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Beltane: Right Where We Are


We’re coming up on Beltane, that magical and fiery pagan holiday that I’ve always loved and was recently feeling strangely anxious about. I’m not a crone…yet. But I’m no spring chicken, either, and I was beginning to look at the brilliant, sexy, flirty day of Beltane for what it is: a spring holiday of fertility, and wondering to myself, how do I fit into this?


Historically Beltane was celebrated as a day for honoring the Goddess with lovemaking and flirtation; it was a day to revel in the freedom of a young body that had energy and elastic skin, strong bones and eyes sharp enough to see all the way across the bonfire to that cute young man over there. For me, Beltane was not about sex, per se, but about bouncy life and fresh green spring and putting on clothes that finally exposed some skin after a long cold winter. It was a time to glory in youth and newness.

But hey, I’m in my forties now. MID-forties. I’m feeling tightness and tugs in my body that I didn’t experience 20 years ago, and while I normally shrug these feelings off as natural, when I received my invitation to our local Beltane celebration, my tummy quivered. What happened to that girl who lived in this body 20, 25, 30 years ago?

I traveled to San Diego recently to speak at a great herb school there, and I got to visit Ocean Beach and indulge in the youth culture that swamps that little seaside village. It’s a vibrant town full of lithe young bodies in bikinis strutting up and down the sidewalk, and young people hawking friendship and philosophy on the corners. It is sunny and warm and green and kids are everywhere. And when I say kids, I mean college age young adults. This whole scene emphasizes to me how white my skin is from our long New England winter, how no one could pay me to put on a bikini right now, and how old I must be to be looking at all these 6-foot-tall 25-year-old beauties and thinking of them as “kids.”

Well. I returned from that trip to the grey dismal chill of Massachusetts and wallowed in my own little pity party for a week or so. Why does the Universe move forward the way it does? Why can’t we stop it for a bit and enjoy it right where we are, instead of aging?

It took a good warm, balmy breeze to set me straight. It blew gently across my garden (which is now sprouting garlic and chives) and right onto my pale, wintry skin. Warmth! A warm breeze. And I realized—just like that—that there was a perfectly good reason for the Universe doing what it does. The cycles of nature are what keep us young and alive and fresh—how could we possibly be excited about Beltane if we were constantly living in summer? Perpetual Litha sounds like a dream in January but to really experience nothing but sun and heat gives us no appreciation for the tiny pleasures of early spring—like the small and sudden warm breeze that indicates change is coming.

These cycles are the heart and soul of a Goddess culture; we need these rhythms to remind us that everything comes, and everything goes. The pattern of life-death-life and the cycle of cold-warm-cold…these are the rhythms of the Goddess and the breath of Her life. To be in my forties is not to be on the long, linear trajectory of one life. It is to be in the cyclic tour of many lives, infinite emotions, countless dreams. It is to be living my forty-fifth spring and enjoying the pleasures of this cycle again and again.

I fit into this sexy celebration of Beltane just fine—with a fiery, creative energy and a sexuality that honors the Goddess and her many faces. I welcome Beltane with its fires and its candles and its oil and its sunny food; I will wear my bikini this summer like a young Maiden and I will nurture my children like a Matron and I will wear purple, as they say, like a Crone. I will honor the Goddess in all her phases just as She generously honors me with all the phases of the Wheel of the Year.


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Award-winning herbalist and author Holly Bellebuono directs Vineyard Herbs Teas & Apothecary on Martha’s Vineyard, as well as The Bellebuono School of Herbal Medicine, a creative and welcoming program for those interested in pursuing the study of herbal formulary. Holly lectures internationally about natural health and women’s empowerment and has published three books: The Essential Herbal for Natural Health, The Authentic Herbal Healer, and Women Healers of the World: The Traditions, History & Geography of Herbal Medicine (foreword by Rosemary Gladstar). Holly lives on the island of Martha’s Vineyard with her family on their mini-homestead raising chickens, rabbits, firing up the blacksmith forge, and hiking wild island trails in search of magic.


  • DeborahMarchant
    DeborahMarchant Friday, 24 April 2015

    Thanks for the information.

    Over here in Puerto Rico there is an abundance of Beltane, and there is healthier air here too. That image of the outdoor fire, that is above this article, is Thank Goodness, rarely experienced in real-life here.

    Thanks for providing healthy-on-the-lungs/heart/brain suggestions on how to celebrate fiery Beltane -- like traveling to warmer climates, eating warming foods-like garlic, burning candles, and wearing & smelling warming oils.

    Thank you.

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