Ah, it’s that time of year again! The trees are budding, song birds fill the air with their joyous melody, and many Pagans are celebrating Bealtaine.
It’s one of my favorite holidays, mostly because it’s the anniversary of when I first joined with other Pagans to celebrate! Thankfully, that time never involved orgies or any sex (that I was aware of). Unfortunately, Bealtaine is an uncomfortable day for many because they’ve been coerced into sex for the sake of fertility symbolism and certain folk customs. In addition, many modern rituals occurring around the first of May have been terribly binary which leaves out many in the LGBTQ+ communities.
I was a young college student when I attended my first Bealtaine. My mother, protective soul that she is, went with me. Truthfully, I invited her because I was nervous what I’d encounter. It turned out to be a positive day filled with new friends and an inspiring spin around a Maypole! I spent my second Bealtaine with my boyfriend (now husband). We were consenting adults, and we enjoyed many flirtatious dances around a Maypole. We even went into the woods behind my home once – certainly not on display for anyone save the trees. Thus the holiday will always evoke those memories. I imagine this is so for many other people, but I strive not to emphasize that in the public rituals I lead with my grove. We’ve turned our focus to the land and purification. We’re an inclusive, family-friendly circle. Focusing on the rhythms of the land is just more enjoyable and comfortable for everyone.
Druid author John Beckett recently wrote a piece in which he explores the discomfort many Pagans feel due to the association of Bealtaine and sex. The last few years, many brave individuals have peeled back the rug to reveal the egoists, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and abuse swept beneath. I’ve said this before, but I count myself incredibly lucky not to have experienced that first hand, but it’s never far from my mind as I strive to facilitate and maintain a positive, family-friendly, inclusive environment for my fellow grovemates, community, and daughter.
When I wrote my first draft of RIVER MAGIC, some characters have a wonderful Bealtaine, and there is a sexy scene between two consenting adults. It’s private and not part of the ritual. The fictional grove celebrates the growth of the land around them and they jump the fire for luck, just as my grove does. The romance scene happens in part because the characters’ relationship is blossoming along with the world around them, and it worked. As I edited my second and third drafts, I wanted to make sure that there was a balance. I didn’t want to portray these Pagans as a sex-crazed group. Some of the characters are not straight or cis. I even have some check on my main character, Lacey, after she vanishes from the bonfire. I wanted to show a balance and respect toward both the flirtatious energy of Bealtaine and authentic Irish customs passed down to the American diaspora. I also wanted to help readers understand, especially those who are new to these traditions, that it’s not just one thing. I wanted to show what a safe and functional group can look like. After ritual, some Druids of various genders and body types dance around the fire. Those who don’t care to dance drum or clap. They dance for the joy of it, with no ulterior motives. Lacey, relishes in the comfort and confidence it brings. She feels safe and accepted, and she carries the beauty to a private moment.
Bealtaine is more about protection and purification than sex. If you’re a fellow Pagan author, how are you working to portray Bealtaine? Are you trying to include authentic, historical traditions from Ireland? Do you include anything sexy, or are you focusing solely on purification or nature’s glorious reawakening? Are you seeking a balance between the two? Leave a comment below because I’m genuinely curious!
If you’re curious about the excerpts, RIVER MAGIC will be published by Shadow Spark Publishing on Samhain 2020!