Planet Waves

New York, May 2, 2014 | Listen to Planet Waves FM | Chelsea (206) 567-4455

Mid-Spring Holiday: Beltane

Dear Friend and Reader:

Next up in our procession of many interesting astrological developments, we arrive at Beltane, an annual event -- the celebration of rebirth, of love and of abundance. This is our background contrast to what you've read about above. Beltane is when the Sun reaches the midpoint of the Aries equinox and the Cancer solstice. It is a balancing point and an energy center of the solar year. Because the Sun is between two of the quarter days (equinox and solstice), it is in aspect to the Aries Point, which funnels energy and emphasis into the current zone of the zodiac.

The dark themes we've been seeing with this year's Beltane are not just the result of the current astrology. In November, at Samhain (pronounced sah-wen) and Days of the Dead, we experienced an unusual solar eclipse conjunct Saturn in Scorpio.

Eclipses intersecting Taurus and Scorpio place an emphasis on the relationship that these two ancient festivals are designed to remind us of, the cycle of nature that involves death/surrender/transformation and sex/rebirth/union of male and female polarities.

Planet Waves
Photo by Eric Francis.
It is not surprising that we are seeing and feeling reverberations of last November's eclipse in our present moment. Even without eclipses to add gravitas to both seasons, they offer a deeply influential polarity that is being given extra emphasis and momentum by exact Sun-Moon alignments.

This may make it challenging to bring yourself into the present and focus on the current season, but then again it can also fill you with determination to be here now.

Beltane is a way of thanking the Goddess for the truth that all wealth comes from the Earth. Far from being a theoretical idea, I consider this a basic, well-demonstrated fact of nature.

Last week I described a diversity of sexual crises our culture is wrapped up in, particularly the notion that all sex must have a victim, and what is becoming a serious crisis around the concepts of yes, no and maybe.

I am not sure it's occurred to anyone that the struggles our society faces around the issue of wealth and abundance (both 'the economy' and the issues of individuals), and our crisis of being able to express our sexuality with a clear conscience, may be aspects of the same scenario.

The energy center where they meet is Beltane -- the nexus of sexual expression and acceptance of natural wealth. The ancient ritual is simple -- sex outside, with the intent of gratitude. I don't consider this sex magic. I consider it a natural way to celebrate life and the Earth, affirming something that is, if you look, plainly true: we are supported entirely by the Earth, and we are created by procreation. If not for sex, nothing made by human hands would exist, because there would not be anyone to make it. Sex and money involve the same basic gesture of opening up to the flow of existence.

If outside is not practical, then improvise. The spirit of the gesture is what counts, as is the shared intentions of the people involved -- and connecting with the season. Be aware that what is called Hieros Gamos, which translates to the union of god and goddess, is one of the most potent and profound rituals there is; be respectful and go slowly. Work with the real meaning of consent, which is to feel together.

In contemporary times, another message of Beltane has emerged: that of selflove and self-given sex. Back in the 1990s, May was declared Masturbation Month by the Good Vibrations toy store, and among many sexpositive people, the idea caught on. Taurus is imbued with this message, and the combination of the Sun-Moon event, plus Juno, describes self-marriage.

If we live in times where the lines of sexual consent are blurred and where nearly all sex is perceived to have a victim, masturbation is the first form of sex we can be sure is fully consensual. It's worth mentioning that old-timey (and many modern) opponents of masturbation describe it as self-abuse (as in self-rape) but that, I perceive, is just more fraud perpetuated by hucksters of the death cult who would seek to divide us from ourselves.

Planet Waves
Photo by Eric Francis.
The association of May with masturbation would suggest that a new way to look at Beltane is the meeting of the male and female polarities within us. I would propose that is where sexual healing begins.

I am reluctant to present anything as a panacea, but I will go so far as to say that masturbation, by which I mean consciously seeking understanding of selfsexuality, is a workable first approach to nearly any sexual question, problem or challenge. In our era when the lines of identity between partners are often blurred, selfsex says 'I am me, and you are you'. In our era of cultivated codependency, masturbation is a uniquely independent sexual experience. Amidst much insistence of sexual identity (and related politics), masturbation is the one thing that all sexes, genders and sexual orientations have in common.

Since most of our sexual problems involve lack of self-knowledge and self-awareness, fear of the other, the hyper-polarization of the sexes, projection of both desire and blame onto the opposite sex, and dependency on others, selfsex is a fantastic place to start the healing process. Other sexual crises we face include homophobia and paranoia about sexual diseases. Selfsex allows a reprieve from these things.

There are many young people who, if they were told about masturbation in a friendly way, and were told that it's really OK, would not be so driven to get off on others before they've figured themselves out some.

One way to help a teenage girl stay focused on herself is to give her a vibrator or sex toy as a gift. The reason I say this is because most boys don't need much in the way of supplies to masturbate, but most girls will benefit from a sex toy. In my opinion this is a fully appropriate 'rite of passage' gift from a mother to a teenage girl. Be creative and you can come up with something comparable for boys in your household.

Note, I am not proposing masturbation as a substitute for partnersex or for comprehensive sex education -- to the contrary. It is an essential element of both. I am, in this commentary, proposing it as an option that is fully appropriate for young people who are still learning about themselves and not mature enough to handle the responsibilities of partnersex.

Planet Waves
Photo by Eric Francis.
One mistake adults may make is assuming that young people will figure it all out on their own. Most people will feel some guilt about masturbation and need to be told it's OK. They may have been given exactly the opposite message in Abstinence Indoctrination class in school or in church.

The best rite-of-passage gift you can give to a young person is information. The book Our Bodies, Ourselves belongs in every household, library and cafe bookshelf. Another dependable book that helped spark sexual consciousness is Sex for One. There are other essential books, including The Joy of Sex and Sexual Secrets. There is also a fantastic website called Scarleteen that I recommend.

Note, I do not recommend most books or other materials on 'tantra' as they conflate spirituality with sex, which I believe is confusing and can be misleading. What we need are clear, factual and open-minded materials about sex that do not include dogma or moralism of any kind.

Meanwhile, returning to the topic of masturbation, there are many older people who need a rest from constant attempts at or involvement in sexual relationship who would benefit from a phase of devoted self-exploration.

One great thing about selfsex is that it's something you can do outside of a 'committed relationship', whether alone or with others. There are some friendships that will accommodate it nicely. I don't mean touching one another, by the way -- that is partnersex. I mean witnessed or shared selfsex.

Many people in partnerships (whether interesting or sexually stagnant) could light their erotic lives on fire by exploring selfsex together. It's a great way to open up, stoke your curiosity and do that exhibitionist/voyeuristic thing that humans just love to do. Part of that ritual can involve the open sharing of fantasies, a great way to get compersion going. Before you look that up, I define the term as sexual empathy.

I have written more about this in the series It's Not About Sex, It's About Self, which is available free to anyone and is suitable for teens. And there is plenty in Book of Blue (my own ongoing project), which is available by request.

In any event, 'tis the season to raise energy and praise the goddess of love and abundance -- however you choose to do it. One last thing -- Beltane is also known as The May. This weekend is a focal point, but the season lasts a little while. So choose your moments and have fun.


Planet Waves (ISSN 1933-9135) is published each Tuesday and Friday morning in Kingston, New York by Planet Waves, Inc. Annual subscription rate: $88/year. Editor and Publisher: Eric Francis Coppolino. Business Manager: Chelsea Bottinelli. Web Developer: Anatoly Ryzhenko. Research, Writing and Editing: Planet Waves is produced by a team consisting of Hillary Ghee, Elizabeth Michaud, Amanda Painter, Amy Silver, Carol van Strum, Len Wallick and Chad Woodward. Special thanks to the Fact Checkers List, which goes over each edition on Thursday night -- and to our main astrology fact-checker Alex Miller, and Amanda, who goes over all their suggestions. Our editions are also proofread and fact-checked by Jessica Keet.

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