Happy May Day Fabulous Gang! Let’s take a brief look back at some of the origins of the Mayday weekend festivities. It is thought that the earliest May celebrations appeared with the Festival of Flowers celebrating the Roman Goddess of Flowers.
Alternatively, this celebration as known as Beltane the Gaelic Festival, held on 1st May, usually about halfway between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. Beltane would mark the start of summer when the cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to bless cattle and crops to encourage growth. These Beltane traditions have been kept alive and are still celebrated by Neopagans and Wiccans today. However, probably the best-known modern May Day traditions, observed both in Europe and North America, include dancing around the Maypole and crowning the May Queen. As a child I remember dancing around the Maypole at Shibden Hall back in Yorkshire.
Whichever May Day traditions you observe, I wanted to share three things to be thankful for this May Day Weekend.
During this time of Lockdown and amidst the global Pandemic, let’s take a moment to be thankful for the protection we have- whether that’s our loved ones bringing food parcels, our home giving us shelter or the healing foods we consume. For many lacking these forms of protection, this time is particularly trying. Historically when celebrating Beltane, rituals were held to protect from harm, both natural and supernatural, and this mainly involved the “symbolic use of fire” There were also rituals held to protect crops, dairy products and people, and to encourage growth. Of course creating a ritual fire in the woods may not be an option, so instead light a candle this May Day weekend to give thanks for the protection you have around you.
Historically the custom of decorating a May Bush or May Tree was found in many parts of Europe, it is thought that these customs began as a form of tree worship, to bring the blessings that the tree-spirit has in its power to bestow. Likewise, it is thought that the Maypole might have originally been symbolism for a sacred tree, although this theory has been hotly contested over the centuries. One theory holds that the Maypole is a remnant of the Germanic reverence for sacred trees, harking back to Norse paganism, who held that the universe was a world tree, known as Yggdrasil. This May Day weekend take a minute to notice the trees on our daily walks and be thankful for their ability to provide us with fresh air. Perhaps, if you have a garden you could plant a new tree? Or if you have children, perhaps you could decorate a tree or bush in your garden as a mark of appreciation. Maybe give a donation to a charity like The Woodland Trust and they can plant a tree on your behalf.
May Day and springtime are a time of growth, the seeds, trees, cattle, flowers and foods are bursting with life. Traditionally Beltane would see celebrations of fertility and growth. Farmers would procession around the boundaries of their land to protect their produce and encourage fertility. They would carry seeds of grain, well water, and the herb vervain or rowan. The procession would generally stop at the four points of the compass, beginning in the east and rituals were performed in each of the four directions.
Celebrate growth brought around by the reflective period that the Lockdown has offered. Consider Lockdown as your chrysalis, you entered as a caterpillar and will eventually emerge a butterfly!
Reflect on the things you would like to change and how you will emerge from Lockdown better than before. Be thankful for the quiet.