May Day’s Festival of Beltane — A Sacred Ritual of Nudity & Fun!
May Day’s Festival of Beltane — A Sacred Ritual of Nudity & Fun!
Happy May Day! Now get naked and make love to your neighbor. It’s tradition.
Throw in enough Pagan into the mix, and May Day, otherwise known as the Festival of Beltane, is not exactly your PG rated elementary school party of spring blossoms and flower baskets.
Held in early May, the Festival of Beltane was a straight up orgy of naked dancers frolicking around an erect phallic symbol and getting it on in the woods.
In early England, children begotten by these orgie-paloozas were largely ignored by their fathers. They were said to have been fathered by God, you know, just like Jesus! (Nope, that doesn’t hold up in court. Pay your child support.)
May Day’s roots are agricultural — a celebration hailing the sprouted fields just beginning their green rebirth like Rasta blossoms. Cattle were driven to pasture decorated with yellow May flowers. The Festival of Beltane refers to the “fires of Bel,” in honor of the Celtic sun god Belenus. In the Pagan tradition, fire has the power to cleanse, purify, increase fertility. Sky-clad naked dancers jumped through fires for luck. (Safety tip — clothing and fire don’t mix.)
The half-way point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, May Day is the Wiccan celebration of the onset of summer. The God, to whom the Goddess gave birth at the Winter Solstice, becomes old enough to be Her lover. Turn down the lights — turn up the Curtis Mayfield funk love.
May Day — the Sexual Awakening of Summer
May Day’s roots go way back and cross cultures like a streaking witch drunk on moon juice.
In the beginning of May, the early Romans celebrated the flower and fertility goddess Flora with dances, games, and getting it on like teenage rabbits. Evening entertainment featured nude mimes and dancing prostitutes. In 30 AD, the Emperor Galba even had a circus elephant dance along a tightrope like an Oakland hipster in spandex PJs.
The Ancient Celts believed the Sun was held prisoner during the winter months. They celebrated its springtime release from bondage with naked dancing, drunken orgies, and feasts. Beltane was a key Pagan Wheel of the Year — one of eight pagan holidays, along with the summer solstice, Lughnasadh, the fall equinox, Samhain, the winter solstice, Imbolc and the spring equinox.
Puritan Party Poopers
Leave it to religious zealots to party poop all over a good time.
May Day’s orgy roots were first suppressed by the Emperor Constantine, the same guy who converted the Roman Empire over to Christianity in 300 AD. Instead of feeding Christians to the lions, he fed them to the Pope.
The Celts brought May Day and naked dancing around the Maypole back into style. But over several centuries, the love fest went through several periods of suppression/celebration, depending on which Christian ruled the day with a prude ass fist.
The Puritans turned the lights back on and made the Druids turn down the rock and roll. The English military leader Oliver Cromwell described maypole dancing as a “heathenish vanity” — he passed legislation against it in 1660. The practice was reinstated by Mary I, a Catholic monarch who came to the throne after Edward I, a Protestant, died.
In Colonial America, Thomas Morton — who had established the non-puritanical colony of Merrymount to rival Plymouth — set up a Maypole, got drunk, and danced with squaws. His Puritan neighbor and future Governor of Massachusetts John Endicott strode right into that party and chopped the Maypole down with an ax. He re-dubbed Morton’s colony Mount Dagon, after a god of the sinful Philistines who died in Noah’s flood, and sent Morton scurrying back to England on charges of selling weapons and booze to the natives.
Every party’s got a pooper — that’s why we invited Thomas Morton, pbth pbth….
Party On Like the Pants-Less Pagans
In many parts of the world, dancing around the Maypole has become the stuff of school children straight out of Disney anime. But people do manage to still get down with May Day’s X-rated roots.
Today, May Day still manages to get its gaud on at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. Students strip and dance around the Maypole. For years, local liquor stores gave a case of beer to the first couple ballsy enough to walk through the doors wearing nothing but their belly buttons.
At the University of St Andrews in Scotland, students gather on the beach and run nude into the sea at dawn. Then they light torches and party the day away.
And plenty of modern day Wiccans continue to drop their pants, feast, and dance around the Maypole like proper Pagans who know how to party. A trip through Google and the Festival of Beltane looks like Burning Man with more Pan flute.
A New Nude Day
May Day is a celebration of nudity and the Earth, a chance to reconnect with the soil and bless the sprouting seed with fertility.
After Covid, it’s been a long hard winter. We’ve all lost our minds on Zoom, binged Netflix ‘til our eyes fell out, made enough sourdough bread to feed half of Chicago.
Yeah, this past year we’ve pretty much lost our freaking minds.
At Bear Blend, we celebrate life through ritual. We’re all about ceremony and the rites of passage that reconnect us with our herbal and communal roots.
Those roots run deep, but now the chlorophyll is bright and shining again, blossoms radiating like blue purple fire in the meadow of the mountain.
We invite you to reconnect with the summer of rebirth, with the blossoms of Gaia, in any way you find yourself.
Whether that’s basking in a park with a good book and a smoke, lying beside a river with the blossoming summer blooming around you, or forest bathing nude under a tree where no one can see you but the squirrels and the wood sprites, open up and grow — be absolutely amazing.
It’s intoxicating to soak in the sun, to celebrate budding beginnings, be reborn in the bloom. May May Day and summertime fertility become us. It’s time to seize the day and feel good vibes again. Finally, we all deserve some sunshine.
A freelance writer for hire, Matt Gallagher is the face and voice behind Web Copy Magician. He enjoys Bear Blend as a tea to spiritually reconnect with nature and the therapeutic wonders of chlorophyll.
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