“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.