Beltane marks the midpoint between the spring equinox and the summer solstice -- a time of the world coming alive.
The smooth, muscular curves of the supple boughs of a young Aspen. The pulsing rise of Birch sap. Rushing water. Lush moss.
Or maybe its the scent of Chapparal hanging heavy in the air after a desert rain. Or the wind blowing in from the sea on the first warm day of spring.
The living world seduces us, bringing us into our bodies, calling us to taste, smell, see, and feel.
Beltane is a festival of fertility and lust. The Celts marked it with wild excess – bonfires and sweaty ecstatic dancing and heady Heather (or Psilocybe cubensis) mead, and lovers sneaking off into the forest at night, bringing back green boughs in the morning. The festivities began when the Hawthorn bloomed and continued until May's “Honey Moon” began to wane.
The Hawthorn has powerful associations with the Fae. The Tuatha de Danaan are said to have arrived in Ireland from out of the northern mists on Beltane as the Hawthorn bloomed -- and the Celtic sons of Mil also arrived from Spain and launched the war that would bring the Danaan down on Beltane as the Hawthorn bloomed. And it was under the Hawthorn that Thomas the Rhymer met the Queen of Elfland who would take him away for seven years.
The Maypole, mummer's dances involving the Fool and Jack in the Green, the custom of leaving flowers on doorsteps on May Day, are all remnants of older Beltane traditions.
In much of modern pagandom, the erotic energy celebrated at Beltane is cast in terms of heterosexual reproduction. But in the wild and to our wild selves, the force of Eros -- vibrant, vital, lusty life -- knows no such limits and categories. The ecstasy of the Earth emerges in myriad forms. And we experience it viscerally when we allow ourselves to be fully present.
Terry Tempest Williams writes:
"Erotic means 'in relation.' Erotic is what those deep relations are and can be that engage the whole body - our heart, our mind, our spirit, our flesh. It is that moment of being exquisitely present. It does not speak well for us as a people that we even have to make the distinction between what is erotic and what is not, because an erotic connection is a life-engaged making love to the world that I think comes very naturally. Eroticism, being in relation, calls inner life into play."
The hunger for wildness that stirs the blood, the fierce love of the living Earth are fed by our sensual experience of the wild world around us – be that the delight in seeing a dandelion cracking through the concrete of a Manhattan sidewalk or the sharp intake of breath when you wade into a snowmelt stream in the high Rockies. Williams writes – “No longer numb, we feel the magnetic pull of our bodies toward something stronger, more than simply ourselves. Arousal becomes a dance with longing. We form a secret partnership with possibility."