A little whiles back, John Beckett wrote a blog asking if it was possible that Paganism has, in fact, ‘peaked’. This sparked quite a discussion in the Pagan blogosphere on possible causes, and I posted some opinions on the subject in a local Facebook group that drew several very spirited responses that wound up resulting in this article:
If Paganism is diminishing in popularity maybe one reason for that occurring is a concerted effort on the part of some Pagans practicing today in downplaying or even removing the more bawdy public aspects involved in the annual ‘Rites of Spring’.
Rather then deal with the obvious (and perhaps uncomfortable) phallic symbolism of the Maypole, calmer ritualists use a fire pit as the central focus. The ‘Charge of the Goddess’ with Aradia’s command that “All Acts of Love and Pleasure are My Rites’ isn’t recited nearly as often. ‘May Games’ no longer hint at the ‘Sacred Marriage’ – the mating rituals of animals, humans being among them. Even the colorful May baskets – and what more can represent vegetative reproduction then the yoni pedals of a dew heavy flower – hardy appear on doorsteps as gifts any longer.
There are reasons for why this happening, of course. One major consideration is the increasing rejection of strict dualistic hetrocentric concepts. The Goddess & God has become more inclusive to accept all personal identities/expressions of sexuality (trans/bi/queer/poly/nuter) and not everyone’s sexual imprint fits in a one-size-fits-all casting.
Pagans are also extremely wary of rape culture issues and now favor safe space and consent cultural approaches to sexuality involving sacred space. This emerged as a result of sexual seduction/abuse by pagan clergy who, under the guise of instruction or initiation, took advantage of a neophytes trust.
Both of these considerations are important and absolutely necessary. They have also had a cooling effect on representations of sacred sexual expressions in the Circle.
Beltane is PRIMARILY about the power of sexual attraction and fulfillment. The horey goat bellows of Pan and the moans of Aphrodite in heated arousal are not just symbols. This is about our bodies confronting the mating of our Elements – our own special spiral D.N.A. dance – whipped into an ecstatic moment of expression in the Eternal Now.
In the third degree of many initiatory forms of Witchcraft, the highest magickal art and act is the drawing down (channeling) of the God/dess into two people that have sexual congress in a cast Circle. In doing so, the participants figuratively and literally embrace Eternity.
In the anthology Pagan Consent Culture edited by Christine Hoff Kraemer and Yvonne Aburrow several articles offer discussions and ritual formation instructions designed to meet both the safety concerns of individuals and still allow for sharing the depths of erotic arts.
Last year our community of Ma’at’s Temple used the Maypole ribbons tied around our waists as a common conduit for energy while still allowing for each person to remember their fiercest lusts in a trance state. If the sound of twenty souls all releasing a Cone (cum?) of Power while screaming “Yes…yes…YESSSSS!!!” isn’t enough to wet your whistle you just might want to check your pulse!
So – don’t be afraid of that intertwining Maypole, of the flowers and the flirting and ‘A’ Maying in the Woods’ on Beltane’s Eve. You will be in good company with all the other species.
Be safe, be consensual and believe in Love & Pleasure. You are to know joy in this existance…it is the God/dess(es) Gift to you.
Blessed Beltane/Merry Mayday to All!
Bruce served as elder caretaker for Ma’a’t’s Temple of south central Kansas for several years. A Reclaiming initiate, radical hippie and Wiccan Buddhist combining public/private ritual & political activism since 1987, he resides in Wichita, Kansas with a magician, a black cat named ‘F. Fredrick Skitty’ and produces commercial and short video projects (both available on YouTube & Vimeo) under ‘Nature’s Revenge Films‘.