I am your Beltane buzzkill

Today is Beltane, and I know what you are thinking.

You are thinking about Maypole dances and frolicking in the woods, about sex as a sacrament of the sacred. You are thinking about rising with the dawn to bathe your face in the dew and carollers on Magdalene tower singing “Sumer is icumen in”. You are thinking about Julie Andrews as Guinevere singing “The Lusty Month of May” and group rituals you can’t attend because of lockdown. You are sighing heavily and googling “solitary Beltane ritual”.

I’m not thinking about those things. I’m looking out my ninth-floor window, watching the birds wheel by, watching the clouds gather and move on, gather and move on, and thinking about an older Beltane. I’m thinking about the Beltane of old Ireland, when two great bonfires were built and the cattle were driven between them, for protection, for purification, before they were led out to pasture for the summer. I’m thinking about Beltane as the mirror of Samhain, a spooky time when the Fair Folk are trooping and if you wander into the wrong part of the woods, you might not come back.

Should we be lighting the bonfires and driving our cattle between them? Should we run between them to be purified of the virus? Are the Fair Folk roaming the empty streets and smelling the flowers while we stay indoors? I don’t know. All I know is that I, myself, have never felt less like Beltane.

POEM: A prayer to Antinous Belenos

O Antinous Belenos,
lord of this day, friend of Flora,
lady of the white track,
hunter who with your lover
Hadrian the wise and prudent
brought down the terrible boar:
hear our prayer and hunt the boar
that still rages among us;
the boar that feasts on women,
the boar that charges same-sex love,
the boar that tramples trans folk,
the boar that fears and hates Eros.
Hunt down the terrifying boar
that always threatens lovers,
that gores and gashes any kind of love
that is not restriction and repression,
hierarchy and domination,
the master and his property.
Hunt down the boar of hatred,
O mighty Antinous Belenos,
so that all lovers may love
free of fear and free of chains.