Beltane; the birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing, the flowers are blooming, it seems that all of nature is heating up (in more ways than one). Beltane can be a hot and sexy holiday and we’ve had our share of hot and sexy rituals over the years. Think antlers, think masks, think gasping, panting, bodies entwining in the woods Beltanes; or lock the doors, open the windows and hope the neighbors aren’t home (or not so secretly hope they are listening) Beltane rituals. But hot and sexy might not be how you want to honor Beltane with your coven or your kiddos. Yes, we are a sex positive religion, and there’s is still a line.
When it comes to Pagan holidays Beltane can be tricky one. Whether of ancient origins or modern invention, sex and sexiness and sexy sexiness is associated with Beltane. But what if boinking a beloved (or beloveds) isn’t your idea of celebrating Beltane? What if you don’t associate the arriving Rites of Spring with the the literal act(s) of, ahem, “raising the Maypole?” What (and how) might we honor and celebrate that isn’t about rutting? How can we look at the verdant, burgeoning Earth without the obligatory biological imperative to knock our collective Pagan boots?
Phoenix – Picnics – We have discovered that a picnic is an amazing, yet simple, way to honor the turning of the seasons with family and friends. Over the years, we’ve set up picnic dinners in the backyard to celebrate Beltane and enjoy the heat of the season. It is warm out, it is beautiful out; all you need is some food and some blankets. Plus, with a picnic you have the opportunity to slow down and smell the fresh grass or see the wildflowers pushing up. There’s time for playing games, create flower wreaths, make an outside altar with rocks, seeds, or flowers, or perhaps enjoy leisurely conversations about the seasonal shift. This is a time when you can talk about what is becoming, what is starting to blossom, where life is thriving. We can talk about renewal and hope and goals and dreams. This is a good time to determine what in your life is starting to grow and what you may need to cull. Simple rituals can be powerful rituals.
Gwion – Getting out in it. In Northern California, where we live, we’re really blessed with beautiful regional parks, beaches, and redwood forests.. There are literally thousands of hiking trails, nature walks, and different beautiful landscapes that we can explore. We don’t have to overtly say that we are going on a hike to honor and celebrate Beltane, but it’s a really good excuse. If you hold that Beltane is about celebrating the Spring and the return of life after a long, cold winter, then getting out and about is a great way to do this. For me, Beltane is about the pure, unadulterated joy of being embodied. Our bodies are amazing, no matter what our genders are, what our skin colour is, our level of physical ability, or the stories we tell ourselves about our bodies. We all have bodies, and that’s pretty amazing. We are all embodied and can feel the warm sun on our skin (even if just for a moment, or through a window). Whether it’s by getting out and hiking or smelling fresh cut flowers in our homes or just marveling at the blue sky above or stopping long enough to hear birdsong or eating, we can engage with Beltane through our own bodily experiences.
Phoenix – Food – There is a food focus in many spiritual traditions. Think about it, what is Christmas without a big dinner, what would Passover be like without gefilte fish? Over the years we have developed our own special meals for the major holidays. Yes, this works for Beltane, but it could easily be stretched to all of the other Sabbats as well. During the High Holidays we like to make large family dinners, gathering with even our non-Pagan friends and relatives. Often we draw on the recipes from the Celtic Folklore Cookbook to give us some inspiration and ideas. Special meals are another way to get small kids, who may not be so into the ritual aspects of the holiday, involved. Cooking is fun, you can get a little dirty, and add blessings and prayers into the food. This has always been a good way to get the kids involved at our house.
Gwion – Arts and Crafts – Ok, so I really don’t like arts and crafts, this might be my kryptonite of the Pagan lifestyle, but I have to admit that making crafts with a group, a coven, or the family can be fun and celebratory. Making head wreaths of flowers, creating small flower baskets and doorbell ditching these on the neighbors doorsteps, decorating the house, making small faerie houses for the backyard, and so on can bring a group together in one creative process.
There are many ways to honor Beltane. Some ways might be more appropriate than others to involve the whole coven in, some might be a more private affair. However you celebrate Beltane, may it be joyful, fun and full of just the right amount of “Beltaney” juiciness for you.
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