Why Beltane is My Favorite Holiday

I know I’m a few days late (I was very busy right around Beltane this year, both mundanely and magickally!), but I knew I had to do a post about Beltane. Beltane is the midpoint between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice, and is traditionally celebrated on May 1st.  However, the astronomical midpoint is usually a few days later, and in 2019, falls on May 5th. While Beltane Day is very sacred to me, I also celebrate a whole Beltane season, which for my personal practice, involves around a fortnight of festivities centered around May 1st and astronomical Beltane. I wish you a Joyous Beltane Season!

As you may have guessed (since I am a priestess of the Goddess of Love), Beltane is my favorite holiday. It has been ever since I first learned about it as a preteen. In the beginning, I was enamored with the idea of a holiday about the spiritual side of love – a literal holy day, untouched by candy and greeting card companies. As I got older, I embraced Beltane as a celebration of physical love in a society where shame debases physical expressions of love as somehow “lower” and “less than.” It baffled me how any expression of love could be “wrong.” In college, Beltane was the beginning of summer – when the natural world came alive, the forest was lush and green, and flowers were in full bloom. When I started celebrating Beltane with my Pagan group, I rediscovered the sense of wonder and playfulness of childhood, and I donned the sparkly pink fairy wings I never had as a kid. The meaning of Beltane for me has evolved over time, as I am sure it has for you as well.

Beltane is about ecstatic union. The traditional story of Beltane is about the union of the Goddess and the God. The concept of union can be applied much more broadly. It is a time of our personal union with the Divine, of union with nature, of the union of thoughts and ideas, and of the union of people into a community.

Beltane is about laughter and joy. My favorite part of the Charge of the Goddess has always been this verse:

Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold: All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.

– Doreen Valiente

I just think there is something so beautiful about that. Whether you love to dance, cook, or paint, go for a run, hang out with friends, write stories, sing in the shower, blog, cheer on your favorite team, cuddle with your cat, or play music – These are all acts of love and pleasure to be divinely enjoyed. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be something you “do.” It could be appreciating the beauty of a sunset, enjoying a good book, or literally stopping to smell the roses. ALL acts of love and pleasure, even the tiniest ones, even the superficially mundane ones, can be divine.

Beltane is about glitter and fun. It’s about embracing play and making sure we don’t work too hard. It’s appreciating beauty of all kinds. It’s about being silly and ridiculous, and laughing until you pee a little. It’s about dreaming with reckless abandon and being true to yourself.

Beltane is about magick. It’s about bringing the magickal into the mundane. It’s about the magick in all things. Beltane is opposite of Samhain in the wheel of the year. This is a time when the veil between the worlds thins, and we can make contact with the Otherworld. Instead of communing with the past and our ancestors, we can commune with ideas and things yet to come.

But most of all, Beltane is about love. All kinds of love, for everything and everyone. In a world rife with oppression, shame, and hatred, we need Beltane now more than ever. There are so many kinds of love: romantic love, familial love, love of friends, love of things, love of ideas, love of activities, spiritual love, and love for the Earth. Love that is all encompassing and never ending. Love that touches you at the core of your being.

Love and joy will be our focus for this Beltane Sabbat. We want the energy that we raise in these delightful days to radiate out to the world – to nourish ourselves and our global community. We want to send out love that heals and transforms. We want our infectious laughter to spread to everyone we meet. We want our hearts to sing with the unity of all things.

With the energy we raise and as we celebrate Beltane, let us honor the love and joy in all things. Let us see the magickal in the mundane. Let us embrace play and remember to have fun. Let our laughter fill the air as we dance and make merry! Let us rejoice in our deep connection with the Earth. Let us celebrate the Divine within ourselves.

Self-Compassion Ritual

The weekend after Valentine’s Day this year, one of the members of my pagan group fell ill, and could not lead the regularly scheduled Sunday Circle. Though I did not have a “back-pocket” ritual to fill in for a Sunday Circle, I got a huge Divine Shove to volunteer to lead. The resulting ritual was written in about three hours the day before! It was very clear to me that I wasn’t doing most of the writing (which has happened for the last few rituals I’ve lead) and that Aphrodite was writing through me. My fingers flew across the keyboard, and though I drew inspiration from other rituals I had led as well as from other sources, the spirit was entirely and completely Hers. This ritual was designed for a group of about 20 people, but it is easily adapted to a different size group or for solitary practice. For materials, you will need a small sheet of paper and a writing utensil for every participant, as well as whatever calls to you for an altar set-up to honor the elements and Aphrodite.

Quarter Calls

North

We call to the North, to the element of Earth to be with us today. Please help us to embody our own inner strength, so that we may remain grounded and confident in ourselves. Element of Earth, hail and welcome!

East

We call to the East, to the element of Air to be with us today. Please help us to acknowledge our own intelligence and creativity, so that we may inspire and be inspired by others. Element of Air, hail and welcome!

South

We call to the South, to the element of Fire to be with us today. Please help us to kindle our own passions and playfulness, so that our hearts may always lead the way. Element of Fire, hail and welcome!

West

We call to the West, to the element of Water, to be with us today. Please help us to recognize our own capacity for healing and forgiveness, so that we may heal and forgive ourselves, as well as others. Element of Water, hail and welcome!

Aphrodite Invocation

I invoke the goddess Aphrodite, the great goddess of love, in all its many forms. O Radiant Goddess, shine your light on us, so that we may realize our true brilliance. Help us to foster love and compassion for ourselves and others. Glorious Goddess, inspire us to walk with confidence in our everyday lives. May your fierce and protective love surround our circle. Hail and welcome!

Circle Casting

(Cast a Circle in a way that feels powerful for you.)

Introduction

As I’m sure you know, Valentine’s Day was this past Thursday. If you went out shopping at all, it was hard to miss. Shiny metallic hearts everywhere, a profusion of flowers and chocolates, and orante, sentimental cards. Some of you, like me, might be a sap when it comes to Valentine’s Day. While I don’t appreciate the commercialization, I am enamored with the idea of a day dedicated to love. I’m not particularly thrilled with it being named after a martyred Christian saint, and after a friend sent me an article by Beth Owl’s Daughter, I am now firmly on team “Let’s call it Aphrodite’s Day instead!”

For others, Valentine’s Day is little more than a hassle, or even downright depressing. There’s social pressure to make big romantic gestures, and for those who are not coupled, Single’s Awareness Day is all-too-real. There are a lot of judgements around Valentine’s Day, both of ourselves and from or about others.

Today, I want us to focus on the kind of love that doesn’t need a partner. It doesn’t have a special day, though it is something that we can practice for ourselves every day. That love is self-compassion.

Self-compassion can be a lot of things. For me, it’s about forgiving myself whenever I make a mistake. It’s about letting go of unrealistic expectations. It’s about self-acceptance. It’s about being kind, and knowing that I am doing the best that I can. It’s about choosing to love myself, regardless of the actions of others.

This can be a challenge – particularly in a world where we are flooded with media constantly telling us that we aren’t enough. We aren’t beautiful or handsome enough. We aren’t skilled enough. We aren’t fit enough. We aren’t rich enough. We aren’t good enough to have a partner. Or we aren’t a good enough partner for someone else.

Let me tell you something. It’s not a secret, though in our culture it’s guarded like one – only spoken in hushed tones between the closest of friends.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

You are beautiful. You are handsome. You are skilled. You are abundant. You are kind. You are compassionate. And you are worthy of love. All kinds of love. Simply by being you.

I want you to keep this in mind throughout our ritual today. First, I am going to lead us in a heart-opening meditation, and then we will have an activity before we celebrate our wonderful selves with cakes and ale.

Heart Opening Meditation

Close your eyes. You are in a safe space here. Let’s make it even more secure by cleansing and shielding. Envision roots sprouting from your feet and burrowing into the ground, anchoring you in the nourishing and ever-loving earth. You see the light at the core of the earth flow upward toward you, bathing your roots in pure energy. Your roots form a conduit for this energy to move up the rest of your body, bit by bit. First toes, then feet, then ankles, until this brilliant glowing golden light has bathed every cell in your body.

Now, if you like, and if it feels right to you, you may see the light cascading upward out of the crown of your head, as if you were growing branches of light. Continue growing up, up, up into the atmosphere, until you have reached the cosmos. Once your branches have found that pool of ethereal energy, you may bring some back down your branches, down into your head, your chest, your arms, and the entire rest of your body. Feel these two harmonizing energies balance within you – earth and sky – and know that you are divine.

You may release these energies if you like, now that you are protected by the earth and the sky. Now, envision yourself surrounded by a globe of golden white light. In this sphere, only love remains and in this sphere only love may enter. You are totally safe.

If you haven’t started to pay attention to your breath, just place your awareness on it now. Feel the steady rise and fall of your chest. Now, sense your heart, or your heart chakra if that makes more sense to you. See your heart start to glow with that same brilliant golden white light. Imagine that you are breathing in and out of your heart. With each breath, your heart gets even brighter, filling your chest with light and spilling out to the rest of your body. You start to feel a warmth fill your heart. With a few more breaths, your heart is glowing like the sun, illuminating everything around it. You feel your insides soften, your heart growing stronger and brighter than ever before. You take one final breath, and you open a door to your heart – a door to the light within. You feel the abundance of light overflowing from you, out into the world, while feeling totally and completely nourished inside. You feel the light you send out return to you, filling you with joy. You breathe here for a moment, finding the equilibrium of your light with the world. If you wish, you may vow to keep this conduit open, so that you can receive and give love freely, always surrounded by your glowing sphere in which only love remains and through which only love may enter. Or, while still keeping your heart door open, you may slowly dim the energy and ground, if that feels best for you right now.

Self-Compassion Activity

I am passing around sheets of paper and some writing utensils. I want each of you to write out the numbers one through five, and I want you to write down five things you love about yourself. It can be anything, but try to focus your list on the human “being” that you are, not a human “doing.” Instead of saying “I volunteer for charity,” say “I am compassionate for others.” Don’t be shy! If you think you have a great butt, write it down! We often shortchange ourselves for fear of appearing arrogant. There’s no room for that here.

After you have finished writing down your five things you love about yourself, I want you to write in big letters at the bottom or on the other side of the card “I AM ENOUGH.”

And now, because truths are even more powerful when spoken aloud, I would like to invite everyone to share what you have written on your card. You don’t have to share all of them, or even any if you don’t want to, but I do invite you to share what you feel comfortable doing so in this supportive group. Please stand up and make your statements, and when you have finished with your list, I want you each to state “I AM ENOUGH.”

Since I asked each of you to be vulnerable, it’s only fair that I be vulnerable with you as well. Here is my list:

1. I am passionate about life, love, and caring for others.

2. I am adventurous.

3. I am beautiful, not despite my scar, but because of it.

4. I am a good friend.

5. I am worthy of love, regardless of others’ words or actions.

And I AM ENOUGH.

(Go around the circle and invite participants to share their lists if they feel called to do so.)

Cakes and Ale

Blessed be the hands that grew the grain, that harvested the fruit, and that baked the bread. Blessed be all hands, seen and unseen, that brought us this nourishment today. Blessed be.

(Share food and drink with all participants.)

Release the Circle

(Release the Circle in a way that feels powerful for you).

Gratitude to Aphrodite

Thank you, Aphrodite, for being with us today. Thank you for your blessings of love, particularly those of self-love. Thank you for shining your light on our beautiful beings. We honor you. Blessed be.

Release the Quarters

West

Thank you West, and the element of water, for your healing energies today. Hail and farewell!

South

Thank you South, and the element of fire, for your passionate energies today. Hail and farewell!

East

Thank you East, and the element of air, for your inspirational energies today. Hail and farewell!

North

Thank you North, and the element of earth, for your grounding energies today. Hail and farewell!


Some sources of inspiration:

Let’s Say Goodbye to That Sad, Martyred Saint! – Happy Aphrodite’s Day! by Beth Owl’s Daughter

Meditation to Open and Heal the Heart by Tess Whitehurst