Actually, booze has absolutely nothing to do with this article, I just needed another "B" for the title. But while we're mentioning it, why not check out Hookers and Booze? With a name like that, I know you want to. Go ahead, treat yourself.
As for the topic at hand: Beltaine is right around the corner, brothers, sisters, and aspiring Wiccletts. For the cowan folk, that would be the right randy 1st of May. What is Beltaine, you might ask?
Of the eight seasonal festivals celebrated or observed by Wiccan folk, Beltaine is one of the big two...to my mind on par with Samhain, if not of even more importance. As with each of the Sabbats, Beltaine has some significance with regard to the pastoral and agrarian cycles, but I'll not bore you with that. Honestly, as a modern Wiccan, all of that stuff has very little importance for me, except as a reminder of the seemingly cyclical nature of things. Oh, and as supportive backround to the Wheel of the Year mythos. But other than that, I'm sure most would join me in caring less about the planting and harvesting of crops. However, there is a much deeper significance to Beltaine that speaks to the core of Wiccan understanding and practice as I see it.
If we forget all of the seasonal cycles and hippy-dippy stuff that much of mainstream Wicca is bogged down with, and if we cast aside the oddly whimsical temptation to flood our theological thinking caps with mix and match deities from various pantheons, inevitably Wicca boils down to a very simple focus point, that of the God and the Goddess. For this humble 43rd degree (level, for the D&D crowd) Wiccan Master of all things dark and wycked, this is the absolute heart of the path, and indeed of the Craft.
I've not yet related here exactly how I came to this path, and this is prehaps something I shall have to remedy in the near future. But suffice it to say that as with most, I too came from a Christian background. Finding this path, however, was far easier than navigating it, at least in the beginning. Like with many Christians, there are those who claim they were called to it, and I believe that the same was true for me. However, once I got here and looked around, I was not all that impressed, quite frankly. Nonetheless, the Goddess continued to whisper to me, beckoning me to continue further. And so I did, thus beginning the long and laborious effort to sift the precious golden wheat from a mountain of chaff. I am grateful that I did, for when I looked at it's core, without all of the haphazard and unintuitive trappings heaped upon it by generations of neo-hippies, I found perhaps the most beautiful of divine revalations; as the faith is of the God and the Goddess, the practice is of man and woman.
Now this is certainly a controversial thing to say in these days of dogmatic political correctness. Unless I am willing to include the full gamut of sexual preferences, including french sheep-shaggers (pardon the redundancy) I would assume, then I run the very serious risk of being labeled a homophobe, or some sort of "-ist." So be it. While we seem to have this bizarre need to be insanely inclusive, the truth is that Wicca was never intended to be anything but exclusive. Therefore I in this sense have become one of the "old guard" who reject the big tent philosophy wherever it requires the sacrifice of more important theological and natural principles. So while I support the rights of persons to seek love where they may find it, this does mean I maintain that Wicca is best suited to the worship of the God and Goddess by men and women with natural understandings. This is, to me, the primary spirit and beauty of Wicca. Likewise, this is also the spirit and beauty of Beltaine.
The basic story of the Wheel of the Year is one of a perpetual Goddess who gives birth to and eventually marries and mates with the God, who is caught in a never ending cycle of death and rebirth. I've always found this mythos disturbingly perverse with its incestuous implications and the feminist preference for an immortal Goddess who never dies while an almost seemingly mortal, and therefore inferior God is doomed to die repeatedly. But all of that aside, the more important element is the story of the courtship and eventually the marriage of the two. And within the Wheel of the Year, Beltaine is certainly the most important Sabbat for what it represents in the relationship of the God and Goddess, of the masculine and feminine, and of man and woman.
Traditionally the greatest of fire festivals, Beltaine is a season of passion. In the context of the divine relationship, it is representative of the heiros gamos, or the divine marriage, and highlights the consumation of that marriage as a predominant feature. For the bashful, it should be noted that WIccans (and Pagans overall) are generally far more positive about sex than the more timid mainstream, embracing it as a natural, and even a spiritual function that is not worthy of shame (although yours truly believes that it is still an intimate function and not for being obnoxiously paraded). So it should come as no surprise that we have a significantly important religious "holiday" that features it prominantly.
But beyond the blatantly obvious theme of physical sexuality, there is even greater depth to the understanding of this divine marriage. The joining is not merely one of a physical nature, it is also of the mental, emotional, and spiritual. The joining is literally of two polar opposite becoming one unified whole. Where the Goddess and the God come together, each ceases to be merely themselves and to become one, or as some in the Craft might say, they are then "the One."
To us, that which many refer to as "God" is viewed in terms of the masculine and feminine divine. This is quite intuitive for a species which is divided evenly amongst those very same divisions (along with most others). The path for us is therefore necessarily one of understanding and honoring the qualities of the other, our dependance upon one another, and the negation of our divide through union with the other. In this manner we are able to see the spark of divinity in our spouse or partner, and in a sense, come to know heaven on earth.
And this is why I believe that Beltaine is the most important of the Sabbats, as it represents clearly the most important aspect of Wiccan theology, the union of the God and the Goddess. Likewise, it is a celebration of man and woman as representatives of these, and provides our most clear understanding of the ultimate reality, which is the polarity based nature of Akasha, or the One ("God").
So whether Wiccan or not, take this upcoming May 1st to step back and truly appreciate he or she who is yours. Forget the imperfections, we all have them. Put aside your quarrels, even if only for a day. Look past all of the faults, real or percieved, and know this: She has in her the spirit of the Goddess, and she therefore is the Goddess. He has in him the spirit of the God, and he therefore is the God. Without the other, each is at best merely half of what we are called to be.
"Love is the law..." - A.C.