As I practice and have described it, the tenth Principle of Atheopaganism is responsible sensuality: the cultivation of pleasure for its own sake, so long as in doing so we are not harming others or the Earth.
It’s May Day weekend, that sexy festival of fertility and passion, so now is a good time to write a bit more about this.
I’m somewhat wistful about lost experiences of Pagan joy back in the bad old 80s. Yes, we were clueless and somewhat irresponsible—and some had miserably bad personal boundaries—but there was real freedom and joy in dancing naked about a Maypole, in sharing touch and pleasure with friends and comrades as well as with lovers. I have golden memories of laying in May morning grass with friends, drinking wine after an all-night Walpurgisnacht ritual, laughing and kissing and watching the day dawn, anticipating the Maypole dance to come. I imagine there is someone out there still doing that, but I hear this lament a lot, and so I assume that it isn’t as common as once it was.
We’ve learned a lot in the past 30 years, and most of it is important lessons. We’ve come a long way in understanding what consent is about, and about safety and responsibility. The leftover 1960s mentality of just doing whatever feels good has thankfully been leavened with some genuine adult responsibility, and that is to the good. Certainly in the tragic examples of abuse that have come to light in the community we have seen that too much of a blind eye was turned to some behavior that really needed to be called out, and I think that in our so-sensitive modern times such predatory activity has much less of a chance to thrive.
But I write here to put in a word for going for it, presuming there is adult consent. Drink that wine. Eat that luscious strawberry. Dare to suggest that fantasied activity. Find a place in the woods—or the living room— and lay down with that woman, or man…or both.
Life is short. Make memories!
A major change in the United States over the past 30 years has been that nearly everyone is in the jaws of tremendous economic stress. Even those who are well employed are often one or two paychecks from disaster. It is hard to feel freedom when you feel pent in on all sides by threats to your survival.
And yet we must.
We must seize the moments that are given to us. We are Atheopagans, people of the Earth who know pleasure as a birthright, not a source for shame. As Mary Oliver has it, let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
For at the end of the day, hard though our lives can sometimes be, we are blessed.
Happy May Day, everyone.
I am among the blessed.
I am of the kind who leaves the glaring tube, remembering
And goes to watch the moon rise silver through the trees
Breathing purple and chill, stinging pine. I am
Among the blessed: I know the acacia, the first daffodil,
The irises unsheathing cream and violet labia in the green wet of May.
I tune for the new music on the radio: I turn it up.
I am among the blessed: I drink wine by firelight, clothes rank with smoke,
Bright silver twisted through my lobes. I know secrets;
They are tattooed on my body where the sleeves can cover them,
Blessed, and only if we are lucky enough, you and I, courageous enough
To shed our clothes together will you read them. Seeing scarlet leaves drift down,
Perhaps, with ice around the moon, or the steel bones of the oaks against Orion,
Knowing we are among the blessed, that we miss nothing, that we will eat this life
Like a chocolate mango, like Beethoven ice cream, like silver roses
Moaning our joy with each sweet bite