I was going to write a light philosophical musing about the range of Beltane practices in the pagan community, from the visceral and orgiastic to the fully academic, but instead I find myself focused on something else.
For years, I buried passion in compassion, earthing it down and keeping it tightly reined. My sexuality was something deeply private, even its *existence* shared only with the few partners who managed to make it through the intellectual and emotional obstacle course to my bed, and even then I didn't always admit the most powerful truth: it's not the act of sex that pleases me, but the exchange of desire. Inexperienced and fumbling, lacking the right vocabulary or even a complete understanding of my own feelings, I could never fully explain that it mattered far less how a man touched me than it did whether or not his hands shook with pure need as he did it. Being wanted wholly, utterly, helplessly has always been my greatest aphrodisiac.
The face I showed the world was one of service, kindness, duty, compassion, hiding my more feral impulses beneath a calm, smooth, helpful smile. I was considered, by many who knew me, as prudish, repressed, even frigid. Some of this came from my own acceptance of the idea that lust was something only thin, pretty, socially normalized girls got. As a fat girl who's been more than once described as 'sort of plain', I assumed that my chances to be truly desired would be few and far between. The events surrounding my marriage, which don't bear going into here, only served to reinforce that assumption, to add yet another layer of "so much is clearly wrong with you that your lust could only ever be a burden to its targets, gratified as an act of pity or mercy."
For years, I believed that anyone in whom I felt a sexual interest would be embarrassed by the knowledge, and if he were sufficiently generous of spirit, he could bring himself to accept and perhaps even indulge my desire without showing his revulsion. I cannot begin to count how many men I watched, hopeless, fiercely hiding any evidence of my interest to spare them. Even when I could manage to admit it, I was circumspect to the point of nonchalance, and probably gave the impression of lukewarm interest instead of the burning passion I felt. Very few men saw through it, and I wish now I'd made it easier on them to love me. (I'm sad to say that some of you, reading this, have probably missed out on a certain amount of what I imagine would have been pretty incredible sex, as a result of my fear. Sorry about that.)
Each year, Beltane came and went, and I buried myself in academic musings about personal creativity and intellectual fertility, shying away from the true celebration of desire, of lust, of the sheer blissful sharing of intimacy as a sacred act. I said, "This is not really one of my holidays." I feigned disinterest in the romps and celebrations of my friends, while secretly wishing I could join their headlong burning. I so tightly bound and constrained my own expressions of desire that they only rarely woke reciprocal desire in others, and when they did I found myself thrown off balance and inclined to deny them entirely.
Just before I moved to Texas, that began to change. I began to work with fire magic, and I learned that you can't actually hold a flame suppressed indefinitely. It must be given freedom to burn, to shine, to glow as it will. Before I was able to move into safely holding and working with fire in any meaningful capacity, I had to address my own desires -- not just sexual -- and acknowledge them as valid and worthy. I had to learn to make "I want" statements without feeling I was a penitent asking for a favor. I had to stand, open to the gods and myself, and admit that desire is a sacred prayer, a ritual of will, an expression of being alive. This led me to the practice of sacred sexuality, to the idea that all acts of intimacy can be joyful rituals of shared love and lust.
This Beltane, I choose to formally honor my desire, to acknowledge that I am grateful for passion's presence in my life. I honor the gods with my spirit, and with my heart, and with my body. I begin from a willingness to accept my own wants and needs as valid parts of my experience in this life, and I embrace my nature as a sexual being. I will not be embarrassed by or ashamed of my own lust, and I will not hide from what I desire. I will offer to share my passion as I will, and on my own terms, with no constraint beyond my respect for the boundaries of others. And when the opportunity for shared and passionate joy comes into my life, I will not suppress it, will not temper that passion with the fear that I am giving too much, delving too deeply, flying too close to the sun. This Beltane, I join that headlong burning, that spinning arc of sunward longing, that visceral and joyous celebration.