white red and yellow tulip flowers

Beltane Meditation

Over centuries of misinformation, demonization, and social approbation, the word “Pagan” became a slur against those who had not accepted Catholic hegemony. Today, it is a general term for nearly any faith practice not associated with a Christian church. Folks who continue to practice their ancient indigenous beliefs today may be irritated to find themselves lumped in with witches and quartz hoarders and pyramid believers, but from the Christian perspective, anything not explicitly Christian is evil. All of it is “Pagan” – an all-encompassing term representative of everything and nothing. What does it mean to be Pagan?

There is a feeling of rising joy felt when looking up to a hillside covered in spruce and oak. That feeling of bliss and awe building as approaching king waves crash against the Heceta Head overlook. That joyful leaping of spirit at the passage of geese, or juncos, or turkeys. When standing among the trees in the mountains, it is hearing the song of pith and stone that echoes along the valleys. These feelings are the ecstacy inherent in recognizing the divinity of the sacred all around us. We don’t need to name the sacred, we don’t need to engage with divinity. We can simply recognize and appreciate our connection to the world around us. Is this Paganism?

A version of this essay was delivered on April 28th, 2024 at the UU Church in Eugene.

The Unitarian Universalist tradition embraces the real world, it is focused on the people of the community and how we can best help others. It asks us to be honest with ourselves and have empathy for our neighbors. It looks to science to find scientific answers and the heart to find answers of the heart. When we gather as a community, we like to remind ourselves that there is good in the world and we can be  a major force in creating that good. This community recognizes the genius of understanding ecology and working with the natural cycles of the world; it insists that everything that lives is worthy of living and is a sacred vessel of life. Is this Paganism?

The Upanishads teach that at the heart of each of us, below our thoughts and feelings and emotions, is the Self, and this Self is everywhere present, in all things, takes all forms, and connects all. At a fundamental level of existence, I am you, and you are me. Everyone shares a common current; everyone shares a common pattern. We are each distinct and unique and yet we are also not just similar, but the same. So if we look out into the world and see the sacred in the land and the sacred in the flora and sacred in the fauna we must look upon ourselves and see the sacred in us. Is this Paganism?

We are alive. That life is tangible, measurable, recordable. We are the lives we touch. We are the stories we tell. We are the food we make and the warmth we provide. We are the activities that bring lives together, that build the future together. We manifest heat and divine light. This is who we are. 

Now we celebrate this life; we honor our divine light at the apex of our region’s generative forces – now with the early harvests starting and the late plantings emerging. Now when the Mother fills all living things with grace and love, we celebrate this season of Beltane.

Whether we celebrate this time by simply gathering with friends at a meal or attending a camping event, we are continuing in a tradition older than homo sapiens sapiens of looking to the natural calendar of the Earth to know when to hunt, to harvest, to plant, and to settle. Sunsets at the Equinox, or Sunrise on the Solstice are traditional times to mark the change of seasons: the rolling of the Wheel. This is the liminal time between Equinox and Solstice – this is Peak Spring. This is Beltane.

Youth is visible, sometimes measurable, but never capturable. Life is palpable, inspiring, and always changing. Nothing ever dies, but is reborn: all is born, and born again, and born again. The Self moves from life to life as sunlight leaps upon the surface of the river as it flows from spring to tide. In this time of year, we are all reborn: we are suffused with youth and delight and pollen. So much pollen. We can taste delight in the fresh berries, smell the delight in the air from the flowers and herbs in every garden. The sun fills us with energy and the rain nourishes our hearts.

This is the time of year when life feels the most real. Pay attention! Look at it! It’s happening right now! We put it on a calendar to remind ourselves that it’s happening now, but it doesn’t matter what you call it: What matters is that you see it, hear it, remember it. It’s a great time! It’s a momentous time! We remember now to celebrate what a glorious and wonderful thing it is just to be alive. Double your pleasure by remembering all those who are alive with us right now. Triple your pleasure by reaching out to connect with as many lives as you can! 

There is a bawdiness associated with Beltane: Lewdly costumed maidens dancing to passionate drumming and singing while nude men aroused with great spirit leap the flames of the Summer bonfire. The wild revelry and hypnotic music of the Rites of Pan and the cloying pursuit of Pepe Le Pew would not seem to be out of place at this time. These outward manifestations of youthful sexual vigor remind us that the embrace of the flame of life often becomes a singular focus for the young. 

We are also reminded that we have been building boundaries and barriers throughout the year that separate us from each other. This is a time to bridge differences and distance in order to share the joy of life with each other. This is the time to open windows and doors and let the love of the world into your life. This is the time to recognize the love we have for ourselves, for each other, and for the whole world.  This is the time to love love, to love life. This is the time to embrace the living.

The reason that the veil parts at Samhain – at the other side of the year – is because during Belane the energy and will of the ancestors is made manifest in the fruits and nuts and veggies and roots growing out of the Earth that we will eat over the coming year. This is when we again take that baton of life from past generations and hand it forward to the next. This is how we touch the past and fuel the future. This is a celebration of life, of living, of moving along that part of the wheel where we celebrate the miracle of regeneration.

We invoke the youthful vigor of the young adult, just in their prime: sexual passions at their peak, the bonding and regeneration of life repeated endlessly and everywhere. May we be reminded each day of the joy of life. 

We invoke the eternal promise of nature’s cycles to continuously feed us and provide all we need for life to leap from generation to generation. Let us promise to eat more meals together and remember our connections. 

Regardless of whether you consider yourself Pagan or even spiritual, I invite you to take advantage of the opportunity to think for a while about life, to really look at the people around you, to really listen. You don’t have to be a Pagan to live with your eyes focused, your ears alert, and your heart open.


One response to “Beltane Meditation”

  1. Katrina Avatar

    Love this! The only improvement would be to hear you read it!

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