Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth, and youth, and warm desire! – John Milton, “Song on a May Morning”
As I’ve often stated, all of the great holidays are just old pagan ones with new names and new Christian or secular coats of paint; scratch that thin veneer and the heathen origin of the observance becomes obvious to all but the most willfully blind. But while festivals like Christmas, Halloween and even Valentine’s Day have thrived, others have limped along in some maimed form, while still others have simply fallen by the wayside. But Beltane is probably the only one which was actively suppressed: many of its features were transferred to Easter and others were banned after the Protestant Reformation, and the day itself was preempted by a dreary and ultra-serious labor rights observance which should actually have been held three days later. The reason for these concerted attempts to destroy the holiday is very simple: it’s the only one which is entirely about sex. Oh, lots of spring festivals have their sexual components, but “lusty” May Day was entirely devoted to it. And as Western culture became less and less comfortable with sex over the last two millennia, and more and more determined to suppress it, poor May Day just had to go. Other than neopagan rituals and a few European remnants like May Queen festivals and May Eve bonfires, the holiday has almost entirely vanished; even the pathetic efforts of leftover Marxists get more attention. And that’s just sad; perhaps sex workers and our supporters need to reclaim it, strip it of the false fig leaves with which some have tried to cover its nature, and once again herald it as a day to celebrate Nature’s gift of sex.