Beltane marks the third of three spring festivals in the Pagan tradition. As the days grow longer, Beltane is a time to celebrate the arrival of summer and the return of fertility to the land—a time to rekindle youth and sensuality. Pagans work with fire to celebrate Beltane which roughly translates as ‘bright fire.’
After months of huddling near hearth fires to keep warm from winter’s snow and ice, ancient communities celebrated Beltane by gathering in the village commons to dance around the brightness of bonfires. The hearth fires at home were extinguished and rekindled with flames from the Beltane fires.
The return of fertility to the land reminds us about the importance of wildness. Intimacy with our wild self opens up fresh edges for connection with mystical experience and overflows into vast reservoirs of creativity and intelligence in the world. It also helps us take our place in the inherent wildness of the natural world.
Rekindle Divine Youth
Life is too important to take seriously.Oscar Wilde
In the responsibilities and difficulties of life (sometimes they can feel like long, cold winters), it is easy to forget about playfulness, freedom, innocence, joy, imagination, wonder, laughter and adventure. Beltane is a time to listen to the Call of the Divine Youth written by the Fellowship of the Phoenix, a queer pagan group in Chicago.
I am the Divine Youth,
And we have met before.
For I am everywhere,
In you, in this community.
I am also nowhere in particular.
I am mischief.
Sometimes I will trip myself
Just to see what happens.
I am the stars,
The spark in your eye.
I am the cry of joy.
I am innocence!
Marveling at the world.
I am laughter,
The purpose of a game,
The rulebook just gets in the way.
Look in my eyes, and know me,
For we have met before.
I am the young god of the dance club.
Reveling in the new sensations,
The lights, the sounds, the movement.
I am the artist,
Flirting with the new and wild,
Always the first to try.
I am the change.
All things are new!
Reborn with every waking moment.
Look in yourself, and find me,
For we have met before.
You are the laughter,
The Child, the muse.
For I have always lived inside you.
No matter your years,
From youngest to oldest,
My magic has always flown through you.
Get your head in the air,
Get your feet off the ground,
Allow yourself a daydream.
Through touch, through sound,
Through taste, smell, and sight,
Experience the world around you.
Most of all,
Feel me in your soul.
I am Wonder, the glories of youth,
And I live on through you.
To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the breaking of bread.James Baldwin
Learning to be intentional about sensuality puts us back in touch with the importance of our desires and deepens and broadens the possibilities of pleasure.
- Broader so that our understanding of pleasure includes the whole continuum, the erotic, sensual and intimate
- Deeper by strengthening our sexual potency
- Broader by opening the whole whole body to the erotic
- Deeper by ritualizing erotic energy
Just as Pagans work with fire to celebrate Beltane, we can playfully work with sensuality so that it overflows the grooves of our limited imagination.
A Beltane Exercise
Take 30 minutes to plan a play date with your wild self, intentional time for pleasure, whether erotic, sensual and/or intimate. The play date is about connecting to, awakening and embodying pleasure through sight, taste, smell, touch and sound. Take a notepad and pen and use the questions below to list your desires in this moment. Use your list of desires to creatively plan a play date with your wild self.
Listen to your desires fully with these questions:
- What do you want to touch?
- What do you want to smell?
- What do you want to see?
- What do you want to taste?
- What do you want to hear?
Once you’ve planned your date, actually go on the date! Be present with the energies that touch your body to fill you with pleasure, energies that flow into and within your ears (sounds), eyes (forms), nose (aromas), tongue (taste), body (touch, emotions, sexuality) and mind (thoughts).
Examples: “I want to cook my favorite Italian meal and enjoy dinner with jazz music and my favorite Merlot.”; “I want to make love with my boyfriend in a candlelit shower alive with the fragrance of cedar essential oil.”; “I want to enjoy smelling the Lilac bushes at the Botanic Gardens.”; “I want to wear my pup gear and be submissive to whatever my handler wants.”; “I want to play with all of my erogenous zones while burning sage and listening to dance music.”; “I want to swim naked in a lake under the full moon.”
I’ve Lost My Wild Self
Capitalism alienates all of us from our desires. For most of us, labor in capitalist societies does not belong to our intrinsic nature, affirm us, content us or allow us to develop our physical and mental energies freely. “The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work,” writes Karl Marx, “and in his work feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home.” Most of us spend 40 hours a week outside ourselves to earn a paycheck, and that is a lot of practice anesthetizing desire.
And it’s not just capitalism. The heritage left to us from the late 19th century, where sensuality and pleasure were branded evil, still impacts us today. Queer men were special targets of moral crusade.
Many of us need to practice our wild selves!