This fire festival marking the start of summer is themed by sexuality and fertility. Its traditional focus is very cisheteronormative ~ on fertility, associated wombs, eggs and sperm, but that is not the only relevance and representation of Beltane ~ join me in looking at this festival through a queer lens…
As with every turn of the wheel of the year, there is a strong connection to nature. You may have noticed the hedges springing to life in the last few weeks; the white spray of cow parsley and other apiaceae, the pink pop of red campion and squadrons of bluebells dotted about. That is particularly the case here in Devon when this new colour took over from primroses and daffodils. This is one of the signs that Beltane is here. Nature’s changes have always been the marker of season change, before calendars; traditionally for Beltane, it would be the emergence of hawthorn blossom, which I have also noticed over the last two weeks - slightly earlier than its associations, including it’s common name ‘may flower.’
Beltane means bright fire, and links to the celtic fire god. The peak of spring, it marks the arrival of summer and the start of the light half of the year. It is a celebration of fertility and sexuality in both people and the earth.
The mythical tale of the goddess and the green man recounts the wheel of the year in terms of the cycle of growth, represented through their fertility, marriage, conception, gestation, and birth. Their ‘sacred union’ through sex serving to prompt our ability for inner union of the ‘divine masculine’ and ‘divine feminine’ energies within all of us (separate post coming with a queer exploration of these ‘masc/fem’ energies). Due to its celebration of fertility, Beltane is heavily cisheteronormative and focused on procreative sex. We can of course look to the earth, and these themes applied in the context of nature, crops, growth, and abundance, but we don’t, and shouldn’t have to disregard and lose the human context just because historically, the words don’t fit. Let’s step out from spiritual oppression, honouring our queer identities and make the traditions fit.
The gendered terms of masculine and feminine energy are widespread and tricky, but if we take away the stereotypical and binary gendered words, we are left with the qualities of the energies, which is the relevant part. Drawing on ancient wisdom from yoga and traditional Chinese medicine, we can look at these as moon energy (yin), and sun energy (yang); two opposing, yet complementary forces which make up life, and which are (or the potential for them are) held within us. The qualities of these energies are relevant to all people, transcending the outdated language of tradition. These opposites can exist on several planes or spectrums ~ active / reflective and expansion / contraction are two examples alluded to in the paragraph above, and light / dark is another, very relevant to Beltane in its liminal placement marking the start of the light half of the year.
Traditionally, the colours for Beltane and their representations are:
Green - growth, fertility, abundance
Red - strength, passion, vitality
White - cleansing, clearing
Maypole ribbons are always colourful. Sometimes these colours mirror a rainbow, which can be queer affirming.
Author - Zoe Copeland, MFHT
With a background in education, sports coaching and mental health, Zoe began to explore more holistic avenues of helping people with a particular focus on where the mind and body meet. Zoe began her bodywork training in Sports Massage and has since studied other massage theories and techniques, as well as Reiki, to provide a holistic approach to each treatment. With specific training in women's health, trauma and scars, she has developed an intuitive practice which leaves you feeling a positive change in your body and mind after every appointment.