Discussion of my recent Beltane post…

So the ever fabulous Tracy the Red posted a reply to my recent Beltaine related post.   I should like to share it and my reply, with you my dear readers and encourage more discussion on this, here, and on the Pagan Community Builders list, and elsewhere in the community.

Anyway Tracie posted this to my comments section…

“Be careful there, darlin’ because Beltane is a festival that is directed at the Celtic fire God Bel and Aphrodite is Greek. She has Her own holy tides and we all know how stroppy She can get if She doesn’t receive Her proper worship. Beltane also doesn’t involve Maypoles either; that’s May Day. Maypoles are something Germanic peoples are into, even to this day. May Day itself is a day sacred to Freyja and is a lot more “Samhain-esque” than most would realize.

Wouldn’t mixing and matching deities and festivals fall under “cultural misappropriation?””

Well, I’ve written a small bit about cultural misappropriation recently, and also had a bit of a chat on the topic with Tracie the other day (pray for her air-conditioning unit folks!), so the topic is hovering about and well worth bringing up.  It is also an issue I have started to seriously wrestle with as both a Neo-Pagan Witch and a budding Hellenic Polytheist.

I have re-read the article, and I can see where, as a result of some inspecifics in my writing of it, I did commit some cultural misappropriation… or an least provide opportunity for it to flourish.

I would say there are two areas where I could have written things out better.

1. I did not write clearly enough about which Beltaine I was writing about.

Beltaine/May Day/Walpurgisnacht are three inter-related festivals that have some very different meanings for different branches of our Pagan movement.  I tried to speak to this within the post

“Especially this time of year.  Beltane, or May Day, is the time of year when many of us modern Pagans celebrate fertility and passion and joy and love and lust.”

Note the use of the word “many”… not “all”; but I should have been more detailed.

To a Celtic Reconstructionist, it is the fire festival celebrating the beginning of Summer and a festival for Bel.

To Heathens it may be a festival of Spring, and a time to honor Nerthus and Njord.  (for some Kindreds anyways….)

(And in both of the above examples different groups and individuals will have different observances, and ways of relating to and honoring the holiday.)

For the Hellenic Recons and well Beltaine really has little to do with the directly reconstructionist path.  Some have already celebrated Anthestreria.  (more on this Dionysian festival later)

Then of course for the Neo-Pagan and Witch and Wiccan communities the Beltaine Sabbat takes elements of  all of the above with a heavier focus on the light-hearted fertility and spring and a little less on the Samhaineque elements.

(by the by Tracie I am officially filing the serial numbers off of ‘Samhainesque” and going to be slipping it into as much everyday conversation as is possible)

It was this last iteration of Beltaine, one of the more widely celebrated ones (currently) in the Pagan movement, that I was speaking to in my recent article.

2. I did not explain a few things about my Hellenic Polytheism

See even though I am a self-described Hellenic Polytheist, and I am currently researching and involving myself in some Hellenic and Greco-Egyptian Recon subjects/groups… I am not a hard core recon… at least not yet, I am more than willing to concede that my thoughts and feelings on this issue may change and evolve, but here is where I am at the moment.

~I am drawn to the worship of the Immortal Gods, the Olympians, the Cthonic Dieties and a number of others from the Hellenic Pantheon, most especially Dionysus and Hecate with some burgeoning relationships with Antinous, Aprhodite, and Pan.  I make offerings of incense and pour libations of water and, as I am able, wine to Them whilst reciting from the homeric and orphic hymns and sometimes my own poetry striving to do Them justice and honor.

~ It is my heartfelt belief that the Gods are real are many and have always been with us, to paraphrase Plethon.  They didn’t go up onto some shelf at some point in History.  Thus they are as much a part of the modern world as say cell phones or Valentines Day.

~ At the moment I am welcoming the Gods into my life in the Modern world… Honoring Aphrodite at Valentines for example… and Dionysus during the two Florida Wine Harvests  (June and August).  I am looking at some of the Recon calendars… but my thing is I am not living in Ancient Alexandria or Athens… I am living in Davenport, Florida USA.   The agricultural and spiritual rythms, the rhythms of the natural world around me, are very different than those in the lands where the Theoi were first honored.

~This also relates to a similar difficulty I have had with the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the year since moving to Florida.  What does Beltane really mean in a land where fertility is never in question and Winter Solstice and Imbolc are the Citrus and Strawberry Harvests respectively?

So those are some of the issues I am trying to sort out for myself right now, and part of why I wrote of Aphrodite in association with Beltane.  I was not trying to claim that Beltaine is a festival of Aphrodite, more that Beltaine celebrates things that are a part of Aphrodite’s concerns…

I send my apologies to Aphrodite, Bel, any hardcore Recons reading the blog for any offense the piece may have caused.

Though, in the end, I must also stand by the posts core message of honoring fertility and sex and sensuality, honoring the Goddesses and Gods related to those things, and honoring ourselves through responsible behavior.

Peace,

Pax

_PS_ this may seem like a silly post to some, but if I am going to speak about how words and language has power I need to be very conscious of how I use them.  Also, if I am going to kvetch to people about a local Pagan groups “Native American” Pipe Cermony (which doesn’t actually involve ANY native americans nor any sort of sanction approval from the Lakota people whose ceremony they are stealing)…. well, if I am going to complain about such things I need to keep my own spiritual house clean!!

Honoring Aphrodite, and Beltane, and Ourselves

Beltane-tide Prayer 2009

I dedicate this prayer and post

To You oh Illustrious Lady,

Golden, Sea-Born, Cyprian,

Night and Laughter Loving Queen,

As we wind our way towards Beltane,

Open the peoples eyes and inform their minds,

To dangers both known and unseen

~Pax

I have yet to make it to a festival myself, I don’t have anyone I know real well to share camp with and now that issues of time and money are waning  I am hesitant to throw myself into this aspect of the Pagan community without finding a festival buddy first.  Silly, I know, but its how I feel.

As we wind our way towards Beltane I am reminded, by stories from one of my dearest Pagan friends of just how festive some of the festivals out there can be!

Especially this time of year.  Beltane, or May Day, is the time of year when many of us modern Pagans celebrate fertility and passion and joy and love and lust.  In theory it’s all about the fertility of the land and a time when many Witches and Pagans celebrate the sexual union of their Goddess and God  bringing life back into the world.  In practice there are event’s and festivals that feature that symbolism and often a dancing of the May Pole, and a lot of flirting games and sometimes a lot more than just flirting as folks very actively celebrate fertility.

For me, as a Witch who is also a budding Hellenic Polytheist, Beltane seems like the natural time to honor Aphrodite.

Aphrodite is the Goddess of Love and Beauty, of Procreation and Fornication, of Desire and Flirtation: She is Fairest of the Gods of Marriage, She whose wrath can strike men impotent, She who bestows Beauty and Grace, Lady of Pleasure and Merriment; She Who with Erato and Apollon presides over Love Poetry and Song, Lady of the Morning Star, Protectoress of the Homeland, and Goddess of Peace.

I’ve written a few things about Her before,  prayers of my own, and the Orphic Hymn to Aphrodite, and a little post wherein I suggested we modern Pagans should celebrate and honor Her in our Circles and at Beltane.

Now I could wait and hold a solitary ritual with an altar of images of Aphrodite, and with flowers and sweet candies for Her.  I could, and possibly shall, read the Orphic Hymn to Her and some more prayers of my own to Her, and pour  libations of wine and water and honey.

In the last day or so, however, I feel compelled to say some things about sex and sexuality how we Pagans honor Beltane.

Now, sex is wonderful and beautiful and sacred, as is wine, and music.  So too is Love, in all it’s forms from friendship to blazing passion to deathless romance, so too is Trust; and so too are every atom and cell of our bodies.  At least that last part is a part of the party line for a lot of Pagans out there; some of the stories I hear from friends about the festival circuit are beginign to make me wonder though.

If every atom and cell of our bodies partake of the Divines, then don’t we owe it to Them and to ourselves to be a little careful with our cells and atoms?  If our community is so fabulously free of psychological hang ups, so open, so sex-positive; if sex is sacred how come you never see an HIV testing tent at a community Beltaine event?

Since personal responsibility is such an integral part of being Pagan, why don’t we talk more at this time of year about reproductive health and about birth control and about family planning?  Why don’t we see Beltane (or even Imbolc) health fares in our Pagan communities?

I find myself wondering how many people in our community realize that one of the big reasons that a lot of open rituals will pass out dixie cups for sharing or wine or mead at the appropriate time in the ritual is because sharing a drinking vessel can spread oral herpes?

How many of you knew that oral herpes is present in 50 to 80 percent of the U.S. population?

When I read that roughly 1 million people in the U.S. have HIV; and 1 out of every 5 of them has no idea that they are infected!  When I hear that someone in the United States is infected with HIV every 9 minutes and 30 seconds…

I cannot help but wonder what Aphrodite, what any of the Goddesses of Love and Beauty, must think of these sad simple facts?  Are we truly celebrating fertility and honoring the full spirit of the season if we don’t think about our actions?

Nor is HIV the only potentially lethal STD that you need to worry about.  To paraphrase Henny Youngman

Take my Hepatitis B.  Please!

I have no idea where or when I got Hepatitis B, I learned about it long after that fact when I was taking a routine HIV test.

Luckily enough (if you can say that about a life-changing illness) my body fought off the infection.  This means that while Hep-B is present in my blood, I am not actively contagious and cannot transmit it to my Partner through casual contact or even sexual activity.  It is still in my blood though, and I am at risk for liver problems later in life.

I find myself wondering how many in the Pagan community may face a medical time bomb and not even know it?

We are responsible for our actions and choices. The gods have granted us this gift of intellect and will, and Will, so use it wisely!  Honor the Goddesses and Gods of your path, especially those of Love and Beauty and even Lust; but seek to do so in wisdom and honor.  Inform and educate yourself and make choices grounded in your head and heart, not your hormones, this Beltane season!


~~~A Few (unconventional) Beltane Resources~~~

CDC information on STD’s

CDC general STD information and curriculum tools

An STD information page from the University of Maryland

Coalition for Positive Sexuality ~ A free-online Sex education resource, including information on STD’s and Birth Control.

A Safer Sex information website from William’s College

National HIV and STD Testing Resources (US)