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Bealtaine Ritual: The Pleasure of Sensuality


White spring flowers form the backdrop with illustrated flowers overlaying the image. Text reads: Bealtaine Ritual: The Pleasure of Sensuality

Bealtaine (Irish) marks the mid-point between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. The energy of Bealtaine is delightful, arousing, and invites you to soften into the pleasure of erotic entanglement via the senses. Orienting to this seasonal shift is a powerful way to reclaim your ancestral connection to radical joy and embodied aliveness. We invite you to honor this seasonal threshold by following our ritual guide below or using it as inspiration.


In this blog post you will find:



The Pleasure of Sensuality


Bealtane is an opportunity to celebrate the wholeness of who we are and the cycle of growth that is currently underway. Nature reflects the vitality of life that inevitably arises after a time of dormancy and digestion. The energy of these early Summer days calls us to sing, dance, make love, create, and delight in the pleasure of erotic entanglement, revel in sensual aliveness, and share our joy with others. It's a time of year that also reminds us to give thanks and to honor the beauty and gifts of our unique expression; how necessary we are as part of the vast web of life.


As we look toward the peak of the year with Summer Solstice on the horizon, the seasonal energy is building and expanding toward fullness. Expansion reflects a time of growth which leads toward abundance, and so Bealtaine invites you to tap into the source of your vitality - what makes you come alive. Abundance is an expression of fulfillment, when one is overflowing from the inside out.


If the message of Spring Equinox is about breaking free from what is confining, then Bealtaine is about claiming freedom and taking it into the realms of embodied fulfillment. Here we are given the opportunity to join in on the seasonal frolicking and to commune with the vitality of life. It's all about releasing your inhibitions, letting go of the things that hold you back, and allowing yourself to express what comes naturally!


Sounds simple, no? Well it's not surprising that this seasonal initiation can bring up a lot of for folks. Under the ongoing traumatic influence of industrial growth society, we constantly have to reckon with systems of oppression that are imbedded within the cultural fabric of racial capitalism (and how we internalize it). This means that for many of us, it often doesn't feel safe enough to access pleasure. So it's no wonder that accessing freedom can prove to be a challenge. But that is exactly what we must do. Our divinity is entangled with the flesh of who we are, so coming back to our bodies, awakening our senses and giving ourselves permission to prioritize safety and what feels good is how we access the flowing nectar of life.



Themes, Symbols & Elements


  • Themes: Growth; Pleasure; Fertility; Expansion; Sexuality

  • Symbols: Colors: Green, red, white/silver

  • Tree: Hawthorn - "Hawthorn is often found linked with lovemaking... Hawthorns are also sacred to the faeries who ride out into the human world when the gates of Bealtaine open." - Mara Freeman

  • Plants & Herbs: Spring flowers growing near you. Also, primrose, yellow cowslip, roses, rosemary, and lilac.

  • Animals: Goats, rabbits & honey bees

  • Element: Fire & Water

    • "To the early Celts, May dew was regarded as having magical, life-giving properties that brought fertility to the fields." - Mara Freeman

  • Bealtane Goddesses: Aphrodite, Arianrhod, Artemis, Astarte, Venus, Diana, Ariel, Var, Skadi, Shiela-na-gig, Cybele, Xochiquetzal, Freyja, and Rhiannon.

  • Bealtane Gods: Apollo, Bacchus, Bel/Belanos, Cernunnos, Pan, Herne, Faunus, Cupid/Eros, Odin, Orion, Frey, Robin Goodfellow, Puck, and The Great Horned God.



Ritual Preparations


To be done on the day before Bealtaine



1. CREATE A BEALTAINE ALTAR

  • Altar items: Bowl of Dewy Water (see next step for collecting the water), May Flowers

  • Create an altar inside or outside: Find or make a space (like a table) that won't be disturbed and that will be used for creating your altar.

  • Ideally place a red, green or white/silver cloth over your altar. Place the bowl of water in the middle surrounded with fresh flowers

  • Bring in any other meaningful elements that represents early Summer to you.



2. CLEANSE YOURSELF & YOUR SPACE

  • Herbs for smoke cleansing or saining (Celtic): rosemary, cedar, mugwort

  • If you do not have meaningful/authentic relationships to Indigenous culture and customs, smudging with white sage is considered cultural appropriation and is dishonorable to the Indigenous People of Turtle island. If you have been gifted sage by an Indigenous friend, use your discretion in how to engage with this medicine.

  • This sacred plant medicine is being abused, exploited and mass-harvested for commercial and consumer use which perpetuates the violence of white supremacy and settler colonialism.

  • Take some time to locate yourself within a settler-colonial context interwoven with the land you currently occupy. Check out Native Land to learn the name and more about the territories you occupy.

  • Contemplate the narratives you enact and the spells you cast through ritual. Be mindful, strive for integrity always. Learn from the ground beneath you.



3. BEALTAINE THRESHOLD INVOCATION*


To be said at the front door of the house on the eve of Bealtaine, April 30th, in the evening.


Maiden of Flowers, open the door,
Smith of souls, come you in.
Let there be welcome to the growing strength,
Let there be welcome to the Summer of the Year.
In bud and blossom you are traveling,
In fruit and gragrance you will arrive.
May the blessed time of Bealtaine
Inflame the soul of all beings,
Bringing energy and effort to conflagration.
From the depths to the heights,
From the heights to the depths,
In the core of every soul.

- Caitlin Matthews



4. GATHER MORNING MAY DEW*

To be collected before dawn on the morning of May 1st.


"The early Celts viewed all forms of water as sacred - rivers. streams, lakes, and ocean. In Scotland the place where three streams meet was considered a potent place. People came to drink the water, which was thought to have magical properties... To spend time by water is to stand on the threshold between worlds." - Mara Freeman


  • Water from a sacred site may be used for bathing, cleansing, and anointing

  • Ideal time to collect the water is between midnight and dawn toward the end of the first quarter of the moon.

  • Make an offering or sing a song to the water.

  • Place the water on your altar and use it to anoint yourself. You can also sprinkling it on an area that needs healing or an object that you want to cleanse of negative energy. Sprinkle three times in the name of the Sacred Three (Earth, Sky, Sea; Maiden, Mother Crone)


The best way to collect dew (from "Rekindling the Celtic Spirit"):

  • Collect dew before dawn, as it loses it potency after the sun has risen. Gather it from grass growing in a pesticide-free area, from hawthorn flowers or branches, or the hollow of a rock. Wash your face, hands or feet in it, and if you feel brave take off all your clothes and roll in the dew for a truly refreshing start to the summer.

  • Alternatively, go to a special spring, pool, or stream just before sunrise. Fill a bowl or chalice - preferably the one from your altar - and hold it up so that the first rays of the sun fall upon the water, charging it with the power of the fires. Containing the virtues of both the upper and lower worlds, this water is considered very potent.



White spring flowers form the backdrop. Text reads: Bealtaine Ritual: The Pleasure of Sensuality

Bealtaine Ritual Overview


Our Bealtaine ritual is all about returning to our bodies, creating spaciousness to BE, finding safety and what feels GOOD, and trusting the wisdom of eros. It's about meeting yourself WHERE YOU ARE and trusting in that. This ritual calls us home to our embodied belonging by engaging practices that cultivate inner resiliency in the face of oppressive systems and rigid structures that do not reflect nature’s intelligence. As microcosms of earth, we know that flow is our inherent nature, and that our power lies in the ability to fluidly adapt and remain responsive to subtle cues and shifts taking place in the ecosystem.



Time Commitment: 2 hours (if you are following this template)


Opening - 15 minutes

  1. Write an Intention - 10 min

  2. Invocation, Prayer, or Blessing - 5 min

Middle - 1.5 hours

  1. Somatic Exercises: 1 hour

  2. Free Flow Movement - 15 min

  3. Journaling - 15 min

Closing - 15 minutes

  1. Integration - 10 min

  2. Offer Gratitude - 5 min



Opening


1. WRITE AN INTENTION FOR YOUR RITUAL

  • An intention is a way to bring heart and mind into alignment. There is power in naming that which you are calling in.

  • When we speak to God/Spirit/Source/Allah, gods & goddesses, deities, ancestors, and forces of love, we acknowledge that we are not alone and that support and guidance is available to us as multidimensional beings who are interdependently woven into the fabric of existence. When we give voice to our intentions, we are speaking to the larger Self that encompasses the intelligence of the universe.

  • The intentions we give voice to now will stay with us and ripple through the unfolding of the seasons.

  • Example: "May this ritual prepare my soul for the path that lies ahead as I confront and explore the edges of my comfort zone. May I courageously step into new territories of the heart as I allow myself to fully experience new levels of joy and aliveness. May I open my heart to receiving the loving support I need to strengthen my commitment to the path of my soul's calling. May all that I do be of service to all kin and kind."


2. BEALTAINE PRAYER or POEM


*See below for examples


An invocation or prayer can be done in silence, but there is power in speaking words that come from your hearts deepest longing. A prayer is spoken to the animating, loving force of the universe - that which gives us life and is the source of love. How you call this permeating, loving presence is unique to each of us, but here are some words that you may have resonance with: Ancestors, place-based spirits and dieties, god(s), goddesses, Allah, Source, Buddha, Creator, Spirit, Tao etc. It's important to remember that Spirit is not outside of you, but also within you... so when you pray, you're also praying to the deepest, divine aspect of your nature.


Bealtaine Prayer

The Bealtaine fire sends its flames to the Sun,
The promise of Summer warmth to come,
Hawthorn blossoms in radiant white,
And clarity grows in the quickening light,
Now it the time for action and life,
To fertilize plans and banish strife.
Take the leap across the Bealtaine fire,
And let the energies take you higher.
Author unknown


Bealtaine Poem

I am the calm, I am the quickening,
I am the intoxication and the force,
I am the silence, I am the singer,
I am the stallion galloping to its source.
I am the bright pavilion and the feasting,
I am the wedding couple and the bed,
I am the morning chorus and the heartbeat,
I am the goal to which all paths are led.

- Caitlin Matthews



Middle


1. ECO-SOMATIC EXERCISES (1 hour)


The following eco-somatic exercises involve focusing your awareness on different sensory capacities including sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smelling. I encourage you to engage with these activities outside if possible (though it's not necessary). The purpose of these exercises is to amplify and orient your attention toward subtle pleasures that are always available to you. As you engage with each exercise practice the following:

  • Slowing down (allow your movement to be mindful and slow... take your time)

  • Sensing (notice sensation)

  • Softening (muscles, breath)

Always ask yourself... What might bring a feeling of safety, goodness, or more pleasure?



Exercise 1: Beholding (10 min)

This exercise engages your sense of sight. Find a comfortable place to sit where you can take in your surroundings. For this exercise you will practice oscillating between different ways of "seeing".

  • For the first five minutes, you will oscillate between a focused/narrowed gaze and a soft/peripheral gaze, staying with each for about 1 minute. Find something up close that you can directly gaze at while engaging narrow vision. This is the kind of vision that is hyper focused on a single object and penetrating. For peripheral vision, think expansive receptivity. Soften the muscles behind your eyes and hold maintain attention on your periphery as your receive the wholeness of your environment.

  • For the next five minutes, you will practice beholding something that you feel drawn to (ie. a flower, blade of grass, stone, etc.) Beholding has to do with the quality of energy you bring to your gaze. Remaining present in your body and connected to your felt sensations is a big part of this. To behold something or someone is to sense your interconnection, to see through eyes of love, recognition and reverence; to embrace it with curiosity as you seek to look beyond the surface and into the soul or "beingness" of that form. As you deepen the practice of beholding, sense your own aliveness as you take in as much detail as possible.


Exercise 2: Touch (10 min)

This exercise engages your sense of touch. Find a comfortable place where you can wander freely in your environment exploring different forms of touch while you engage with a variety of elements. Allow your natural curiosities and attractions to guide you, spending about 2 - 3 minutes with four different elements. Try to engage with elements that offer a variety of weight, textures, shape, etc. (for example, a stone, the trunk of a tree, a flower or feather).


Before you engage or touch the next element, take a moment to sense your hands while looking at them. Then imagine or visualize in your minds eye HOW you would like to touch and be touched by the element. Offer this intention to each element. Then begin your exploration keeping in mind the above reminders: slowing down, sensing, and softness. Remember, this is all about exploring PLEASURE!!! How can you bring more pleasure to the experience? Try engaging different pressures, feeling it against your face, on your arms or even your feet.



Exercise 3: Smell (10 min)

This exercise engages your sense of smell. Find a comfortable place where you can both sit and wander freely in your environment to engage with a variety of elements. Allow your natural curiosities and attractions to guide you, spending about 1-2 minutes with up to seven different elements.


Before you begin, take a moment to find a comfortable position either seated or lying down. Close your eyes or keep your gaze soft bringing your attention to your sense of smell. Take a few long, slow and deep breaths in through the nose while exhaling through the mouth. Begin to notice the natural aromas of your environment. When you feel ready, slowly begin to explore your environment focusing on your sense of smell. You might simply begin right where you are, by bringing your nose to the earth and spending a minute smelling the rich humus of the soil. From there, simply let your nose guide you!



Exercise 4: Hearing (10 min)

This exercise engages your sense of hearing. Find a comfortable place where you can sit comfortably with the option to wander freely in your environment after the first 5 minutes. To begin, close your eyes or keep your gaze soft bringing your attention to your breath, inviting softness to the inhale and exhale. Notice where you are making contact with the ground beneath you. Allow yourself to relax and as you do so, bring your attention to any sounds that your body is making. Perhaps you can hear your breathing, maybe you can even hear your heart pulsing or stomach gurgling.


After a few moments, extend your attention to the sounds taking place outside of you and begin to listen to what's arising in your immediate environment. Are there bird songs? If so, how close or how far are the calls? Notice the layers of sound, how each is unique and yet how they all carry a rhythm or pattern, oscillating between sound and silence. What song or sound stands out to you most? Perhaps you notice the sound of rustling leaves as the wind rushes through and then dies down. What else do you hear? Perhaps try oscillating your attention to sounds that are far versus sounds that are very close, between loud sounds and soft sounds. Have fun!



Exercise 5: Taste (10 min)

This exercise engages your sense of taste. For this one, find a juicy piece of fruit (like an orange for example) and one other textured food item that you'd like to explore tasting (ex. an almond, a piece of lettuce from your garden or a piece of chocolate). Find a comfortable place where you can sit or lie down in a very relaxed and comfortable position. Turn on a sensual piece of music if you feel inspired!


Take a few minutes to connect with your breath again, and remind yourself that the purpose is to explore subtle pleasure through the sensation of touch! Remember that moving slow will allow you to pick up on subtle sensations. Treat this exercise like a courtship. Don't be in a rush to pop the juicy piece of fruit in your mouth right away. Instead, court your delicious, tantalizing piece of fruit by gazing at it, smelling it, caressing it with your fingers or running it across your lips. Take your time exploring it as you build excitement for the moment you taste it. Notice if your salivating, notice what else might be happening in your body while you engage in this way.


When you're ready, very slowly lick your piece of fruit... or perhaps you want to put it between your teeth and just hold it there, sensing what that feels like. Maybe you squeeze a little bit of joice into your mouth and let it sit there on your tongue for a moment before swallowing, noticing what happens when you do. There is no right or wrong way to do this... it's all about playful exploration and continuing to ask yourself... How can I make this more pleasurable?



When you are done with these exercises, jot down a few thoughts as you contemplate the questions:

  • What did I learn about myself from these activities?

  • What feels different now compared to before?

  • How has my perception of pleasure changed?



2. FREE FLOW & SPONTANEOUS MOVEMENT (30 minutes)


Now that your pleasure portals are open, it's time to explore pleasure through movement. As we are learning, pleasure becomes available to us when we are able to slow down enough to listen to what feels good and what doesn't. Pleasure also arises through oscillation between rest and movement.Free flow movement is about exploring movement on your own terms and learning about what feels good in YOUR body.


This practice supports embodied knowing and deepening self-trust.


To get into it, turn on some sensual music that brings you pleasure and that will inspire you to move. Begin with very simple and slow movements. For example, you may simply start with your hands, exploring what feels good with certain hand gestures and stretches. You might simply want to find a seat and slowly rock back and forth as you root into your sit bones and imagine yourself as a tree, swaying to the breeze. You might want to lie on the ground, becoming as heavy and relaxed as possible, slowly rolling from one side to the other.


Just remember that there is no right or wrong way to move. It's all about sensing for pleasure and what feels good. What feels good today may not feel good tomorrow, so also honoring that we are constantly adapting to changes. Be gentle with yourself. Do not force yourself into any position. Less is more for this practice. And don't forget to breathe.



3) JOURNALING (30 minutes)


For this next part, find a comfortable place near your altar where you can write and reflect on any or all of the following journal prompts. Alternatively, you might simply wish to allow yourself to write without filters. What's most important is that you follow your own inner promptings and allow creative inspiration to flow.


  • How does my body like to experience pleasure? When do I feel most alive?

  • How does my pleasure and vitality serve to disrupt systems of oppression?

  • What gets in the way of prioritizing the cultivation of my erotic power?

  • What beliefs or attitude do I hold around sexuality? Sensuality? How are they different?

  • What does nature reveal to me about pleasure, rhythm and relationship?





Closing


1. INTEGRATION (10 min)

Find a comfortable place to lie down so that you can relax and sink into the gravity of earth's embrace. Notice how you feel and what it’s like to be in your body now. Sit in the vibration of pleasure and aliveness. Soak in whatever sensations are present for as long as feels right to you.



2. OFFER GRATITUDE (5 min)


Offer gratitude to your body, the spirit of Earth, your ancestors, and all of the forces of love who have joined you in your ritual. Gratitude for the joy of becoming and for the only constant that is change.


Take one final moment to pause, appreciating all of the gifts you've received.



References



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We'd love to hear from you!

  • How are you celebrating Bealtaine or May Day?

  • What miracles are you bearing witness to?

  • How is nature teaching you?


Leave a comment below :)




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