Thinking About: Beltane, Samhain, and Drinking the Keg Dry

Beltane is on the radar. From the calendar perspective, its just less than a week away. Like any year, I’ve been asked what I am doing to celebrate this time of year. My answer is always the same: as little as possible. This is not one of my favorite turns of the wheel. Beltane, along with Samhain, are two of the most popular times to hang out with Pagans. Lots of partying, lots of good mead being shared in copious amounts…just a good time for all. I don’t and won’t begrudge anyone else the awesome festival atmosphere of either turn of the wheel. For me, its just way too many people, but its also a feeling of being like the two times of the Christian calendar point of Easter and Christmas. Let me explain my perspective a little…

When I was exploring the Christian faith – shortly after I graduated high school – I noticed a phenomenon that took place in both the Catholic and Southern Baptists perspectives that happened each year – the massive increase of attendance at both Easter and Christmas. In both instances, I asked the church leaders why this happened and both explained that there are “lukewarm” members of their faith. People who only come to church at Easter and Christmas because these are the two most important moments in the life of their Savior – His birth and death. Because this had so much significance in their belief systems, their followers seemed to feel that this was the only time that they NEEDED to be in church. In the Baptist faith, the Pastor explained that these “lukewarm” Christians would have troubles crossing over into Heaven because their faith was not strong. “Jesus will spit out those with a lukewarm faith in the same way that one would spit out coffee that had cooled for too long,” he explained to me.

Does this also apply to the Pagan folk that attend Beltane and Samhain gatherings only? Surely, there would be a large contingent of folks that were at either gathering because of the free-flowing alcohol, the very sexualized aspect of things (in the case of Beltane), and the fun, carnival atmosphere of both, right? Sex, booze, and partying are always a good strong attraction, especially for those looking for all of that to be available without having to work too hard for it. Very appealing…one would think. I’ve been at gatherings where new individuals to the group spend more time helping to empty the mead keg than to participate in ritual…sad, but very true.

Now with those observations out of the way, let me point out a few added moments of clarification. In both cases, the number of people that fit those categories is not hugely significant. They are, usually, some of the louder people at either set of the gathering – usually needing to be seen, as if that swings the camera of the video feed in their direction – providing the Gods with a record of their having been there. In baseball parks, these people are commonly referred to as being at the game “to be seen.” They are usually referred to as being lower than casual fans, usually there to ham it up for the camera so that their faces can be displayed on the jumbo-tron screen for the entire cadre of folks in attendance to see how pretty they are. Do these folks detract from the game, even for the hardcore stats fans like me who score the game on paper with a pencil? Not at all. Nor do these “lukewarm” attendees at the gatherings, some of whom I have described above. The only hardcore foul is the copious assistance in draining a mead keg that was meant as a chance to sample and partake for all attendees.

Some of the groups I have been acquainted with over the years solved some of this issue by holding invitation-only Beltane and Samhain celebrations. In this manner, they manage to control their gatherings a little tighter, ensuring that an atmosphere that they wish to have is held to a standard that they are requiring. Good for them. I have been invited to such gathering in the past, and while Wicca is not my cup of tea – this type of attendance control has been a good handle for me. A few other groups have handled their celebrations by making it a members-only gathering. Again, good for these folks. It works for them. However, I have found myself doing the majority of my celebrations and observances of the Wheel alone. As an individual who is working on my own within a larger, world-wide group – this methodology has worked for me. I can manage the focal aspects of seriousness and playfulness to a level which I am comfortable with. I only have a single individual to worry about…me. Of course, I do still need group aspects as well, which is why I try my best to make the Gulf Coast Gathering for the celebration of Alban Eilir. We carry on, giggle, laugh and such, but there is also a seriousness associated with the rituals as well. These people are family to me, I am very comfortable with them. Gathering with them is a salve to my practicing alone. There’s a touch of difference between that gathering and the public gatherings I have attended in the past for Beltane and Samhain.

There are people that will be irritated or downright disagree with me over my perspectives that I am pulling forward in this blog post. Not only is that just “ok”…I expect it, and it should be so. I’m no law giver when it comes to Paganism, Druidry, Beltane, Samhain, or anything else. I have zero interest in telling people how to Pagan. My Paganism is lived every single day, just like anyone else’s is. I live it out loud, just like everyone else does. The difference is that I like my volume around four, while others might like to “turn it up to ten, and rip the knob off” – to paraphrase the old Z-Rock commercials from back in the 1980s. That’s a bit off-putting to me, but I always remind myself…that’s the way that they approach their beliefs. It works for them, and that’s what is more important. Pleasing me over how they do their Paganism should never be any kind of factor in things.

With all of that said… I hope you have an awesome Beltane – however, wherever and with whoever you find yourself celebrating with. This is a time of renewal. A time to celebrate the new growth of crops in the field, which will grow and yield a bounty for all. A time to shake off the cold and dark of Winter and revel in the warmth of the coming Sun. A time to reflect on where we have been during the dark of Winter, and a moment to discuss the coming Year and the promise that it holds for you on your Path. For me, it’s a time to shake off what has been, and prepare for new steps in a new environment. Again, I hope you have an awesome Beltane…and a glorious, bountiful coming year. May your Gods bless you and walk your Path with you from time to time. 😊

–T /|\

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