With various emergencies and life-stuff going on, the grove wasn’t able to meet for Beltane. In truth, I found this a relief, since it allowed me to more fully engage in my own practice rather than being the ritual hostess, which has its own set of stressors.
I’ve struggled for years with Beltane. In short, in many Pagan groups it’s an uber-sexual time replete with randy jokes and (in some groups) the justification for hook-ups. Now, there’s nothing wrong with sex or sexuality, although I’m a bit prudish by nature, truth be told. In some senses, the community focus on sexuality can create pressure; sexuality is so fraught with power-over and commercialization in our culture that it’s hard to feel completely comfortable with its public display. It leads to questions of self-value, self-esteem and true will — valuable forms of self-examination, true. Humans, alas, come up with all sorts of ways to weasel out of self-examination. I must add, too, that human sexuality runs throughout the year, since we’re not creatures ruled by estrus.
While it may sound a little boorish, I admit I’m really tired of Maypoles and the whole gender-essentialist array of symbols associated with the Neo-Pagan holiday. I’m tired of May Queens and May Kings. It seems just as artificial to me as Christmas decorations or Halloween witches — the usual trappings of an over-exposed holiday.
But I didn’t throw out Beltane with the bathwater. Instead, I chose to explore other aspects of the holiday: the purifying fire, the journey from inside (the winter homestead, the hearth ) to outside/the Green World (or, in Celtic transhumant times, the summer pastures). We are drawn out of ourselves in summer, out into the Green World. I honored this transition, along with Bile/Belenos, the sacred ancestor and lord of the purifying fire, and Aine — who, as the sun, is the ultimate purifying flame.
And I honored, too, the Green World and its denizens: making and offering the caudle as a libation to the Earth Mother, the bannock as an offering to the nature spirits — both friendly and destructive — on my homestead. There was plenty of tradition — both actual and derivative — and nary a May Queen or beribboned pole about.
It’s the first Beltane I’ve been excited about in a long time, truth be told. Yay.