Sexuality in the Celtic Year

By Marta

Nature festivals…, which mark the beginning and end of each season, orient us within the great round of terrestrial life.  They align our social and psychological lives with the rhythms of growth and decay, light and dark, outward turning and inward turning.  By aligning our conscious selves with the rhythms and cycles of outer nature, we invite and support the embodied expression of our souls, our inner nature.            — Soulcraft, by Bill Plotkin

Sexual magic is about experiencing oneself as a source, the giving of that, the spending of that has always been a feature of sexual magic literally. But in energetic work it is the experience of giving, not what is given, that is important.                                 — John Hawken (Sexual Magic notes)

       The Celtic festivals describe the round of the seasons, how things grow and change, increase and decrease, expand and contract,are born and die. What makes this seasonal round so powerful for us as humans is that this cycle is sexual; it is the fertility cycle of the year, from seed to plant, to fruit and back again to seed. This cycle mirrors the movement not just of our own sexual cycle as humans, but the journey we make through life, from birth to death, and beyond. Each point in our life as man or as woman is part of this great cycle, and has a sexual expression and connection with the world we live in. The importance of experiencing our sexuality in this way is obvious: the more we see ourselves as part of nature, as mirror and as mirroring, the more we can learn to understand, love, and nourish our connection with the natural world, and perhaps heal some of the hurt that alienation and exploitation have caused in our time.

         In our experience of learning and practising western Tantra, as a couple and as teachers, it became very clear that we as humans have lost touch with the cyclic quality of our sexuality and of our life force. For us, just practising the powerful structures, meditations and ritual of western Tantra was not enough, we needed to make a connection to our indigenous roots, to the Celtic cycle of the year, to make sense of it all, in a wider context, beyond the relationship between man and woman and into the relationship between man/woman and the natural world that holds us. Above all, we wanted be more in touch with the sexual relationships between ourselves and our world, how we give and receive from nature at all times of the year, in darkness and in light. 

      The Celtic festivals offered us that link. If we can stop and celebrate, sexually, each of these powerful gateway points in the year, we can begin to align ourselves with nature, and draw on, as well as give to, the source of all energy and life. This sounds like a big task, and very grand, but it is actually very simple. The best way to describe it is to take you on a journey through the sexual cycle of the turning seasons, visiting each of the four great lunar “Fire Festivals” of the Celtic year.

     The Celtic year begins in the dark, with Samhain, at the end of October. Traditionally, Samhain is the time of in-turning, of connecting with the dark, looking forward towards the deepening dark of winter. In the deepest dark nothing grows, all is quiet, waiting. Seeds lie under the dark earth, the cold stops them until it is time to germinate. For humans Samhain is a time for dreaming, for connecting with inner guides, for soul journeys and shamanic healings. Samhain is also the time for honouring and connecting with the ancestors, as the veils between the worlds of light and life and dark and death are then very thin.

     So in our Samhain workshops we practice Tantric structures around letting go, dissolving, and dismembering. We work with the breath to deeply relax the body, and to begin to enter into the altered state that promotes dreaming. Samhain gives us the opportunity to make peace with the dark, inside and outside us. We then work with lighting the fires of each of the chakras, together building enough fire to take us through the winter months.

     Imbolc takes place at the end of January, in the depths of winter. But even in the deep cold, things are stirring, and this is the theme we explore at this festival. The first stirrings of spring can be experienced through streaming work, and movement structures which gently open the body to what is coming from the outside, and to what is happening inside us, even though we may still feel sleepy! It is a time of gentle sensuality, of tending to the body in pleasurable and simple ways.

      At Beltane everything explodes with the wild and sexy arrival of spring. Traditionally a time of courtship, Beltane is a great time to explore the dance of the masculine and feminine, the archetypal mating of man and woman. Our Beltane workshop, “The Goddess and the Green Man” tantrically celebrates the many ways and forms in which men and women can meet, love, nourish and delight in each other’s presence.

      Beltane is also a celebration of rebirth, and for this we invite our participants to get up at the very first crack of dawn and go out into the wood to really feel the freshness of the May morning, with all its possibilities and potential. And on that evening we end the day with a feast and dance, and the traditional jumping over the Beltane fires, calling in all the qualities we wish to manifest as the spring turns to summer.

Lammas or Lughnasa at the beginning of August is a time to take space to enjoy the lushness of summer: the delicious sensual fruits, the warm and lazy sexiness that comes with holiday time. This is a perfect time at which to practice touch structures, to celebrate sensuality and yumminess, and to enjoy being part of the summer community.
In addition to these four major lunar fire festivals we also celebrate the solar festivals – the Winter and Summer Solstices, and the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes. So Celtic Tantra workshops follow a sexual spiral dance, from emptiness to fullness, and back to emptiness again.

      This is best summed up by one of our participants who wrote to us after an Imbolc weekend, describing the path we follow as one of “radical spirituality”: “I have been thinking about radical spirituality, ”radical” meaning “to get to the root of things.”

There were a number of things about the weekend that I think were radical…I find lots of new age spirituality to be about self only, not outward looking in any way...

This weekend was not that. It was about “Opening to other”, about listening deeply to the land and responding to it. It seems to me that this kind of spirituality is going to be essential to our continued existence on this planet – a spirituality that is about the land and our relationship with it rather than about me only

Secondly, I find a lot of revealed religions (Christianity, Islam) to be about transcendence – moving away from being human to some other state. I always find this a form of denial of our human/animal state. This was about being present to our human/animal state...

Thirdly, I keep thinking about sympathetic magic. Being sympathetic to the natural rhythms of the earth and trying to live in accord with it. Life eats life, life makes life. Life is about sex – in that it is about life reproducing itself. Tantra feels in sympathy with this urge...

Fourthly, laughter and enjoyment – I never did like the puritanical...”

 Our sexual life as human beings is about laughter and enjoyment, enjoying each time of year as fully and totally as we can, drinking in the fullness of the sexual life outside and inside us — and knowing ourselves not to be separate from the natural world and each other, but part of something bigger, and more magical, than our individual selves.

Marta, Devon, September 2011    

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