Happy Beltane! :)

To those in the Northern hemisphere who celebrate, a very happy and fun-filled Beltane to you! And to those brothers and sisters to the south, happy Samhain!!

Since Matt and I will be out celebrating his favorite Sabbat (lol) with a bunch of friends and good drinks tonight, and considering I have work today, I don’t have a great amount of time for a large Beltane post. Therefore, I’m going to direct you to some posts from last year with great bits of information, and will add some posts from my favorite bloggers as well as the day goes on. (Got one you wanna add? Lemme know!)

So enjoy these, have a wonderful Sabbat, and don’t have too much fun — it is a weekday, after all. ;)

A History of Beltane

Gods, Goddesses, and other Beltane symbols

The Faery Courts

Bee Chant for Beltane

Carefree Crafts for Beltane

Let’s talk about sex, baby!

Beltane and the Great Rite

Bonfire and Maypole Celebrations

Prayers and Rituals Honoring the Feminine

From others:

Kallan Kennedy
Sunday Stew: Beltane 2012 Edition
Sunday Stew Beltane Extra: An Excerpt from Raven Grimassi’s Book

Tori Z
Beltane 2012
Story: Meagan’s Beltaine

Anastasia Evans
A Family Beltane Ritual

Mrs. B
10 Simple Ways to Celebrate Beltane

Pagan by Design
Beltane Ritual ~ Sacred Union

Magaly Guerrero
Hot and Bothered for Beltane

NASA Goddard encourages and celebrates different faiths – Part 2!

@NASAGoddard

I was hoping to get one for last month, but sadly, I didn’t. That’s okay, though! Matt’s workplace still does these, and it’s nice to see how inclusive they are of all religions. (See all the way at the bottom for Beltane!)

Like the one in February, below is the section of the email sent to all NASA Goddard employees this morning with the holidays for the month of April, including some links at the bottom with additional information and a diversity calendar. And thank you to Matt for sharing!

April 1

All Fools’ Day (International)  The origins of this day are probably in France in 1564 when the change of the Gregorian calendar moved New Year’s Day from April 1 to January 1.  Those who insisted on celebrating the “old” New Year became known as “April Fools,” and it became common to play jokes and tricks on them.

April 1

Palm Sunday (Christian) Commemorates the day Jesus Christ was given a king’s entry into Jerusalem, marked by the strewing of palm leaves before him.  Marks the beginning of Holy Week, a time of solemn devotion to and memorializing of the suffering (passion), death, and burial of Jesus Christ that followed, begins today.

April 1

Ramanavami (Birthday of Rama) (Hindu).  Celebrates the birth of Shri Rama, one of the incarnates of the Hindu god Vishnu.  Fasting is common on this date.

April 1

La Semana Santa (Holy Week) (Latin America, Spain) Celebrated April 1-8, 2012 this is one of the highest holy days of the year is Easter for Latino Catholics.  Holy week involves solemn processions, masses, and prayer.  Cascarones (confetti-filled, painted egg) is a custom in Mexico and the U.S.

April 2

World Autism Awareness Day (International) A day to acknowledge that autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the world.  As many as 1 in 150 children are affected, and the disease does not discriminate by geography, class or ethnicity.

April 5

Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday (Christian) is the Christian feast or holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles.

April 5

The Memorial of Jesus Christ’s Death/ Lord’s Evening Meal (Jehovah’s Witness)  

On the evening of Nisan 14, 33 C.E., Jesus introduced a special observance that the Bible calls “the Lord’s evening meal.” (1 Corinthians 11:20; Matthew 26:26-28). Jesus instituted it to help his apostles and all true Christians after them to bear in mind that by means of his death as a perfect human, he gave his soul, or life, as a ransom. Regarding this observance, Jesus commanded: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) Observing the Memorial reminds us of the great love shown by both Jehovah and Jesus in connection with the ransom. We can show our appreciation for the ransom by being present at the yearly observance of the Memorial of Jesus’ death. This year the anniversary falls on Thursday, April 5, after sundown.  Jehovah’s Witnesses engage in a special campaign a few weeks before the event distributing invitations to neighbors worldwide to attend this most sacred event.  Please check with Jehovah’s Witnesses locally for the exact time and place.

April 6

Good Friday (Christian) Culminates the Lenten season and commemorates the crucifixion of Christ.  There are few explanations as to why the holiday is known as “Good” Friday since it commemorates a sorrowful time in Christianity. Some scholars believe that “good” is a corruption of the word “God’s” while others speculate that “good” was used to denote “holy”.

April 6

National Tartan Day (Canada, U.S.) Tartan Day was established by an act of Congress in 1998 to recognize the role Scottish Americans played in the founding of the nation and to acknowledge the many contributions that have been made by people of Scottish ancestry. Some notable Americans of Scottish descent include John Witherspoon, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Carnegie, Woodrow Wilson, and Sir Alexander Fleming. Tartan Day also commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence, on April 6, 1320.

April 7

Passover (Jewish) Am eight day festival marking the liberation of the Isrealites from bondage in Egypt.  Traditionally, the first and last two days are viewed as holy, while dietary restrictions last the entire week. Begins at sundown the previous day.

April 7

The Annunciation (Coptic & Eastern Orthodox Christian) This holy date celebrates the Angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary of Galilee that she would be the mother of Jesus.

April 8

Buddha’s Birthday (Vesak) (Buddhist) Celebrates the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama.  He is thought to have lived in India from 563 to 483 BCE.

April 8

Easter (Christian) This is the holiest day for Christians. It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after he was crucified and died in Jerusalem. It is Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, often referred to as the “passion,” followed by his resurrection that is central to Christian faith. Easter culminates the penitential period of Lent that starts with Ash Wednesday. Palm Sunday, which marks the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, occurs one week before Easter. Easter is a joyous holiday, since it marks for Christians the fulfillment of the Biblical prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. Many churches hold sunrise services on Easter Sunday to symbolize the return of light to the world after Jesus’ resurrection. The day is observed with feasts and celebrations. The name “Easter” reflects many pagan customs that are now associated with the holiday. Present day scholars accept St. Bede’s theory that “Easter” is derived from the “Ostern” and “Ostra”, Teutonic and Scandinavian goddess associated with spring and fertility. The Easter egg is an example of the pagan origins of Easter. Pagans believed that eggs symbolized earth being reborn each spring. Christianity adapted this custom to symbolize the rebirth of humanity. Easter eggs were first decorated in the late 13th century C. E. but the most famous eggs were created by Carl Faberge.

April 8

Palm Sunday (Coptic & Eastern Orthodox) Palm Sunday is observed on this day according to the Julian calendar followed by Coptic Orthodox Christians and Eastern Orthodox Christians. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Palm Sunday is often called the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem and is the beginning of Holy Week. On Lazarus Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday, believers prepare palm fronds by knotting them into crosses in preparation for the procession on Sunday.

April 13

Vaisakhi (Sikh)  Marks the first day of the Hindu New Year, celebrated in several countries and Indian states.  It is widely celebrated by Sikhs as the day when Guru Gobind Singh chose five leaders, known as the Panch Payare, and declared this day as the birthday of the Sikh nation.

April 13

Good Friday (Coptic & Eastern Orthodox Christian). Also known as Great Friday, this is the day Coptic Orthodox Christians and Eastern Orthodox Christians commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion.

April 15

Easter (Coptic & Eastern Orthodox Christian) Easter is celebrated on this day according to the Julian calendar followed by Coptic Orthodox Christians and Eastern Orthodox Christians. In the Orthodox church, the celebration of Easter begins just before midnight on Holy Saturday with the lighting of candles during Easter midnight mass.

April 19

Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Ha-Shoah) (Jewish) This day has been designated by Israel’s Knesset, or Parliament, as a memorial to the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis in their program of mass extermination of all Jews in Germany and the countries under German occupation. This program, building on long-standing anti-Semitism, began with arrests and imprisonment of Jews in the early 1930’s and extended in the 1940’s to forcing Jews into slave labor camps and extermination in death camps such as Treblinka, Sobibor, and Auschwitz. May be observed by a fast from sundown the previous day to sundown this day

April 20

National Day of Silence (GLBT)  A day to protest the discrimination, harassment and abuse – in effect, the silencing – of members of the GLBT community.

April 21

Festival of Ridvan (Baha’i)  A 12-day celebration commemorating Baha’u’llah’s stay in the Garden of Ridvan.  During this time, the prophet-founder of the faith made his declaration of his mission as God’s messenger.  Begins at sundown the previous day.

April 22

Earth Day (United States)  First observed in 1970 to call attention to pollution in the environment and the need to conserve natural resources. Now celebrated internationally on various dates as a time to call attention to the need to conserve natural resources.

April 25

Administrative Professionals Day (United States) National Professional Secretaries Week and National Secretary’s Day was created in 1952 as a holiday in recognition of the importance of secretaries.  The National Secretaries Association was formed to recognize the contributions of secretaries and other administrative personnel to the economy, to support their personal development and to help attract people to administrative careers in the field. The association’s name was changed to Professional Secretaries International in 1981 and, finally, the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) in 1998. In 2000, IAAP announced that names of the week and the day were changed to Administrative Professionals Week and Administrative Professionals Day to keep pace with changing job titles and expanding responsibilities of the modern administrative workforce. Administrative Professionals Day® highlights the important role of administrative professionals in all sectors of the modern economy worldwide. It is on the Wednesday of Administrative Professionals Week®, which is on the last full week of April. Many employers and supervisors arrange events to show their appreciation of the work carried out by administrative professionals

April 26

Gathering of Nations Powwow (4/23–25) (American Indian)  This three-day event, held annually at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, is the largest powwow in North America. More than five hundred tribes from Canada and the United States come every year to participate in this celebration of American Indian culture, which features drum groups and ceremonial singing, chanting, and dancing in traditional dress. There are exhibitions of American Indian artifacts and authentic Indian crafts for sale. The Gathering of Nations organization seeks to promote the traditions and culture of the American Indian people in the most positive manner possible and to dispel stereotypes created about the Indian people. The powwow provides educators with an opportunity to develop instructional materials on Indian history and culture for elementary and secondary schools. (m)

April 26

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day (United States) Parents are encouraged to bring their daughters (and/or sons) to work on this day, and to use this opportunity to educate their children on the nature of employment. Information regarding Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day events at Goddard in Greenbelt is forthcoming, check Dateline later this week.

April 27

Arbor Day (US) Arbor Day is a nationally-celebrated observance that encourages tree planting and care. Founded by J. Sterling Morton in 1872, it’s celebrated on the last Friday in April.

April 30

Beltane (Celtic, Pagan) Beltane divided the ancient Celtic year in half.  Fires were often lit to symbolize contact with the life-giving sun.  The holiday is one of the “Greater Sabbats” during the Wiccan year and celebrates the union of the Goddess and God.

April 30

Día de los Niños (Latin Americans) A holiday recognizing children as the center of the Latino family.

We invite you to visit the Web sites used to compile this calendar for additional information. There you will find a wealth of information on days that are recognized throughout the world. Please find the sources listed below:

http://www.diversityresources.com/rc/index.php?key=LTaqtAOLBkCP

http://www3.kumc.edu/diversity/

http://www.diversitycalendar.com/Home.html

Beltane Blessings from The Coexist Cafe!

Wishing you and yours a very happy, fruitful, bountiful, and blessed Beltane!

To those of you in the southern hemisphere (o hai, Australia!), a very blessed Samhain!

I love that we trade off. :)

Beltane In A Week: Prayers and Ritual Honoring the Feminine

I fully admit, I am typically not a prayerful person. Perhaps that’s a result of being a lapsed Catholic (more about my journey to and through Paganism at a later time) or just because it wasn’t the medium of connecting with Spirit that I thought was right for me, but it’s not often that I find myself compelled to prayer.

When I do, though, there are some prayers that I find comfort and solace in, and I find myself as well. It tends to be around Beltane, when I’m already thanking the wheel of the year and Mother Earth for winter’s anticipated end — and that’s even more true since I’ve moved to Maryland! Other times, I am just in need of something to bring me closer to deity and to the world around me.

A good friend of mine was recounting her business travel with a couple other coworkers earlier this week; the plane they were on was incredibly rocky the entire way, and as they were pulling into the airport on their final descent, the pilot suddenly cranked up the engine and took off again… narrowly outrunning a tornado that was fast approaching the terminal. Amidst the noise of the passengers panicking and the tornado sirens fading away in the distance, my friend pulled out a book of Catholic prayers and handed it to a coworker who, despite being Jewish, started reading them aloud.

There are, of course, books on Pagan prayer that you can check out. It might be handy to keep in your purse, backpack, or bedside in case you’re looking for a few words of comfort, some guidance, and a way to draw yourself closer to the God and Goddess. Below are some prayers that you may wish to incorporate in your Beltane blessings as well. You may wish to include a series of Pagan prayer beads, appropriate candles and incense, or even a full circle in which you recite these blessings.

Am Beannachadh Bealltain (The Beltane Blessing)

Adapted from a poem published in Carmina Gadelica, written by folklorist Alexander Carmichael, this poem originally paid tribute to the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It has been turned into a Pagan-friendly format for purposes of Beltane and Pagan worship.

Bless, O threefold true and bountiful,
Myself, my spouse, my children.
Bless everything within my dwelling and in my possession,
Bless the kine and crops, the flocks and corn,
From Samhain Eve to Beltane Eve,
With goodly progress and gentle blessing,
From sea to sea, and every river mouth,
From wave to wave, and base of waterfall.

Be the Maiden, Mother, and Crone,
Taking possession of all to me belonging.
Be the Horned God, the Wild Spirit of the Forest,
Protecting me in truth and honor.
Satisfy my soul and shield my loved ones,
Blessing every thing and every one,
All my land and my surroundings.
Great gods who create and bring life to all, I ask for your blessings on this day of fire.

Prayers to Gods and Goddesses

These are prayers that can be offered to the Gods and Goddesses of Beltane, from Cernunnos to the May Queen, recited as a whole or in bits.

Prayer to Cernunnos

God of the green,
Lord of the forest,
I offer you my sacrifice.
I ask you for your blessing.

You are the man in the trees,
the green man of the woods,
who brings life to the dawning spring.
You are the deer in rut,
mighty Horned One,
who roams the autumn woods,
the hunter circling round the oak,
the antlers of the wild stag,
and the lifeblood that spills upon
the ground each season.

God of the green,
Lord of the forest,
I offer you my sacrifice.
I ask you for your blessing.

Prayer to the Gods of the Forest

Spring has come to the earth.
the land is fertile and ready at Beltane,
seeds will be sown, and
new life will begin once more.
Hail, great gods of the land!
Hail, gods of resurrected life!
Hail, Cernunnos, Osiris, Herne, and Bacchus!
Let the soil open up
and mother earth’s fertile womb
receive the seeds of life
as we welcome the spring.

Prayer Honoring the May Queen

The leaves are budding across the land
on the ash and oak and hawthorn trees.
Magic rises around us in the forest
and the hedges are filled with laughter and love.
Dear lady, we offer you a gift,
a gathering of flowers picked by our hands,
woven into the circle of endless life.
The bright colors of nature herself
blend together to honor you,
Queen of spring,
as we give you honor this day.
Spring is here and the land is fertile,
ready to offer up gifts in your name.
we pay you tribute, our lady,
daughter of the Fae,
and ask your blessing this Beltane.

A Thanks to the Earth Mother

Great earth mother!
We give you praise today
and ask for your blessing upon us.
As seeds spring forth
and grass grows green
and winds blow gently
and the rivers flow
and the sun shines down
upon our land,
we offer thanks to you for your blessings
and your gifts of life each spring.

via

Honoring the Sacred Feminine (Goddess Ritual)

This is more the recipe for a full-on ritual involving the casting of a circle per your tradition. It is a simple ritual meant to honor the feminine aspects of the universe, so men and women can both perform it. For this, you will need a white candle, an offering of something that is important to you, a bowl of water, and a handful of small pebbles or stones.

[stand in the Goddess position]
I am (your name), and I stand before you,
goddesses of the sky and earth and sea,
I honor you, for your blood runs through my veins,
one woman, standing on the edge of the universe.
Tonight, I make an offering in Your names,
As my thanks for all you have given me.

[light candle and place offering before it on the altar]
I am (your name), and I stand before you,
Isis, Ishtar, Tiamat, Inanna, Shakti, Cybele.
Mothers of the ancient people,
guardians of those who walked the earth thousands of years ago,
I offer you this as a way of showing my gratitude.
Your strength has flowed within me,
your wisdom has given me knowledge,
your inspiration has given birth to harmony in my soul.

[take handful of pebbles except one and, for each one dropped in the water, state the name of a woman who has touched your life and how she impacted you -- some examples:]
I am (your name), and I stand before you,
to honor the sacred feminine that has touched my heart.
I honor Susan, who gave birth to me and raised me to be strong;
I honor Maggie, my grandmother, whose strength took her to the hospitals of war-torn France;
I honor Cathleen, my aunt, who lost her courageous battle with cancer;
I honor Jennifer, my sister, who has raised three children alone…

[reserve last pebble for yourself and drop it into the water]
I am (your name), and I honor myself,
for my strength, my creativity, my knowledge, my inspiration,
and for all the other remarkable things that make me a woman.

Take a few minutes and reflect on the sacred feminine. What is it about being a woman that gives you joy? If you’re a man performing this ritual, what is it about the women in your life that makes you love them? Meditate on the feminine energy of the universe for a while, and when you are ready, end the ritual.

Beltane In A Week: Bonfire and Maypole Celebrations

Now that you’re armed with knowledge about Beltane’s history, lore, and deities, I’ll bet you’re ready to spread your witchy wings and fly in your own ritual to celebrate the Sabbat. I know I am! Being stuck inside all winter has made me a bit randy, and I’m looking forward to the bonfires, maypoles, and other trappings that come with Beltane conviviality.

In addition to these customs, Beltane is also a popular time of year for handfastings, which I’ll explain a bit later. To that extent, I’d like to wish my good friend Evita over at The Happy Heathen a very blessed and joyous wedding anniversary! Their handfasting was absolutely beautiful. Evita, I wish you and your amazing partner a life of love, happiness, and celebration. :)

Now… let’s get to the fun stuff! (As if sex wasn’t enough, right?)

A Group Beltane Bonfire Rite

Beltane is actually celebrated from sunset on May Day eve through sunset on May Day, and the festivities kick off with a pile of nine sacred woods set aflame and danced around all night. It is customary to keep the fires burning all through this Sabbat, with a piece of smoldering wood taken home by each person to ensure fertility through the summer months.

If you don’t have the space for a huge bonfire (and many of us don’t — I know we can’t fit one in our own yard), a small fire bowl, typically available at home improvement chains and discount stores, or a tabletop brazier will suffice. Need something smaller? Look to building a small fire in a cauldron or other heat-resistant bowl.

This is a group rite, so you’ll need a few friends to participate as the person to tend to the bonfire (which should be set up and blazing beforehand), the May Queen*, the King of the Forest*, and drummers and other noisemakers. You may also want a crown of flowers and headdress of antlers for each female and male participating (optional, but definitely fun! If you want to make your own flower crowns, refer to our guide).

* Depending on the relationship between May Queen and the King of the Forest, this can get as lusty as you like. Take heed that the presence of children will mean having to tone it down a bit!

(Thank you to About.com for this ritual!)

Beltane Bonfire Ritual

Have the group circle around the fire, with the May Queen and the King of the Forest on opposite sides.The High Priest (HP) and/or High Priestess (HPs) should welcome everyone to the circle:

Beltane is here! It is a time when the earth is fertile and full.
Long ago, our ancestors planted their fields at Beltane.
The fields that lay fallow for months are now warm and waiting.
The soil that was dormant for the winter now begs us to plant our seeds.
The earth is awakening and ripe, and this is a season of love and passion.
It is a season of fire.

At this point, if the fire is not already lit, the fire starter should begin lighting it. If it is, have the fire starter stoke the flames a bit as the HP/s continues:

As our fires grow, lighting up the night sky, the fire within us grows stronger.
It is the fire of lust and passion, knowing that like the earth, we too are fertile.
Tonight, the God emerges from the forest. He is known by many names –
He is Pan, Herne, Cernunnos, the Green Man. He is the God of the Forest.
Tonight is the night he will chase and capture the maiden.
She is the Queen of May, Aphrodite, Venus, Cerridwen.
She is the Goddess of fields and flowers, she is Mother Earth herself.

As the HP/s introduces the God and Goddess, they should each step forward in the circle. The HP/s then says, Bring fertility to the land! Let the hunt begin!

The May Queen and the God of the Forest begin a chase, traveling deosil (sunwise, “clockwise”) around the circle, weaving in and out of the other participants, who are drumming and making noise, possibly even chanting, slowly at first then with more ferocity. Remember that the May Queen really wants to make love to the God of the Forest, she’s just playing hard to get. This is a fun chase and a joyful courtship, not a mock rape. They should travel around the circle three times, then finally stop at a point in front of the bonfire, which should be blazing by now, and the drumming, noisemaking, and chanting comes to an abrupt stop.

The HP/s says:

Fire and passion, love and life, brought together as one.

At this point, the May Queen says to the God of the Forest:

I am the earth, the womb of all creation.
Within me, new life grows each year.
Water is my blood, air is by breath, and fire is my spirit.
I give you honor, and shall create new life with you.

The God of the Forest replies to her, saying:

I am the rutting stag, the seed, the energy of life.
I am the mighty oak that grows in the forest.
I give you honor, and shall create new life with you.

The couple then kisses, long and passionate. If they’re feeling particularly lusty, they can fall to the ground and roll about for a while, and a participant may want to cover them with a blanket. This is the symbolic union of the male and female spirit, the great rite between man and woman. Once the embrace is broken, the HP/s calls out:

The earth is once more growing new life within! We shall be blessed with abundance this year!

Everyone in the circle then claps and cheers, celebrating the heartiness of the crops and strong livestock for the year. Celebrate by dancing around the bonfire, drumming and singing! When you’re ready, end the ritual per your traditions.

The Maypole Dance

As discussed before, the maypole is a very traditional part of Beltane and any other fertility celebration; as a symbol, the phallus that is the maypole driven into the earth symbolizes the joining of the male and female. The morning after the bonfire rite, as couples (and perhaps a few other surprise couplings and triads!) rub the sleep from their eyes and the straw out of their hair after a night of lustiness inspired by the roaring fires, people would gather to begin the maypole celebrations.

( Once again, thank you to About.com for this ritual!)

A maypole is typically erected on the village green or common, or even a handy field. Most groups rent out or own a big field where they put their maypole for Beltane, and switch it out depending on the Sabbat. The maypole should have ribbons attached to the top, about 1/3 more length than the pole itself (i.e. a 15-foot pole should have about 20 feet of ribbon). Young people dance around the pole, each holding a different ribbon and with the men and women going in different directions, weaving in and out of one another until the pole is enveloped with brightly-colored ribbons.

You will need a wooden pole about 18 feet high, a hole in the ground at least 3 feet deep, lots of ribbon for your guests, a crown of flowers for the top of the pole, and people who like to have fun! Ask each participant to bring their own ribbon, in fact — make sure they’re about 20 feet long for this.

Once everyone arrives, affix the flower crown to the top of the pole, then attach the ribbons to one end of the pole (an eyelet screw is the easiest by far). Have extra ribbon on hand just in case. When the ribbons are attached, raise the pole until it’s vertical, and slide it into the hole.

… yeah, y’all thought it. No worries, bawdy jokes are more than okay. ;)

Pack in the dirt around the base so the pole won’t shift or fall during the dance. Have people count off by twos (especially handy if you have an uneven number of men to women), and have the ones go deosil while the twos go widdershins. Hold the ribbon in the hand closest to the pole, and start dancing!

You’ll want to pass people by on the left first, then on the right, and again and again. Practice once or twice before doing it for real, then get going! Make sure you hold the ribbon high enough that the person you’re weaving by can get under. Continue until everyone runs out of ribbon, then knot all the ribbons at the bottom.

Kids’ maypoles are fun, too, but they might not get the hang of the weaving thing as feasibly. It’s probably easier to have them all go in one direction.

Beltane In A Week: The Great Rite

Parental Advisory: Due to the possible explicit nature of this post, it is not recommended for children under the age of 18. 

First off, how did I know the entry about S-E-X would be the highest-hit so far in this Beltane In A Week series. Y’all are a bunch of horn dogs! … and I like it!

Not all sex is purely about the physical pleasure, though. Sometimes, sex can transcend the physical body and enter a spiritual plane, notably when used in ritual settings. In the words of writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, Beltane especially is a time of “[...] unashamed human sexuality and fertility.” It is this notion that exemplifies the Great Rite, a sacred part of spiritual practice in some (but not all) Wiccan and Pagan traditions.

Similarly, not all ritual sex is the Great Rite. For example, there is the idea of sex symbolism; in its original form, Wicca is a fertility religion that uses many symbolic acts of sex — and by symbolic, I mean things other than overt sexual acts, such as joining the athame with the chalice. Then there’s ritual sex, which can be used to raise energy, create magickal power, or find a sense of spiritual communion with a partner. If “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals,” then sex in ritual can certainly be a sacramental act of love!

Then there’s the Great Rite, a symbol of the connection of the god and goddess. In Wicca: the old Religion in the New Age, Vivianne Crowley says, “The outer rite involves a linking of the male and female[...] the sacred marriage is outwardly a marriage of two people, but inwardly it is a marriage of two within one person.” That being said, the Rite is more about the enactment of the creation of the universe than a simple sexual union; the god and goddess, through the Priest and Priestess (or whoever may be performing the Rite), combine to create the very world in which we live.

But wait… ritual sex may be used in coven settings? In short, the answer is “perhaps”. In most traditions that incorporate ritual sex, it is performed in private, and in all traditions, it is performed by adults. Some traditions of Wicca actually require intercourse as a part of Third Degree elevation, but that is made absolutely clear before a neophyte (someone who has dedicated himself to a path) proceeds any further, if not beforehand. In other traditions, it is performed by the High Priest and High Priestess, either symbolic or actualized.

Speaking of symbolic versus actualized, in many traditions, there are three “tiers” of the Great Rite. The first and simplest is the use of the athame, which is to represent the god, and the chalice, which is to represent the goddess. When the athame is lowered into the chalice, filled with ritual wine, many see it as a penetration of the vagina by the penis, creating a life-force energy that further blesses the wine and those who consume it.

The Great Rite can also be symbolic.

The second tier, depending on the tradition, may either be a pantomime of the sexual act that is the Great Rite or the performance of the actual Rite through intercourse only on the Greater Sabbats (Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnassadh, and Samhain). The third tier involves the physical act of intercourse, and is performed for all eight Sabbats.

Some covens may incorporate only one of the tiers, two of the three, or all three at certain points of the year. That distinction is often made by the High Priest and High Priestess of the coven, and is well known to each neophyte before embarking on any spiritual guidance courses with the coven.

Any form of ritual sex should be consensual. In fact, scratch that: It should go without saying that all sex should be consensual, and ritual sex is absolutely not an exception. No reputable coven will ever demand sexual initiation of its members. Ritual sex, be it the Great Rite or otherwise, is a specific and sacred act that is performed only by those who have studied and learned enough to feel comfortable performing it with a trusted partner.

Janet and Stewart Farrar perform the Great Rite.

If ritual sex is performed, it is typically between two individuals who are already part of an existing relationship and are of equal levels of power within the coven’s dynamics — power plays are not incorporated, especially between such levels as a Neophyte and a Third Degree.

What about the Great Rite and same-sex or other “non-traditional” couples? Or if ritual sex is required for initiation… but you are currently in a relationship with someone other than the coven leader, and you’re monogamous? Those are other topics on their own… maybe for later today or tomorrow. :)

May Day Sexay Giveaway!

Seems like everyone is feeling the effects of Beltane’s feisty energy this year! Kitty of PurrVersatility is giving away a May Day EcoSexy Kit to one lucky fan and winner this year, complete with many delectable items for you and a (or several!) loved one(s) to share. Best thing? They’re from Babeland, a premier online sex shop!

From Kitty herself:

Babeland has kindly allowed me to give away one of their EcoSexy kits! With a solar bullet (reviewed here) to add to your outdoor adventures, a 4oz bottle BabeLube Natural lubricant (mostly organic, vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, glycerin-free, and contains no sugar or artificial sweeteners), a Babeland body massage candle to indulge in with your lover (scent will vary) and, of course, the high-quality Birds ‘N Bees condoms to top it all off!

Heaven knows that, as a vegetarian Pagan who happens to LOVE Beltane and everything it has to offer, I’m more than excited to see bigger shops like Babeland carrying cruelty-free, vegan, organic products like this. And once you feel the quality, I know you’ll be excited, too.

Anyway, go check out her giveaway!

Beltane In A Week: Let’s talk about sex, baby!

Parental Advisory: Due to the possible explicit nature of this post, it is not recommended for children under the age of 18. 

I can give you one good reason why Beltane is Matt’s favorite holiday, and it’s definitely not the food, the rituals, the customs, the history… shoot, it’s not even about spring! Not entirely, at least. Beltane is a time of fertility and lusty magick, and Matt gets right in the swing of things when Beltane comes around because he knows that the gettin’s good, haha.

But it’s not just about the sex. While it’s a big aspect of it, fertility itself has been celebrated for thousands of years in several different ways, and magic can easily be intertwined to create magickal sex, both in celebration of the fertility of the world around you… and your very own!

Fertility Customs of Old

Like I said above, there have been several different ways of celebrating fertility from ancient times through today; it is believed that performing certain acts would encourage the land to be fertile, which would therefore lead to abundant crops through the summer and into the fall harvest. Any of these can be incorporated into your rituals and ceremonies.

  • In for a bit of voyeurism? Ancient Roman masters of the land would take their wives out to the fields and have sex directly on the ground. Imagine having a few acres — this project could take a while, perhaps even all day! It was practically guaranteed, though, that the crops would be fertile and productive for the slaves who would plant after all this lovemaking.
  • As for Roman women, they paid tribute to Flora,  the goddess of the flowers (who we discussed in brief a couple days ago), to ensure fertility of both the land and their own wombs. If a woman was having trouble conceiving, she might offer flowers at Bona Dea’s temple on the Aventine Hill; known as “The Good Goddess,” Bona Dea was a goddess of both virginity and fertility.
  • A tradition that is still continued today is the adding of menstrual blood to the soil to add potency. Studies have shown that menstrual blood contains a ton of nutrients, so it only makes sense to blend it in with the dirt before planting. It is not unusual to see people urinating on their plants, either, as urine contains complementary nitrogen that can help carbon rich compost. (If you plan to do this, dilute the urine a bit, as the uric acid may burn out the roots of more delicate plants.)
  • Dancing, singing, and drumming or other music are popular fertility rituals performed in many areas of the world. Farmers in the Congo region of Africa would do these and make offerings to the spirits of the land before they clear for planting, and only after the spirits indicate that they are pleased with the gifts and performances are they allowed to plant; and the Algonquin peoples of the Midatlantic region performed ritual dances to ensure a bountiful crop every autumn, making loads of noise to awaken the sleeping earth.
  • Kuortes, sword dances performed in Crete by a group of men, involves gathering together and moving in unison with sticks or swords that are jabbed into the earth. Although it appears warrior-like, it is more reminiscent of the Brazilian capoeira, where marital arts and dance mix to create, as scholars say, a rite that promotes fertility. Think about it: Banging a stick or sword on the freshly plowed earth has quite a bit of fertility symbolism!
  • “Is he bigger than me?!” You might think it a funny question, but when the highlight of your parade is a giant penis carved from a cypress tree, measuring about fourteen feet long and perched upon a float, you’d ask that, too! It’s a tradition in Nagoya, Japan to have such a gloat at their annual Honen-sai festival, which ensures that crops are plentiful.

Sex Symbols and Modern Wiccan Ritual

While many modern Wiccans do not copulate in the fields as those in ancient Roman times did, there are still several symbols, aspects, and magickal workings during your typical ritual, and Beltane is of no exception. In the words of writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, Beltane is foremost a time of “unashamed human sexuality and fertility”. One of the most poignant rituals is the Great Rite, wherein the sexual acts of a couple is used to raise energy and to celebrate the fertility of the human race and the universe as a whole.

Since the Great Rite deserves its own post, I will leave that for later. In the meantime, let’s discuss the Beltane altar, the symbols that are contained therein, and how they represent fertility during this Sabbat.

Typical Altar Supplies and Fertility

If you follow one of many Wiccan traditions, your Beltane altar will have the same trappings as usual. Funny enough, many of these items are rife with fertility symbols! You will notice that the contrasting energies of each actually serve to balance one another. For reference, Lord Janus explained that, in his tradition, generally “[any ritual object] that has a recess in it is considered feminine and anything that is protruding is masculine.”

  • Wand: As cliche as it may be, the wand is a central tool for any altar, used for directing energy during a ritual. Its phallic nature represents male energy, power, and virility.
  • Cauldron: A symbol of the Goddess, this altar accoutrement is all about femininity. Imagine the cauldron serving as a womb in which life begins. It has the ability to tie into all elements: Placing it upon the Earth, heating it with Fire, filling it with Water, and sending the steam up as Air.
  • Athame: Much like the wand, the athame (a ritual knife) is seen as phallic. During the Great Rite, it interacts with the Chalice, explained below, by being dipped into the ritual wine it contains.
  • Chalice: Arguably the most feminine part of the altar, the chalice (or cup or goblet) represents the element of Water and holds the wine during a ritual. It is decidedly female considering its hollow, round shape and its function in ritual.
  • Salt: Generally, salt is seen as male, especially when incorporated with water.
  • Water: Also generally, most any object that represents the element of Water is deemed feminine; obviously, water is Water and is therefore seen as female.
  • Pentacle: While typically seen as feminine as it is a very balanced object, the pentacle is one of those “maybe one, maybe the other” symbols. It represents all four elements plus deity, and is used as a consecration tool and protection charm. Because of its different uses and associations, the jury is out as to whether it’s strictly one or the other.

The Beltane Altar

Tools and altar decorations specific to Beltane also carry with them strong symbols of fertility and sexuality. Antlers, sticks, acorns, seeds, and a maypole are all excellent examples of items that can be placed on your altar to represent the masculine, and any circular item, such as a wreath or ring, can be used to represent the fertile womb of the feminine.

Small fires in your cauldron can also be set up to represent the fire festival and the leaping over the flames to promote fertility. If you don’t have a cauldron, a flickering candle frame works beautifully. Also decorate your altar with spring flowers and herbs, all of which have had the opportunity to pollinate and sprout new seed.

Sexy Food and Drink

What kind of site would The Coexist Cafe be without some food! Better yet, how about foods known for their effects on sexuality; aphrodisiacs are very popular during Beltane, and these recipes are sure to please both your taste buds and… well, whatever may come next. :)

These recipes are provided by Sabbats: A Witch’s Approach to Living the Old Ways unless otherwise indicated.

Beltane Cream Pie
Meade
Farls
CHOCOLATE ANYTHING

Are y’all really that surprised that this is TCC’s most popular post?
It’s about sex, for chrissake!


Beltane Cream Pie

Ha, do I even have to explain this one?

Now that I’m done giggling, here’s a recipe that incorporates milk and sweets, both of which are important parts of feasting during this Sabbat.

Ingredients

* 1 cup whole milk
* 1 cup whole cream
* 1/2 cup butter (not margarine!)
* 3 tablespoons cornstarch
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1 1/4 tsp. vanilla
* ground nutmeg
* prepared pie crust, baked (I personally prefer graham cracker crusts)

Method

1. Melt the butter in a wide pan over medium heat.

2. In a separate bowl, slowly add the milk to the cornstarch, making sure it is fully dissolved and absorbed before adding more milk. When the cornstarch is fully blended, add this and all other ingredients (except the vanilla and nutmeg) to the cooking pan.

3. Stir this mixture constantly over medium heat until it becomes thick. Remove from the heat and add in vanilla.

4. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and sprinkle with nutmeg.

This pie may be eaten while still warm as long as it’s cool enough to be set, or it may be chilled for later. And yes, you may continue making jokes about having eaten one’s “cream pie”!

Meade

Akin to the Irish “midhe,” meaning “center,” this drink of fermented honey represents Spirit, and the drinking of this potion of the deities made one more in tune with this elusive element. Family recipes are jealously guarded, and meade connoisseurs cultivate this brew as one would with fine wine. It’s not easy, as it takes a long fermentation period, but it’s all worth it.

To have ready for Beltane, prepare this drink at least six months beforehand, preferably on Samhain.

Ingredients

* 1/2 gallon water
* 1 1/2 cups raw honey
* 1/4 cup lemon juice
* 1/8 tsp nutmeg
*1/8 tsp allspice
* 1 package brewer’s yeast
* wooden cask or other receptacle

Method

1. Heat all ingredients together over medium heat in a large stockpot.

2. As the honey melts, an oily crust will form on the top. Some say to leave it on as it adds flavor tot he mead, while others will tell you to skim it off. It’s personal preference, though I’d likely keep it on.

3. When well-blended, remove it from the heat, stirring occasionally as it cools.

4. Stir in one package of brewer’s yeast and pour the meade into a wooden cask where it can ferment. You can drink it at this point if you wish, but it won’t have any alcohol in it (and what’s the fun in that?). It will taste like sweet honey-lemon tea.

As stated before, the meade will need to ferment for at least 6 months. During that time, the casks must be aired daily to allow any built-up gasses to escape. At least once a month, it should be poured into a fresh cask.

Farls

Oats are eaten for luck and fertility, so it would make sense that this recipe, popular in both Scotland and northern Ireland, would be a common and popular treat around Beltane.

Ingredients

* 3 cups real mashed potatoes (mash ‘em yourself!)
* 2 cups dry oats
* 2 tbsp. margarine or butter
* 1/2 tsp cornstarch
* 1/2 tsp baking powder
* 1/8 tsp salt
* pinch each pepper and rosemary
* vegetable oil for frying

Method

1. Soak the oats in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes until soft and slightly swollen.

2. Mix the oats with all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Knead until the mixture is a thick dough. If it seems to thin or too moist, add a teaspoon or two of flour.

3. When thoroughly mixed, form small sections into round patties. Fry the patties in hot vegetable oil in a small skillet until lightly browned. Serve immediately.

CHOCOLATE ANYTHING

While not necessarily a recipe, chocolate itself is a very well-known food for its qualities as a natural aphrodisiac. In fact, there is a scientific link between chocolate and arousal: In 2004, researchers at a hospital in Milan, Italy questioned nearly two hundred people about their chocolate consumption and feelings of sexual fulfillment. Women who consumed chocolate daily reported a higher degree of sexual satisfaction, and even women who normally had a lower libido reported an increase in their sex drive after consuming chocolate.

Chocolate contains both serotonin and phenylethylamine, both of which are mood-lifting hormones naturally found in the human brain. Our levels of both increase when we eat chocolate, which leads to a feeling of excitement and an increased level of energy. It makes us feel good and replicates the feeling of being in love, which can certainly help in the bedroom!

Some ideas for chocolate are as a dip (for strawberries and other fruits, cheese, or caramels), mixed in with your favorite baked good, or straight up. There’s no limit to what you can do with chocolate, both as a food and as… well, get those creative juices flowing and see what other uses you can find!

Beltane In A Week: Carefree Crafts

All right. So you’ve been stuck inside all winter, with nothing to entertain you but the boob tube and maybe a few games of checkers. Now that it’s bright, sunny, and cheerful out, let’s make some crafts to celebrate the thawing of our creative juices… let’s get ‘em flowing!

Many of these crafts involve items that can be found outdoors, from flowers to sticks to the images of animals. Below are some simple craft ideas you can put together to decorate your altar and home.

(If you are creating these crafts with children, please take care that adult supervision is available at all times.)

via

Floral Crowns

Bring out your inner goddess with a wreath of flowers on your head! Whether you make a mini version or a full-out crown for your Beltane ritual, these crowns are sure to hail in the essence of Spring and, of course, fertility. Before taking flowers from the earth (if you’re using fresh flowers), be sure to thank the flowering tree or bush for its offering.

You will need:
* green pipe cleaners
* spring flowers, such as azaleas, daffodils, violets, and irises (leave the stems on), either fresh or artificial; and spring herbs, such as ivy and marigold (leave the stems on), either fresh or artificial
* green florist’s wire
* ribbons in your preferred spring colors
* bells and other decorations as you see fit

Method:

1. Take a pipe cleaner and wrap it around your head until it fits. (Kids will typically need one, while adults may need two.) Twist the ends to form a ring.

2. With additional pipe cleaners, loop them around the crown until you have a framework to add your flowers.

3. Take your spring flowers and herbs and weave them into the loops. Tuck them in so the frame is covered. If you’re having trouble keeping them in, use some green florist’s wires to hold them in place. You may also want to use the wire to tie on some bells or other decorations.

4. Cut ribbon to a desired length, and tie them around a small area of the crown.

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Maypole Altar Centerpiece

This is an easy craft that involves just a few objects, but the color and joy it brings will last all the way through summer! Place this mini maypole in the center of your altar and watch as the ribbons dance about.

You will need:
* a tall object to act as a center pole, about 1′ high (Michaels and other craft stores sell dowels that work beautifully)
* a wooden circle
* lengths of ribbon about 1/2″ wide, any color(s), a couple inches longer than the pole
* hot glue gun
* miniature floral crown

Method:

1. Using the hot glue gun, glue the dowel to the middle of the wooden circle. Allow to dry. If you desire, you may paint the base of your maypole a myriad Spring colors, plain white, or even stain it.

2.Attach the ribbon to the top of the maypole. If you have a decorative top (as in the picture shown above), you may glue them to the very top. The ribbons will hang down from the point of attachment.

3. Use the maypole as a meditative piece by weaving the ribbons around the pole, or use in ritual.

Faerie Chair

Now THIS, I really want to make! Especially since I plan on turning our backyard into a faerie’s and gardener’s paradise, having a chair like this would serve as beautiful decor while also housing some fruit-bearing plants… and maybe even a few faeries!

You will need:
* an old wooden or wrought-iron chair
* some primer paint, exterior paint in colors of your choosing, and acrylic paints for creating designs (make them fae-friendly!)
* polyurethane or sealant
* seeds for a climbing flower, like morning glory or clematis, or fruit-bearing plants, like blackberry, passion fruit, and grapes
* a sunny spot in your garden

Method:

1. Apply a coat of primer paint to the chair. White or another light color is the easiest to work with. After the primer has tried, paint on your exterior colors, then use the acrylic paints to decorate the chair with designs. Get creative!

3. Allow this paint to dry, then apply a coat or two of polyurethane to protect the chair from the elements.

4. Find a sunny spot in your garden and loosen the soil a bit. Place the chair where you want it to remain, as it can’t be moved after this! Once in place, plant seeds around the base of the chair, just a few inches away from the legs.

5. Tend to your plants according to their care instructions. As the plants appear, twine the vines up through the legs of the chair and around it. If necessary, gently secure them to the chair until they’re on their own. Soon enough, you’ll have a chair covered in leafy greens and bright flowers. Encourage your children to seek out faeries that might be flitting around!

Beltane Counting Calendar

The anticipation of Beltane could prove to be a strain after a long, harsh winter, especially on children. Much like an Advent calendar, this Beltane calendar can become a popular holiday distraction and give your children a beautiful project to work on while they wait for Spring to arrive once more.

You will need:
* thirty buttons of any shape, size (preferred size is about 1″ in diameter), and design
* Velcro, cut into thirty 1/2″ to 1″ squares (they make this stuff with sticky backs on both sides)
* yellow or white felt (if you’re really creative, you could “quilt” one!) measuring 36″ x 6″
* ribbons in the color of your choice, cut in one 12″ long segment and several 3″ long segments
* needle and thread
* a quarter-inch dowel cut 7″ long
* white construction paper
* crayons, markers, or other coloring tools
* hot glue gun
* school glue
* school scissors

Method:

1. Take the felt or “quilt” and, using the needle and thread, add loops of 3″ ribbon to the top (shorter) side to hold the dowel. Weave the dowel through the ribbon loops. Tie the 12″ ribbon to each end of the dowel for hanging.

2. Stick the Velcro squares down the center of the calendar, one on top of the other, leaving as much space as necessary between each. Remove the backing on the other sticky side, and allow your child(ren) to affix the buttons to the Velcro.

3. Using the white construction paper, have your child(ren) draw little images of what they think of when they think of Spring. Have your child(ren) cut out the images and glue them to the calendar with the school glue. Alternately, you may also shop around with them for stickers and other little tchotchkes to affix to the calendar.

4. Take your creation and hang it on the wall! For each day approaching Beltane (starting with 1 April and ending on 1 May), have your child(ren) stick a button on the calendar, starting from the bottom. They may also chant or sing the following while sticking each button up (from Pagan and Wiccan Parenting):

Good Bye Winter,
Good bye Winter,
Good bye Winter,
Good bye Winter,
We wish you’d leave us now.
(replace the following words for “Winter:” snow, slush, snowsuits, cold wind, and any thing else the children come up with.)
Come back Springtime,
Come back Springtime,
Come back Springtime,
We wish you’d come today.
(replace the following words for “Springtime:” green grass, flowers, birds, and any thing else the children come up with.)