The following article was originally published on Our Pantheons Way on April 30th, 2014.
I have been to many Pagan gatherings, rituals and festivals over the years, in private homes, at community centers, at UU churches and my favorite, camping in the woods! Of all of the Pagan gatherings of any type, none produce more wild stories (some true but many I suspect not) than Beltane. Good ol’ Beltane, the great springtime rite of fertility and sexuality. Of course it has sexual overtones and because sex is such a charged subject in our society it produces a lot of mixed feelings, emotions and sometimes quite outlandish tales.
I recall one time years ago we came back from camping at a Beltanelike event with one of the traditions who by their own words even are “The Pagans who scare other Pagans.” Due primarily to the legends which permeate the whispers and gossip among the denizens of the greater Pagan community. Upon returning I mentioned to a friend and former covenmate where we had been and he popped off without missing a beat “Oh, those people grow their own chlamydia.” This from a man whose idea of roughing it is to stay in a hotel room somewhere that has no room service. Someone who does not own one single piece of camping gear and therefore has never been to a single event with these or any other people. So I challenged him on it. “Oh, have you ever been camping with them?”
“Well, no but I have heard…” Yes, we have all heard. If what you hear about and what actually happens have any relation to one another I must be one of the unluckiest sons of bitches on the planet because I have been to many of the camping events with many of the very groups that these rumors are about and I have seen….not much. So, I am just saying, take what you hear with a very large grain of salt please. People do love a good story after all and if there is sex and scandal involved all the better. Now, that being said, I don’t doubt that some of what people speak of may have indeed taken place…once or twice…somewhere at some time. But with the frequency with which it is spoken about you would think it were a regular occurrence and I’m here to tell ya, not so much.
One of these rumors I hear come up a lot involves acts of oral sex being performed at the revel fire of a popularly attended Pagan camping event. Nope, sorry, I missed that one, every….single….time. Women topless, dancing around the fire, yes, I’ve seen that. Men and women dancing around the fire naked late at night. Yes, I’ve seen and participated in that as well. But actual sex acts? Nope, sorry, I missed it. It would have been a great story to tell if I had but I didn’t. In fact, in all my years involved in Wicca and paganism in general I have only been to a few rituals in which the great rite were enacted in true and those have always been clearly stated by the organizers to be adult only events; leave the kids at home for this ritual. They don’t even let you on the property with minors in tow. Everyone in attendance knows what to expect when they get there. It’s the great rite, if you don’t know what it is look it up in any book on traditional Wicca or do a search for it online. Of course, it all depends on who you’re hanging out with and where you go but I’m talking, I do hang out with the groups that most of the rumors are about. So, again, take what you hear for what it’s worth.
There is a common occurrence, again, late at night when all youngins are fast asleep if there are any present, in which some women slather a special herb and oil concoction on their bare breasts and apply it to the bodies of, usually unattached, young men while chanting. It’s pretty sexy and alluring and it’s meant to be. It’s a fertility rite. The most that is happening there is bare breasts are touching skin much as they would if a hug were given. Again, no sex, oral or otherwise involved. These are the most graphic scenes I have ever seen played out in my 15 plus years of camping with the very pagans who all the rumors are about. I’m not saying that nothing beyond that has ever taken place, but I am saying, I have never seen it.
I used to frequent a pagan community center in town where it is rumored that sex routinely took place in the bathrooms. It is true that the bathrooms in the place were co-ed. Both males and females shared the same bathrooms. The stalls had walls and doors. If anything other than the usual bathroom activities ever happened there, I missed that too.
All of that being said, as a general rule of thumb, if you are looking for a family friendly Beltane event in which there is unlikely to be any nudity or overt sexuality, your best bet are the ones held in town at the UU churches or other public places. I have been to and even officiated at ADF Druid May Day rites like the one coming up May 4th at Arlington UU church which I posted about earlier under the title May Day UU Celebration. They are very family friendly and conservative in nature. You can take the kids and probably not have anything to worry about. I have also been to the AmTrad Beltane gatherings such as the one Covenant Of the Goddess is hosting which I also posted about earlier under the title Beltane Celebration. Again, very family friendly and no nudity.
But if you’re looking to not be exposed to any nudity or sexuality whatsoever. DO NOT go camping with Pagans at Beltane. Although the reality is not as “bad” as the rumors might lead you to believe, there is still the possibility that some of them might be true. A good camping event usually to take kids to is Ostara. There are usually colored egg hunts, fun games and faeries at Ostara with little emphasis at all on sex. But always ask in case it isn’t made clear, whether an event is family friendly before attending to avoid being shocked. Just in case.
Blessed Be and Flags, Flax, Fodder and don’t forget Frigg!