I’m not overly fond of Samhain and Beltane on the Wheel of the Year. Yep, you read that correctly. Beltane and Samhain are my least favorite times of the year. This has nothing to do with the darker side of Samhain. Likewise, it has nothing to do with the overtly sexual aspects of Beltane. These are the two perspectives that most people assume that I have issues in relation to the two celebrations. Rather, it has more to do with the baggage that so many folks seemingly carry into both celebrations.
For me, Summer Solstice is my favorite point on the Wheel. The height of Summer offers a moment where the gathering of people is something akin to a familial time. Of course, the same can be said about ANY point on the Wheel. Its more a consequence of the people that have gathered for that moment in time. Samhain and Beltane have slowly become the more public gatherings, or at least that’s what it seems to be. Thus, with loads more newcomers to the gathering, the atmosphere changes. Plus, Pagans are notoriously generous with alcohol, which seemingly gathers the frat-boy element – folks that are there for the free alcohol. Don’t try and talk me out of that point. I have seen it happen far too often over the last three decades to be dissuaded from it.
Now, before I get accused of being the stogy, crotchety old man who is trying to piss on everyone’s fun, let me point a few things out in my defense. Around the Gulf Coast Gatherings (OBOD), I’m known as a mischief-maker. Working with two Trickster Gods, one tends to find ways to provide a touch of chaos here and there – all in good fun. So long as no one gets hurt, everything is good. Should someone get hurt (emotionally, physically, etc etc), all the play stops, and serious moments of apology and accepting responsibility for going too far will happen. This is me. But despite all of the playfulness, there are always two things that I try to keep at the forefront during such gatherings (public or private): the ritual is a serious moment, and we are gathered together as a form of extended family. Connecting with others is paramount.
Perhaps, as I look back over what I have written, the issues are just my own. Perhaps the baggage that is carried into this comes solely from me. In fact, I would posit that this is precisely true in both cases. After all, I’m the jack-ass writing this blog post, right? Sure, I’ll cop to that pair of points. What I have written here is my own perspective. Its my opinion, and I am well aware that it is not a popular one – even before I stated it. For so many folks, these two points on the wheel are their quintessential aspects of their Paganism. Drawn to the “free love” and openness of caring and cherishing others, Beltane makes perfect sense to be that moment of revelry. Drawn to the darker nature of Pagan thought, Samhain provides that moment where folks can be far more open about their darker practices. I completely grok all of that. I just wish that both points on the Wheel were not regarded in a carnivalesque atmosphere by so many. But as I have acknowledged, this is probably just me.
An excellent point was made in the comments to a previous post. Perhaps, the reason for the overt boisterousness related to these two points comes from the baggage people bring from their Christian past. With its proximity to Easter, Beltane serves as a quick jab of two fingers into the eyes of a Christian past. Samhain showcases the embrace to the darker (and more shunned) aspects of Spirituality, thus jabbing two fingers into the eyes of Christianity again. Or, if the imagery is better, flying the bird to a Spiritual perspective that was forced onto the lives of others. That’s understandable, particularly in the earliest steps on one’s new Path. You want to turn and shout back: “This way is far better than the one I just left! The path suits my feet far better!” Trust me, I felt the same when I left a Catholic faith that had been ingrained into me through private schools from the 6th grade to my Senior year in high school. Catholicism was not a proper Path for me. My first steps into other Spiritual Paths was always punctuated with some statement that this new Path felt more comfortable than the previous one. I even felt that way when I started down my Pagan Path and made similar statements. My first High Priestess quietly made the comment to me that I would stop making such proclamations the further I trod my Path. That statement has definitely turned to truth, as I don’t see my current Path as being better or more superior to any other. The individual finds the relevance in the Path. The Path does not impart the same wisdom to every individual.
So, do I have issues with Beltane and Samhain? Or are my issues with the manner in which others approach these two particular points on the Wheel? Most likely, it’s a little of both. Which means that my dislike is more of a difference between how I approach these two seasonal points versus that of others. And that, can be perceived as wrong on my part. Its wrong for me to look upon the practices of others when it comes to how they approach their own Paganism. Its ok for me to dislike those approaches, but its not ok for me to call those approaches “wrong.” Instead, its far more appropriate for me to do what I have done in the past – step away from the carnivalesque atmosphere, and handle things on my own, for me. I strive to approach my Spirituality for the perspective of an individual. Painting with that brush onto others is not the approach I wish to take. So, I have to admit that I have been wrong in seeing the popular approaches to public ritual at Beltane and Samhain as something that should be seen as distasteful. Its not for me, that’s for sure. But its not for me to judge such approaches as wrong. Its just wrong….for me. Maybe, I am that crotchety old man yelling at the kids to get off my lawn. ::shrug::