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Dancing with Bright Fire: Celebrating Beltane

Sensuality, Prosperity, Abundance, & Play!

Kissed by Venus smiles into the sunshine in a green dress and gold jewelry, wearing a flower crown

Sunlight speckled the hood of my car, pouring through gaps in the leaves of bright green trees lining the dirt road as we hobbled over rocks and tiny streams. I kept my eye out to catch a glimpse of the faeries and woodland sprites that certainly danced in the beams of sunlight and the shadows of the tree roots - how could they not, when this forest teems with such enchantment and wonder?


I turned up the magical, medieval Renaissance music pouring from my dash and the sounds of flutes, lyres, and tambourines colored my senses with a thrill of childlike excitement. In just a few moments, I would pull into the dirt driveway of The Ranch - my destination, my retreat, for a mystical weekend celebration of Beltane.


I found my coven about a year and a half ago, when I was introduced to the kind, loving, sensual, mystical, and wise high priestess Nicole, a.k.a. The Earthereal Muse. Becoming fast friends, she invited me to join her and other close friends in ceremony to celebrate the holidays of the Pagan Wheel of the Year.


These gatherings are more than just an excuse to play with friends, to dance, sing, and indulge in other creative and meditative pleasures. The Sabbats, as they're called, connect us to the spirits of earth, sea, sky, and flame, to the seasons of the year and the cycles of the stars. They remind us that all life is interwoven in a complex web of give and take, creation and destruction, death and rebirth. We, as children of the Earth and of Intelligent Divinity, have a responsibility to nurture this life connection and protect each other in community.


a magical witchy altar adorned with candles, crystals, and flowers

Each Sabbat is an opportunity for us to reinvigorate our connection with the growing center of Gaia, the Earth Mother, and the plentiful blessings rained down by the Sky Father. Our bodies act as conduits between, and evidence of, their divine Love. With Beltane, this connection is emphasized as constantly in creation.


The Story of Beltane


The Ranch is a sanctuary tended to by a lovely couple who give Nicole the space and resources to host her annual Beltane retreat, a celebration of the Rites of Spring and Summertime bounty.


We began the weekend, adorned in our best whimsical finery, underneath an ancient oak tree. The altar at its roots held in safe hands a variety of trinkets, candles, and crystals of importance to all of us, the word "GATHER" taking center stage.


A spiral stone path ringed by mountains in the background

As we did a grounding meditation to connect to each other and the Earth, Nicole began to tell us the story of Beltane. Beltane calls in the energy of the Maiden-Enchantress (divine feminine in her most fertile form) and the Green Man (divine masculine in his), whose harmonious union brings new life and abundance to the Earth. By embodying these energies within us, we can access the blessings Beltane has in store.


After the opening ritual, we walked a stone spiral on the mountainside overlooking a gorgeous lake, the wind whipping at our clothes and grass buoying our bare feet like gentle hands holding us aloft.


There is no beginning and no end to our unfolding. We celebrate the spiral dance of life together as the Earth herself sprouts anew.

Beltane is known for blossoming "child" and "fae" energies. By playing games, dancing, and watching a creative circus performance illustrating the union of the Enchantress and the Green Man, I felt myself giddy as a child, carefree and taken care of in the safe space of friends old and new.


Discovering Joy


The realities of camping settled in sharper than usual for me after the first night. With my tent unfortunately overrun by bugs and damp from the cold, I retreated to the safety of sleeping in my car. I awoke feeling heavy and anxious, weighed down by something I couldn't quite pinpoint. I was in a beautiful woodland, playing dress-up and authentically connecting with intuitive and incredible people; what was wrong with me? Why wasn't I happy?


At breakfast, I sat down beside Matt and Joy, who struck up conversation with each other about their various healing disciplines. Matt is a psychotherapist who specializes in inner child work, and energetically is a "shapeshifter" of sorts who can take any unwanted energies from you and transform or release them through his own body. Joy, a bright shaman and healer from New Zealand (my favorite place!), went on to describe what it's like to be a "peacock person"- how peacocks eat venomous snakes and spiders and that's what makes the colors of their feathers so vibrant and lush.


"Peacock people are alchemists," she said. "Transmuting what is poison into something beneficial."
Kissed by Venus in a white dress with a flower crown, dancing with arms spread wide in an open field on a mountainside

As I pondered their conversation, they turned to me. "You are a peacock person, you know," Joy said, very matter-of-fact. "This conversation is as much for you as it is for us."


Meeting Joy's eyes felt like being seen for my truest self. She held such a pure calm and understanding in her gaze that it was difficult to hold her stare without tears welling to the surface in my own.


Keeping her eyes on me, Joy's brow furrowed. "You seem to be carrying something that isn't yours, love. It's blocking you from seeing yourself."


Though surprised by the statement, I nod, as this feels correct. Before I can ask what I could possibly be carrying, she asks, "May I do some work on you to try and remove it?"


I wasn't expecting to receive this much focused attention. A rush of self-consciousness floods through me, and I stifle my instinct to deny her attention. Instead, I close my eyes as she places her hands over mine.


After a moment of prayer, what appears to be sound healing from her voice resonating deep and musical notes, she releases me.


When she asks me again how I am feeling, I feel something melt away from my heart, an aching replacing it in my chest that feels somehow empty and full at the same time. I begin to cry silently, tears slipping down my cheeks as I struggle to keep my composure.


Joy looks at me brightly, seeing right into me. "There she is."

I felt raw, vulnerable. A deep sadness roiled within me, something I couldn't pinpoint, but at the same time I felt...Me. A weight had lifted from my shoulders, and all I had were my own feelings, my thoughts a simple line.


"You've taken on the weight of the world, haven't you?" Joy says, her voice playful and sympathetic. "You're an empath, and a strong one, too. Your energy field expands beyond what you can imagine, and you're doing brave work to transmute all the world's pain back into love. It's a tough job, which is why you need to learn how to cleanse yourself of any unwanted energies when you feel yourself anxious or taking on too much."


Though everything she said resonated within me like a gong smashing vibrations on my insides, my heart could only feel ache.


"Why is it," I asked, "that sometimes when I connect to Divine Love and I'm supposed to feel happy, all I want to do is cry?"


"You are made of love," Joy replied. "But you're holding a lot of grief. From many lifetimes."


And that's when it hit me: grief is an expression of love, unresolved. In order to clear it, I'd have to confront and release it head on.

But, that story is for another day. For today, it was time to celebrate Beltane, connecting with the forest and dancing my cares away.


Into the Fae Forest


After breakfast, we ventured into the forest for a silent walking meditation, where we pondered our individual connection to the various elements.


The forest was choked with fog, creating an ethereal, timeless feeling as we journeyed. I wouldn't have been surprised if we walked into another world entirely.



Our first contemplation was on the nature of WATER. Walking by the gurgling stream, the words that floated to the top of my consciousness were "movement." Water is in constant motion, cycling through various states of matter quickly and easily.


With water as our emotional body, intuition, and the feminine, the "cycles" of our bodies mirror cycles of water as it moves through us. The power of the flow is determined by the power of our intention.

We hiked up the hill toward a vast green plain, grasses swaying with dandelions in the chill breeze as fog curled around the treetops. Here, the lesson of AIR made itself known; that energy is flexible. As quick as a feeling or thought arrives, so it returns to the aether.


Our minds, our thoughts - those air-associated aspects of ourselves - are as powerful as a gale or as gentle as a breeze. Building on our emotional fortitude, air is the channel through which we whisper wishes.

Entering a shaded glen, sheltered from the cold by five great oaks, we touched the damp bark and pondered on the nature of EARTH. The overwhelming message I received from the trees was that the earth gives. She gives without concern because she knows what is taken will be returned.


Within the womb of Mother Gaia, everything is broken down and transformed into something new.

Finally, after heating our limbs with a brisk uphill hike through the mud, we reach the top of a mountain, overlooking the vast nothingness of the fog. Here we thank FIRE, which combines all elements that come before - earth is nourished by water, which evaporates into the wind, which fuels fire, which gives its ashes back to the earth.


Fire is the release - the cleansing, destructive energy needed before awakening, before the step into the unknown after all has been left behind.

Standing on that hilltop, I realized how we as humans are truly conduits between Earth and Spirit; how the heavens move through us to reach the Mother, and how the Mother reaches up to the sky with our hands to greet Divinity.


Sensual Ritual


As night chased the sun, we gathered into the warmth of the barn for evening performances and activities. Creating flower crowns to wear for tomorrow's dance around the May Pole, we laughed and enjoyed weaving the greenery in the face of an otherwise dreary day.


The crowd hushed as the sensual strings of a mandolin and other peculiar string instruments hummed throaty notes into the air. All of us dressed in our Beltane best, Nicole led the heart of our Beltane ritual: the ritualistic dance, merriment, and safe embrace of our personal sensuality.



Handed a cup of special mead made from the honey of a local farm, it went down easy, sticky sweet and warm down my throat, filled with our group's intentions of gratitude, joy, and playfulness on this special night.


The drumming began slowly, and people rose to their feet like smoke whispering from the tip of an incense stick. I felt the rhythm in my own heart, beating rapidly with excitement as my friends whooped, cheered, growled, and shrieked with delight.


It was time to dance, and I was aglow from the inside out! Satin curtains hung above our heads spiraled as I twirled in circles, catching eyes with my friends and laughing giddily together as we expressed ourselves fully, without remorse.


I felt all insecurities about my body, my movements, my dress, everything melt away into the hazey revelry of the room.

This, I realized, was the power of Beltane - the power of community.


Suddenly, we were rushed outside to chants of "Beltane! Bright Fire! Beltane! Bright Fire!" Before us, a bonfire blazed to life in a pit in the ground, with two stepping stones on either end.


It was time to leap the Beltane fire, a tradition passed down through the centuries. You leap from one chapter of your life into the next, the fire cleansing you of all that no longer serves you.


A blank page.


A fresh start.


I held my breath, and took the leap.


A New Chapter


Morning rose slow and warm, sunlight breaking through the clouds that stood so impenetrable the day before. Peace was interrupted by bouts of laughter and kind conversation, adding to the sparks of excitement in the air leftover from the night before.


A whimsical four-poster bed rests in a plush green field with a maypole in the background on a mountainside

I felt different - lighter and yet grounded, peaceful and happy. Whatever magic Joy performed to heal me finally settled in, as did the medicine of dance and ritual. Kicking off my shoes, I walked barefoot in the grass until breakfast, a luxury I was eager to take advantage of.


First order of business was our dance around the May Pole, another Beltane tradition representing the coming together of masculine (pole) and feminine (ribbons wrapped around it). It's a chaotic group weaving, filled with laughter and plenty of mistakes, but the end result is a beautifully woven tapestry of our collective effort, unity, and play.



The final activity of the weekend was a creative salon, a space for us to share our creative gifts of music, poetry, and performance. With a musical offering of my own, I took the stage to sing in my favorite green dress, a dear friend accompanying me on guitar. Premiering my cover of "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Grows)" with only a little nervousness, I was able to put all my feelings of growth and gratitude into the music, showering my friends with all my love.


Then, all too soon, it was time to go home.


The drive back through the forest was just as sunny and magical, only a little more quiet as I gently contemplated my time here.


It felt like I'd ended a book but begun the sequel, in a sense. I move about the world differently now.

I value my creative voice so much more than I ever have in the last few weeks alone. I realized how much of me was held back by self-doubt and self-sacrifice, by giving away too much of myself and not leaving any compassion for me. Not only am I worthy of love, but I am MADE of love. The love I give is received and amplified, expanded to every dimension. That is the superpower I discovered on my Beltane journey.


three women celebrate Beltane with smiling faces, posing for a picture in their finest whimsical garb

And you, dear reader, will reap the benefit of this transformation. I intend to be more vocal about my personal experiences here, about how impactful these spiritual experiences are on me personally - for better, and for worse - as I embark on my journey. There is so much more to say, so much to stand up for, that I cannot possibly silence myself any longer.


But for now, I will treasure these Beltane blessings, sharing them with you. More to come soon.


With all my love,


Anastasia

Kissed By Venus

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