“Why does everyone at Patheos Pagan hate sex?”
“All the Patheos Pagan writers hate Beltane.”
Comments similar to the ones above have been commonplace on the Patheos Pagan Facebook feed over the last two weeks, and all because a few of us have advocated for more inclusive Beltane rites. Imagine going to ritual over and over and finding nothing there that speaks to your situation. Imagine having to look into the face of deity and never seeing yourself reflected there. That doesn’t sound like fun to me, and even more importantly, it doesn’t sound spiritually fulfilling.
Sex figures in a lot of Beltane celebrations, and for good reason; there’s probably sex going on outside your window right now. It doesn’t snow where I live in California, but there’s so much pollen blowing around in the air that it kind of looks like it does. My stuffy nose is not responding well to plant sex right now, though it does smell delightful outside. I’m not aware of anyone asking people to ignore the realities of the natural world in their rituals.
The problem for many of us, is when sex and the natural world are ONLY represented by female and male coupling. The Goddess and God aren’t literally having sex in my garden to begin with, so why do so many insist that such representations are the only appropriate ones at Beltane? Maybe the Goddess reproduces asexually? She’s a deity after all, and I’m sure she could just replicate herself if she wanted to.
When I envision Beltane I see the young Horned God engaged in a variety of behaviors. He’s with the Maiden, but he’s also flirting with the Sun God, and he’s most likely taking care of himself and fertilizing the world with his member and his hand. There’s a fourth version of him that’s probably just reading a book too. No one is asking anyone to deny any of these aspects. I just believe we paint an incomplete picture when we only focus on one of them instead of all of them.
And only expressing fertility as the union of male/female is shitty and doesn’t represent how the world works. That’s not anyone hating sex, it’s someone looking at the world around them and seeing something more out there. The cherry tree in my backyard has cherries on it because it’s self-pollinating. It certainly didn’t hop out of its pot and hump another cherry tree.
There are also times when I believe an overly sexually and heterosexual Beltane is simply inappropriate. What you do behind closed doors with your coven is your business, but maybe if you’re leading the community ritual at a public park you should write a ritual for the entire community? I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
How we build rituals, especially at Beltane, is really important to. Perhaps a ritual where groups are split into “boys” and “girls” doesn’t work so much anymore? Accepting that is not an abandonment of sex, it’s simply not being a jackass. And Paganism has always had a creeper problem with people seeing “Paganism” as a gateway to get away with all sorts of inappropriate (often sexual) behavior. Instead of creating a situation where that happens, maybe we build different sorts of rituals where that’s much less likely to happen?
Modern Paganism has generally been sex positive over the last seven decades, and building inclusive rituals doesn’t change that. Doing something other than “penis goes into vagina” doesn’t fundamentally change Beltane or Witchcraft, and the flowers will continue to bloom regardless. No one is asking a particular myth to be forgotten, it’s just that some of us believe a few of our myths are incomplete.
If your Beltane is all about human sex, then go at it, make sure it’s safe and consensual, and have fun! If your ritual circle is down with an orgy no one is trying to stop you. I’m super supportive of all of those things, and maybe even a bit jealous of the latter. But the majority of our dalliances at Beltane occur outside the circle, and they are engaged in by a wide-range of people and sexualities. Wanting that to be expressed in ritual isn’t anti-sex, it’s about expressing a bigger picture of sexuality.