Beltane 2013: The Great Poetry of Flesh

EDINBURGH, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 30:  A member of the Beltane Fire Society is seen celebrating the coming of Summer on Calto
EDINBURGH, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 30: A member of the Beltane Fire Society is seen celebrating the coming of Summer on Calton Hill April 30, 2006 in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom. The procession is a revival of the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane. Around three hundred voluntary participants celebrate the ending of winter fire revelry and perform drumming around the hill. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Beltane comes, and I feel a stirring in my body.

Beltane comes, and I feel a fire in my gut.

Beltane comes, and I want to turn up the music, put on something colorful (or take it all off) and roll around on a patch of green.

Beltane is, for me, a time to feel the pull of the wild, the pull of some primordial life-force.

I practice as a solitary, and while I may not be dancing around the Maypole with a large group of people today, Beltane -- the midway point between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice -- still has a hold on me.

I feel Beltane in my very flesh.

Spring grants us permission to be alive in our flesh. This permission is no frivolous thing.

We live in a time when many would regulate our flesh, govern our flesh, make proclamations about which uses of our flesh are sanctified and which are immoral.

We are told that our flesh would be better if it were trimmer; more attractive if it were smoother; more acceptable if it resembled the flesh of others.

We are fed messages through our screens and on paper about what flesh is fine flesh and what flesh is not, and as a result many of us come to either reject our flesh altogether or seek to transform it into a more permissible flesh.

We are told that the flesh is weak, that the flesh should be subdued, that the god of some other religion would have us not gratify the flesh. The flesh is understood to be the place where evil resides and from which torment wreaks havoc upon the mind. The flesh is temporary, so it must be trivial. The flesh will not remain, so we must not give it credence. The flesh will pass unto the earth, rot in the ground, turn into dust.

We are told again and again to dismiss the flesh.

But Whitman says, "And your very flesh shall be a great poem."


Our very flesh shall be a great poem. That is the message I'd like to offer on Beltane.

Our flesh is a symbol, a microcosm of the earth we inhabit. Our flesh is what connects us to the seasons; it is where we feel the cold of winter, and -- more and more in the Northern Hemisphere -- the warmth of the sun.

It is in and through our flesh that we experience our emotions. We feel love in the flesh; anger in the flesh; exuberance in the flesh. The body is a treasure trove of sensation, and our sensations inform our temporal existence. Sensation may not be all of what life is, and the experiences of the flesh may be subjective and passing. But subjectivity and impermanence do not make a thing meaningless. Flowers bloom for but a short time, and when they do they are beautiful.

We bloom, too.

We are a body full of color and fragrance. We are a cycle of life unto ourselves, and we have good cause to celebrate our body -- our flesh -- for we have no knowledge of what is to come beyond this moment, this life, this body. We are here, alive, and we can, on the day and in the season of Beltane, choose to celebrate the life that we are living. We can choose to honor our flesh, and honor the flesh of others.

(What a world we would live in if the flesh was not seen as evil, but rather a manifestation of something holy and worthy of respect. I wonder if violence would be so commonplace if we recognized the flesh as sacred.)

Beltane is here, my friends, and it is a time to celebrate your embodiment. Be in your flesh. Let your body be a temple, but not the kind which restricts movement or pleasure. Let your body be a temple in which great offerings can be made; offerings of color and sound and taste, which bring joy and pleasure and happiness.

Love the body you are in! Love your flesh! Celebrate this High Day with a fullness of being!!

I leave you with these words from the Solitary Druid Fellowship's Beltane devotional:

I breathe in the fire of the sun!

This world is alive, and I am alive with it!

The fire in my heart is a Beltane fire,
A fire raging with passion and purpose!

Today I honor the sun,
And the movement of the earth.
The Earth Mother provides,
And the Sky Father encourages
New life on the land.

This is the moment to remember
That even while I practice in solitude
I am a living being, interconnected with all life.

I am the tree. I am the river.
I am of the earth, growing into fullness,
Supported by the Kindred.

Hail, the fire of Beltane!

[download the devotional here]

If you are a solitary Pagan or Druid and are looking for support around your practice, consider the Solitary Druid Fellowship. The Fellowship provides free, customizable High Day liturgies based in ADF Druidry, as well as daily, lunar and seasonal devotionals. We periodically offer opportunities to create collaboratively with other solitaries, and we seek to help those who do their religious and spiritual work in solitude to develop a deeper, richer engagement with their practice. Membership is not required. You are welcome in the Fellowship.