Beltane is about Spring… and sex. It’s about fertility… and sex. It’s about flowers… and sex. It’s about fire… and sex. Paganism at its best is a sex-positive religion and Beltane is our celebration of the joys of love and lust.
It’s good to reclaim sacred sexuality from the Neopuritans who preach abstinence and shame. It’s good to reclaim sacred sexuality from the evil sorcerers of marketing who use sex to persuade us to buy stuff we neither want nor need.
But Beltane is about a lot more than sex.
Beltane is 180 degrees opposite Samhain on the Wheel of the Year, and like at Samhain, the Veil Between the Worlds is said to be especially thin at this time of year. This is also Walpurgisnacht, thought to be a gathering of witches in medieval Germanic countries.
For those of us who honor, worship, and work with the Gods of Ireland, this is a day to commemorate. It was at Beltane when the Tuatha De Danann landed in Ireland.
It was on the first day of Beltaine, that is called now May Day, the Tuatha De Danann came, and it was to the north-west of Connacht they landed. But the Firbolgs, the Men of the Bag, that were in Ireland before them, and that had come from the South, saw nothing but a mist, and it lying on the hills.
Beltane is a holy day. So before, or after, or in between your sexy celebrations, take a few minutes for a few more reverent observations.
Make offerings. Perhaps you pour a libation to your ancestors. Perhaps you leave food or milk or whiskey out for the land spirits. Perhaps you finally make a special sacrifice a particular deity has been pushing you to make.
The Gods give to us so we give to the Gods so They will continue to give to us. Offerings reinforce the Pagan virtue of reciprocity and remind us that living in community requires that we both give and receive.
But remember the words of Sam Webster: “a libation without a prayer is just a spilled drink.”
Meditate. The ancestor meditation in the main working of this Samhain ritual would make a good starting point. I would move the gateway candles either to the West (toward sunset and the Otherworld) or to the Southeast (the place of Beltane).
Or just sit in a darkened room, or outdoors with your back to a tree, and listen. Listen for the voices of the Gods. Listen for the voices of your ancestors. Listen for the voices of the spirits of the place where you live. Don’t expect to hear audible voices. Do expect to get impressions, feelings, and thoughts popping into your head unexpectedly. Don’t worry about figuring out exactly where they’re coming from – there will be plenty of time for that later. Just listen.
Remember to give thanks for anything you receive.
Are there interpersonal conflicts in your life that need to be resolved? Are there issues of ethics, theology, or philosophy that are hindering you from full participation on the path that calls to you?
Is a God calling you to deeper devotion and greater service?
Whatever questions are foremost in your life right now, give them some honest thought and contemplation. I like to do this on long walks. Others like to sit in a quiet room by themselves. Still others find writing them out to be helpful. Whatever method you choose, contemplate your spiritual life as it is right now.
Dedicate. Beltane is the liminal zone between Winter and Summer. This time outside of time is the perfect occasion to dedicate yourself to the work that needs to be done in the coming season.
Perhaps you need to dedicate yourself to deeper spiritual practice. Perhaps you need to dedicate yourself to community service. Perhaps you need to dedicate yourself to your education, or your health, or your family, or something else you’ve been putting off.
Whether you perform a formal ceremony or just stand underneath the full moon, take a few minutes and dedicate yourself to the work that calls to you.
Just don’t promise what you won’t do.
Beltane is a wonderful, magical season and celebration. I’m looking forward to the Denton CUUPS Beltane circle tomorrow night. We’ll dance the Maypole, dance the Spiral Dance, and work to protect the land from those who would exploit it. But after the frolicking and frivolity, I’ll take a few moments to observe and honor the holy day of Beltane.
May your Beltane fires burn brightly!