Aphrodite, Paganism, Ritual

Celebrating Beltane During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Beltane is traditionally celebrated on May 1st, though this year (2020), astronomical Beltane falls on May 4th in the Northern Hemisphere. The energy of the Beltane season is strongest in the two weeks around May 1st and astronomical Beltane.

Beltane is my favorite holiday. Despite my love for all things related to this season, I found it very difficult to write the ritual that I performed online this morning for my Pagan group. It seems like an odd, almost inappropriate, time to be celebrating, given all that is going on the world. We are in the middle of a global crisis, and we have no indication of how long this might last. The fear in the air is palpable. Our daily routines have been upended. People are sick and dying. Our lives seem very far from the spirit of Beltane this year. 

Yet, this is why it is more important than ever to honor Beltane.

Despite the pandemic, the wheel of the year continues to turn. While our celebrations may not look like they once did, and in fact may not even feel like celebrations at all, we can take comfort in knowing that the wheel turns on. 

This to me is reassurance that, like nature and all our ancestors before us, we will get through this. It’s a tough time for all of us, and each in different ways. Even though our lives right now may feel the furthest thing possible from a joyous celebration, Beltane still has lessons to offer.

Beltane is a holiday of connection – of communion and community. We still have those things, though they may look vastly different than they did the last time we celebrated in-person. Through the wonders of the internet, my Pagan group was able to gather on Zoom. While it may not feel quite the same as a dance around a maypole, we can still honor the things that bring us together. We know that we are not alone. We can support one another through this difficult time. We have something to look forward to – a full moon, a virtual social gathering, an online Circle, Pagan book club on Zoom – and people to share these experiences with. Our connections to others may occur through different mediums than they did before the pandemic, but they are still here, and they will be here when this crisis is finally over.

Beltane marks the coming of summer. While summer may not look that much different than spring if you are holed up in your house in quarantine, honoring the cycles of nature brings us closer to our spirituality. The wheel turns, regardless of the pandemic. The moon still waxes and wanes, and the seasons march on. By celebrating Beltane, we know that we are one step closer to the end of this crisis.

We can also look to the strength and resilience of nature as inspiration during this trying time. The view from my apartment looks out on a forest with some very tall pine trees. Looking out my window while working from home, I have marveled at the intensity of the wind and the strength of those tall trees – which bend but do not break, no matter how hard the wind blows. 

With the pandemic, we have seen examples of how nature is recovering from pollution and environmental degradation (some of the few bright spots on the news recently). It didn’t take long for us to start observing those changes. While it will undoubtedly take a while for things to return to normal for us humans and our society after all of this is over, seeing what is happening in nature right now can give us hope for what is to come.

Most of all, Beltane is about love, something we desperately need in this time. There are so many ways to embody love. We can practice self-compassion by being gentle with ourselves, acknowledging that it is impossible to be as productive as we think we “should” be. We can practice compassion for others by wearing facemasks in public, by patronizing small businesses, or by dropping off groceries for a neighbor who can’t go out. Embodying love can be as simple as calling a friend to check in. Take care of yourself, and then take care of others. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Let us not forget one of our greatest resources during this crisis – our spirituality. Times like these are when we need our spirituality the most. Religion is something that we should be able to fall back on when times get tough. Do you actively seek out the Divine when you are in distress? Why or why not? The Divine can’t solve all your problems (you have to do your own work, too), but take this time to contemplate your relationship with your spirituality. What is it currently? What do you want it to be? How can you get from where you are to your goal? What steps can you take right now to start going down that path? What steps are better taken once this global craziness is over?

I have a deep relationship with Aphrodite, and I serve Her as Her priestess. She has been instrumental in helping me to navigate these troubling times, from dealing with the big existential dread of “What if this never ends???” to the more mundane activities such as just getting out of bed in the morning.

Though the Beltane festival originates from the Celtic tradition, to me it has always been a sacred day for Aphrodite. It is a day that encapsulates the love and joy that I feel from working with Her. To honor Beltane this year, I led my Pagan group in a meditation that was a combination of the Meditation to Meet Aphrodite and the Ocean Cleansing Meditation with Aphrodite. I highly recommend finding some time this Beltane season to commune with Aphrodite – either through these meditations or on your own. Bring Her your joys and your sorrows, offer Her your love, and listen for Her counsel.

And, above all, know that you are not alone.

Brightest of blessings to you during this trying time. We will get through this.

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