in a meeting, but I figured here people will know what I’m talking about. :)

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