Pagan Holiday

A Faerie ritual in the woods becomes more than an excuse for lots of sex.

As I daubed my partner’s asshole with glitter, I wondered, “Can I go through with this?”

We were preparing for a Walpurgisnacht drag show at a Faerie retreat last month, but my mind wasn’t on the performance, or even on my look. (The stained muumuu and fuchsia fright-wig I used to create my Beltane fantasy were fierce as fuck.) I was musing on the curious dual sensations of wanting to display my lover’s anus to its best effect, wondering if eagerness would be my downfall.

I’ve been on a quest to rediscover trust and intimacy and open up to honest communication. This journey had brought me home to my tribe. Discovering the Radical Faeries — an eclectic movement of queer neo-pagans and sexual revolutionaries — two years ago had allowed me to touch the human being under my hardened attitudes, and that initial crack in the shell had allowed a baby chick to emerge. I like to think that although I’m a wobbly flamingo, at least I have spunk.

I’ve celebrated Beltane every year since arriving in the Bay Area. The rising interest in alternative spirituality have brought forward a reemergence of this Gaelic May Day festival, which celebrates growth and renewal, as well as asking for protection for the coming year. I’d been a dilettante with several religious and social experiments throughout my adulthood, and in these wanderings through philosophies and attitudes, remained an observer of human behavior. But upon my first arrival at the Faerie campground two years ago, a curious sense of relief washed over me.

Part of the comfort I felt was the overall aura of sex that wafted through the forest. In all of my sexual wanderings, never had I actually come close to experiencing anything as true Sex Magick. (The ritualistic use of potent sexual force tends to end up as wishful thinking through fucking.) Once I walked into those woods, I felt a quickening in my crotch: Here was a place where you can express all forms of sex, I was taken aback by how much I needed an outlet.

I craved healing. I felt my soul responding to new ideas, opening new doors to perception and just a fucking fecundity that needed release. The imagery of the festival, centered around the erect phallus of the Maypole, celebrates a regression to the primal. My relationship to spring had always been strained. Easter was always a mawkish going-away party for Jesus, something no amount of chocolate bunnies could compensate. And nothing could dispel my growing horniness.

And the Faeries understood that. In my everyday life, I hid my quiet chants, my mantras, and superstitions away from others, too embarrassed to admit that I avoided ladders, read a daily horoscope, and seriously considered relationships solely on whether their Sun sign aligned with mine. Participation in public was an admission of guilt: that I wasn’t in control, but a frightened child desperate to divine meaning in the entrails of my mind. Here, I was safe to explore who I was and who I wanted to develop into.

Last year, dancing around the bonfire high on mushrooms, I stumbled into the arms of a golden boy, who dragged me back to his cabin and promptly passed out on top of me. Waking in his arms the next day, on Walpurgisnacht, the bonfire night before May Day, we started a relationship that has celebrated the primal inside. I wanted to return and give thanks.

So, there I was, gently painting his hole a cheerful orange, and making sure that the spangles caught the light, when I paused with the fear that this might be our last Beltane. The freedom of an open relationship scares me still. I never trusted myself with freedom. I’m always taking too much, and giving too little, like dining-and-dashing at the Sizzler.

I froze, thinking there was someone else who could get the same love from my partner as me. The cold hands of co-dependency tapped my shoulder. Then I thought of the spell I wanted to cast. Not on anyone, but on myself — as all spells come back to you anyway. I want to be free of fears of the future. I’m middle-aged and have lived much longer than I had allocated for myself. A late-in-life partnership was miracle enough, and if that family can expand, my heart will learn to expand, as well.

If the Beltane fires brought him into my world, then why deny what else or who else it could bring?

I am ashamed of parts of my past, so I cling to the present, and I fear the future. I think many of us do. Our Wicker Men are filled with aspects of our personality that need to be burned, and sometimes we need to be reminded to make sure our assholes sparkle.

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