Sexy at Beltane

My experience of sex in Paganism is that too often it feels limited rather than spacious. It being Beltane, I am of course feeling conscious of how hetramormative a lot of Pagan expression around Beltane tends to be. Sex magic and sex in ritual bother me especially – I say this based on what I’ve read, and on symbolic acts in rituals I’ve been to, which no doubt colours my perspective, but it’s not something I’ve done, in no small part because it has never appealed to me.

I’m uneasy about harnessing sex for power or for ritual. It feels limiting. For me, if there’s going to be magic, it’s going to emerge from the unexpected. The magic will be in the moment, and the more contrived that moment is, the less likely I am to find magic in it

I’m uneasy too about the way ideas of sex in ritual and magic focus very much on heterosexual and penetrative sex. Most obviously it excludes queer folk and I’m glad to see more people questioning this every year. It excludes asexual folk as well, and people whose paths have called them to chastity. Focusing on sexual fertility we can miss out on a lot of other forms of fertility. Focusing on sexual love, we can miss out on the many other ways that love can manifest, for us as individuals as well as between people.

Too much focus on sex can take us away from what is sensual, as well. This has been on my mind a lot this week, I’ve posted about dancing and about skin, and I’m currently exploring how to be in my skin more fully as a living being. There are so many things about modern life that encourage us only to show up with our brains. There are a lot of things about how we handle sex culturally that encourage us to only show up with our genitals.

To be a sensual being is to be in a state of physical relationship with the world. It is sun on skin and wind in hair, it is the touch of long grasses, the brush of leaves, as well as what contact we might have with other mammals. Water on skin, bodies in water, the warmth from a fire, the taste of wine… ritual itself offers us the opportunity for all kinds of sensual experiences that we might find sexy but that don’t require us to act in a sexual way.

I’m interested in how to broaden the possibilities. To be sexy without necessarily having to be sexual. To be sensual without necessarily having to be sexy. To be sexy and sensual and sexual all at the same time. To chose how that works, how to express and explore and share it – that seems powerful to me. It seems like a path towards personal transformation and a path that could open up all kinds of magical experience for me. It calls for spaciousness. It raises the question of what we get if we use sex in a ritual context, versus what we might get if we explore the sensual potential of ritual actions to open to the way for whatever magic then follows.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Sexy at Beltane

  • dangerouscompassions

    this is really beautiful and important. I’ve been thinking too about how so much of modern life my brain is considered pertinent, and the rest of me, we’re supposed to politely pretend doesn’t exist. if i store trauma in my body, maybe therapy should involve my body. or if we have all these seratonin receptors in our bellies, maybe we should admit that gut feelings are trustworthy, not just something like superstitious distraction. reason is only one tool.

    also yeah the power of nuance. a certain type of sex is such a small sliver of possibility. I’d rather be open to much more, in ritual and always.

    thank you for the ideas– appreciating you!

  • ingvenning

    I love this post! I am actually wanting to write an essay about sexuality in pagan ritual for homosexuals, non-binary persons, asexual persons, and others who don’t fall into heteronormative and cisgender categories. Unfortunately, it’s in the list of back-back burner projects at the moment… so, while I’m sure I’ll get to it, it may be a while.

  • locksley2010

    Running a Moot with members ranging from the straight and LBGQT+ spectrums of sexuality, I tend to avoid the emphasis on sex. Mainly because I want everyone included and that looking into Irish myth and folk tradition, I have concluded that Beltane as a fertility festival is a recent influence. Instead, we focus on the fertility of the land and how creative forces can help with new projects, manifesting ideas and spells and, to go with tradition, protection.

    Does Beltane have to be about sex? I don’t believe it does. If couples want to include that as part of the energies of the season, then that’s up to them. But no one should feel pressured into having sex (hetero, homo and other) against their will “Just because it’s Beltane”. Or ever, for that matter.

  • Yvonne Aburrow

    Excellent post. I’ve always said that the sexuality in ritual should be sublimated Eros rather than full-on sex. I have an entire chapter on it in my book (“Dark Mirror: the Inner Work of Witchcraft”). I’ve also written about it on my blog.

  • roselle angwin

    I don’t want in any way to fall into being divisive as I think that the boundaries are very blurred, but I was just reading yesterday how the difference between modern druidry and wicca consists in how much public sexuality is emphasised – or not.

    I think this whole area is interesting, and ultimately down to the individual, but I rather agree with you Nimuë that it can seem too prescriptive (and proscriptive) in fullblown ritual, to me, leaving out room for spontaneity and enchantment; and with Yvonne, above, that Eros is perhaps best expressed in more subtle ways (and there are many ways of expressing Eros beyond the phsyical-sexual).

  • AlexaJade

    Beautifully worded post. 💛 sex is not everything.

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