I realize I’m pretty late with this post as Beltane was about 3 weeks ago. I’d been wanting to talk a bit about Beltane then but between attending the Beltane festival at Our Haven, visiting Albuquerque and the passage of amendment 1 in North Carolina, I kind of had a lot of other things to blog about.
For those of you that may not be familiar, Beltane is the celebration that occurs at the end of April between the Spring equinox and Summer solstice. To Wiccans, Beltane marks the consummation of the sacred marriage between the Goddess and the God. It is often a celebration of fertility and during ancient times, the celebration of Beltane focused on the creating fertile crops and livestock.
For a lot of modern Pagans, Beltane has become a celebration of sexuality. While this is fine, it can sometimes be problematic for the GLBT community. On the one hand, some groups have used Beltane’s original associations with fertility to make it largely about straight sex. On the other, I’ve known gay Pagans that used Beltane to justify objectification and sex simply for sex’s sake.
For me, Beltane is a great time to celebrate sensuality rather than just raw sex. Sensuality is about feeding the senses but it also has to do with physical pleasure. For me, sensuality also has an element of respect and even worship. It is nearly impossible to be sensual with someone that you are objectifying or do not respect. I’d like to share one way, that I’ve celebrated Beltane in the past.
I call this ritual the “Sensual Feast”. Each participant should dress comfortably in loose clothing. They should wear things that make them feel beautiful and sensual–one group I used to work with had people wear boxer shorts, pajamas, etc. Everyone brings some type of sensual finger food–strawberries, brownies, chocolate, etc. Spread blankets and pillows out in the ritual space and set all the sensual foods on a low table in the middle. Do whatever you prefer to set and cleanse space and invoke deity. Then, the feast begins. Start by honoring the divine in each person. Then, eat your sensual foods, but, the only rule here is that you cannot feed yourself. People take turns feeding each other the finger foods. I’ve found that it also teaches an important spiritual lesson, if you want more of something, try giving it to someone else first. For example, if you want someone to feed you a strawberry, try feeding them one first. It perfectly illustrates the Law of Return.
As an added element, you can also put a second table in the circle with various back massagers. People can take turns rubbing each others backs and shoulders. Play low sensual music during the ritual as well. When the feast is over, close your circle and acknowledge the presence of the divine both in the circle and in each person who participated.
I think celebrating Beltane with a ritual like this is important because in the queer community, we all to easily fall into the traps of ageism and shallow sexuality. By redirecting the focus on providing pleasure to one another, even those in our group that we are not sexual with, we strengthen the bonds of love that should exist between spiritual brothers and sisters. We bond. We put aside “types” and other constructs to focus on recognizing the gods and goddesses in each other. And that divinity within each of us, springs forth in love, creativity and energy. For me, that’s what fertility really is and a sensual feast is an excellent way to encourage and celebrate it.