Spring Mysteries Festival Review

Spring Mysteries Festival Poster 2018
Spring Mysteries Festival Poster 2018

I have attended the Spring Mysteries Festival, hosted by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, many times. It’s really refreshing to be at a large complex multi-day ritual, that is so devotedly and competently done.

Some festivals are the land of the Party Pagan, whose main interest in festivals are in costumes and mead. While there are definitely attendees who fit this mold, this is a festival that isn’t shaped for that purpose, something that is a relief to me. Sometimes it feels like the more religious Pagans are few and hard to find. Based in this experience, the sincere dedication to ritual that deeply engages the gods and the participant, clearly and well executed in this festival is a joy.

As an ecstatic tradition Pagan and lesbian, my interest in the extremely heteronormative streams of Paganisms has been limited. The ATC has in the past been steeped in this valid but not-for-me stream of Paganism. I recall attending a non-mystery ritual there years ago which I had to leave mid ritual because of a requirement to direct energy opposite to the ways the Gods meant for me.  However, I was delighted, having been away for several years, to return finding that there was room for me and others like me to participate fully without having to compromise on how our energy runs.  All acts of love and pleasure, indeed.

So what actually happens there? Well, it’s a mystery. I can’t actually tell you much about the rituals – which are, well, a mystery. The nature of mysteries is that they don’t translate well to descriptions without corresponding experience.  To protect the power of this particular mystery, I’ve given my oath not to.

However, here is how the festival is described on the church’s website:

Since 1985, Aquarian Tabernacle Church has been continuing the Eleusinian Mysteries originally held in Ancient Greece. These mysteries, held every year in honor of Demeter and Persephone, explore universal concepts and truths from the perspective of the seeker of hidden knowledge. Our Priests and Priestesses spend 3-4 months preparing for the festival, working with the energies of the Gods and rehearsing the ritual drama that is presented over 4 days for hundreds of people each Easter Weekend.
Though the main portions of the event focus on Greek deities, there are many workshops and other groups that bring a plethora of alternate ways to explore, including the general mysteries of women, men and those who identify as a mixture of both energies. There is also a vendors space, with many often-requested items and trinkets to take home, and plenty of space for conversations or introspective moments.
Everyone who attends will come away transformed and with wonderful memories of their time in Eleusis.

What I can tell you is that it was personally profound for me, and that a Pagan with a sincere interest in opening her heart to the Gods will find much to nourish her there, as it did me.  You get out of it what you contribute, as is true of most things magical. It’s deepened my engagement with several of the Gods on a personal level, and with my matron Goddess in particular. I have attended at times of transition in my life and found it very valuable in seeing the way forward.

With group dormitories (old army barracks) it’s a good festival to go to with your coven. It’s also reasonably accessible for elders, but make sure you let them know about any mobility difficulties when registering.

Creating a Beltaine Ritual for Lovers

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7d/Beltane_Bonfire_on_Calton_Hill.JPGBeltane is a Pagan/Wiccan festival of sexuality and fertility, usually celebrated on the evening of April 30th or May 1st.  When celebrated in a group, the sexuality is usually symbolic, represented by dancing around the May pole – which yes, is representing just what you might think that is meant to represent, and the ribbons encasing it, also, exactly what you’d think. Similarly a chalice and blade may form the central imagery in other rituals. While the traditional imagery is heterosexual, this imagery can be adapted to any configuration of humans you enjoy, again, *all* acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals.  When celebrated privately, with just you and your lover, spouse or partner, the symbolism can be more direct, and can be customized to the bodies involved.

Celebrating Beltaine with a Partner

Celebrating Beltane with a partner can be beautiful, sacred, magical and smoking hot all at once. Connecting energetically/psychically and physically with a partner in sacred space and in the presence of the Gods deepens the experience, and can raise energy for a goal of your mutual choosing. If you’re new to Beltaine with a partner, here are some good places to start in planning your ritual.

Setting the Space for Sacred Sexuality

You can site your ritual either out in a growing field or forest, as is traditional, or within your own bedroom. Outside can be tricky to organize, unless you have private access to an outdoor space that feels right for you. Indoors, it’s a good idea to also ensure privacy and to adapt your bedroom or ritual space to fit the sacred space you’ll be creating. Some ideas for location can include:

  • On a blanket-altar on the floor in the living room or other ritual space
  • Inside a tent decked out as a temple in the outdoor location of your choice
  • In your freshly cleaned and tidied bedroom with candles and an altar on a bookcase or dresser and some wordless ritual music playing
  • On a blanket in the sun warmed soil of your garden before it is planted, or after seeds are in the ground (but not sprouted yet).
  • Under a particularly sacred tree.
  • In a cave (you may want to bring a heat source).

In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust

If you are getting up to sacred sexuality, I assume you already know how to cast a circle, call the directions, and invoke the Gods. I suggest casting a nice formal circle, and call the attributes of each direction or element that fit the themes of love and or fertility (if you’re trying to make a baby). As a priestess of Aphrodite, I almost always invoke Her when celebrating Beltaine, but your own matron or patron god is also a good choice. If you are celebrating with a partner who is willing to have ritual sex with you, but isn’t Wiccan, it’s a good idea to ask whether they feel comfortable with you invoking your gods, or to invoke the gods as qualities such as Love, Life, the Sacred, or Joy.

Purification

A ritual bath before casting the circle is a lovely thing to do. You can also anoint one another with oils that smell good to you or massage or bathe one another.

Five Fold Kiss

The five fold kiss is when you consciously and ritually kiss your partner on feet, knees, genitals, heart and lips. I’ve also seen it done as a 7 fold kiss on each of the chakra points. This is a good way to bless the other person’s body and can be done as slowly and thoroughly as you both like.  You may wish to say a blessing phrase with each kiss as well, such as “I bless your heart, which loves so bravely”.

Dedicating the Energy

After that make love in whatever way works well for you both, with a focus on being and staying present, staying open to one another’s energy, and touching one another with both love and pleasure. You may discover an extra energy dimension to your love making that may not have been there before. If an orgasm or two, or three happen, you can dedicate that raised energy to a goal you both agree to in advance.  If that’s not going to happen, the sacred care, attention and connection is the sacrament.  You get out of this kind of ritual the care, attention and love you put into it.

Devoke and ground

It’s a good idea to have some food and water available for after and to devoke the circle, even if you are planning to sleep, or perhaps to make love again after a rest.

I wish you and yours a blessed Beltaine. May all bodies and spirits be blessed.

 

Further Reading on Sacred Sexuality

A good accessible source for more information on sacred sexuality and designing sexual ritual is the book Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century  .

Inadvertently Pagan pop song #1 – Love Can Move Mountains

Mount Aetna, site of the workshop of the God Hēphaistos By BenAveling - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3350813
Mount Aetna, site of the workshop of the God Hēphaistos
By BenAveling – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3350813

One of the nice things about being Pagan is that the forces of life – earth, air, fire, water are held sacred by many people, which means that we can relate spiritually to much of popular culture, particularly music.

As a devotee of the Goddess of Love, many love songs have a double meaning to me. Songs that might seem over the top when sung to or about an actual person, make perfect sense when framed as coming to or from the Goddess of love.

Forge of Vulcan by Antoine Wiertz, 19th century. Public domain.
Forge of Vulcan by Antoine Wiertz, 19th century. Public domain.

I was dancing with some women last night and a song came on called ‘Love can move mountains”. It occurred to me that it works perfectly as a hymn to the power of Aprhodite. The power of love is such that it can transform anything. Aphrodite’s association with her husband Hephaistos, who lives under mount Vesuvious, adds another layer of meaning to the song. While we may at times lose faith in a particular love or experience of love, we cannot lost faith in Love herself.

Here’s the   text of the lyrics, written by Diane Warren and first recorded by Canadian vocalist Celine Dion in 1992

You can listen to her version here.  For a version that is, well, a little less Celine Dion, you can listen to this version sung by the young Sara Niemietz (or click on the album at right to see, stream or buy the album)

Lyrics to Love Can Move Mountains by Diane Warren

Faith
Trust
Love (love)
(Love can)
Love can move mountains
There ain’t a dream
That don’t have the chance to come true now
It just takes a little faith, baby
Anything that we want to do we can do now
There ain’t nothing in our way, baby
Nothing our love couldn’t rise above
We can get through the night
We can get through the light
Long as we got our love to light the way
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
With a little faith
Just a little trust
If you believe in love
Love can move mountains
Believe in your heart
And feel, feel it in your soul
And love, love can
Love can move mountains
Oh yeah, baby
Oceans deep and mountains high
They can’t stop us
Because love is on our side, baby
We can reach the heavens and touch the sky
Just believe it, believe in you and i, baby
If we got love that is strong enough
We can do anything, we’d get through anything
‘Cause through it all, love will always find a way
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Just a little faith
Just a little trust
If you believe in love
Love can move mountains
Believe in your heart
And feel, feel it in your soul
And love, baby, love can
Love can move mountains
You got to feel it, baby (trust love, love can move mountains)
You got to feel it, baby (trust love, love can move mountains)
(You need love)
You got to feel it, baby (trust love, love can move mountains)
Oh yeah
You believe in me
I believe in you
If we believe in each other
Nothing we can’t do
If we got love that is strong enough
Then we’ll find a way
Just a little faith
Just a little trust
If you believe in
Love can move mountains
Believe in your heart
And feel, feel it in your soul
And love, love can
Love can move mountains
Trust love, love can, love can move mountains (you need love baby)
Trust love, love can, love can move mountains (you got to feel it baby)
Love can, love can move mountains
Love (trust love, love can move mountains)
If you believe in me and I believe in you (trust love, love can move mountains)
We can believe in love, baby
Love will find a way (trust love, love can move mountains)
Love will find a way, baby
We’ll believe in each other (trust love, love can move mountains)
Oh, baby
Believe in love (trust love, love can move mountains)
Love can move mountains
Believe if you’re feeling love
Love
You got to believe it baby
You gotta, you gotta, you gotta
You gotta, you gotta, you gotta baby