I’ve talked about the expansive, wild energy of Beltane before. We are in a place where the energy of the planet is seeking, yearning, building a groove. And here we are as humans — afraid, constrained, shut behind closed doors, wearing masks and social distancing.
It’s not a big surprise then that people are feeling restless and wanting to see restrictions lifted, and feel a deep unease. Going against the grain of the very energy of the planet is psychically disturbing.
Make no mistake — social distancing and obeying stay at home orders is the right thing to do right now. COVID-19 is no joke, and there is no treatment, no cure and no vaccine. We owe it to our communities to be vigilant about quarantining and social distancing.
And with Beltane it seems particularly disappointing because Beltane energy is connective — it is designed to be experienced with other people. It’s why so much of Beltane lore is centered around sexuality. The energy we raise at this time is not meant to be experienced in a solitary way. We are meant to be connected to each other at this time. The spirit of more, more, more that is embodied in this holiday lends itself to groups and sociability and especially to touch. The very things that we’re supposed to be staying away from right now.
So how then can we honor the rangy, raw, connective flow of Beltane in a time when separation and restriction seems to be the order of the day?
What witches know that others often do not is that not all energy work needs to be big, and tapping into the Universe’s vibe can be done in a focused way. In fact, the action of taking big flows of energy and narrowing them down to a fine point is an incredibly powerful way to work. And while certainly earth based spirituality often feels best when in contact with the earth and sky, being forced to remain indoors does not preclude connection to the forces of nature.
Here are a couple of practical suggestions as to ways you can connect with the energy of Beltane even while you are cut off from nature or from other people:
Engage in an exploration of the senses: Beltane is a sensual holiday, where one is encouraged to fully inhabit your own body and feel the energy of the Universe coursing through it. It is a celebration of your body as a means of channeling energy in all forms — divine energy, sexual energy, physical energy. Somehow we only think of sensuality as a sexual thing. It is not.
Create experiences that engage one of your senses, particularly smell or touch or taste. Create a touch experience by gathering items with different textures, then blindfold yourself, center yourself and explore the items. Don’t just pick soft and pleasant items either — pick things that are sticky or prickly or scratchy, too. Immerse yourself in a smell, like coffee or a fragrant tea. Order your favorite food from a restaurant and make the eating of it a special, sacred moment. Put the dish on your best plate. Eat it in the most pleasant setting you can create for yourself. Do it by candlelight.
Drink in the chosen sensation in and let it fill your entire body and mind. Make the use of that particular sensory organ a single point of focus and let the experience overtake your whole consciousness.
Find your flow state. In my previous discussion of Beltane, I talked a lot about flow state, and how that is the epitome of Beltane energy. There are lots of ways that you can encourage a flow state even if you can’t get outside or engage with other people.
Flow state is that moment of getting so absorbed in something you are doing you start to forget yourself and just go with the “flow” of the moment. Certain physical activities, like Qi gong, or dancing, can lend themselves to reaching a flow state. Some craft activities, like knitting or weaving or spinning, can engender flow state, because there is an element of physicality and repetition. Music can help as well — drumming is especially good at inducing the kind of flow state that allows you to connect to the energy of the earth at almost any time, but at Beltane especially.
Find some kind of flow state activity to use in your celebrations, use it to connect to the energy of the planet, and get lost in that flow.
In these uncertain times, we are already managing so much in so many different ways, it’s no wonder our ability to manage our energy on a day to day basis has become more challenging. Add to it the contradictions involved in being quarantined during a time when we traditionally let energy run wild and free, and achieving a state of balance and well-being and harmony with the earth becomes even more difficult. That said, all is not lost. Tapping into the flow of Beltane is possible even if you can’t get outside or connect with others. It takes more imagination and discipline, but it is possible.
It is very easy when you are operating under a limitation of some kind to let that limitation dominate your thinking, making your endeavor more about what you lack than what you have. Paganism, more so than many other paths, demands immediacy. Our energy and our celebrations are concerned with the present state of the season, the world that is right this moment outside our windows. While we have notions of the afterlife, pagans do not live their lives focusing on assuring the fate of their souls after this life. Rather, we are concerned with the experiences we are having and creating now.
And when what is immediately outside one’s door is unsure, and constrained, and quite frankly scary, it is hard not to look for ways to escape, and perhaps focus on dreams of things that have not happened yet. In many ways, we need to do that in order to have hope. This is the work that pagans usually do in the dark time of the year, when the light is gone and we must remind ourselves it will return. We are unaccustomed to having to engage in that during Beltane.
But there is power in turning the limitations of one’s existence into an opportunity into grow in other directions. Just as when one disengages one sense the others may sometimes become more acute, the inability to engage the world in one direction means there is now energy and opportunity to engage it in another. The fact that one cannot do the work of Beltane in the more traditional ways — through human touch and gatherings outside — means that one can investigate other types of activities that explore how the energy of Beltane moves inside our own bodies. And in fact, harnessing that expansive Beltane energy within us, during a time when so much of our world seems to be narrowing to a fine point, can help provide a much needed set of tools that make coping with that narrowing easier.
In fact, the rangy, raw, expansive energy of Beltane can in fact help us to understand that no matter how constrained our physical existence may have become, there is nothing to stop our hearts from running free, nothing to stop us from seeking spiritual connection, nothing to keep us from enjoying the splendor of our senses, even when we can’t do it in a large group under an open sky. A candle can be as wildly illuminating as a bonfire, because such is the magic of Beltane when it is within us.