“It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Well not quite, the clocks are not striking thirteen, yet I did wake up to a bright cold day. They say it will warm up into the 80s by afternoon yet I am not sure if that will occur. The clouds seem to be lingering and the rain seems to want to come again for a bit. I do not mind that too much as it will help in the watering of my yard, which in turn will allow me more time to do other things. It is May eve you know.
For many this is a holiday that is highly celebrated although many may not admit to celebrating it in the manner in which it is truly accustomed to. Beltane as it is more commonly known is a celebrated on May eve (April 30th) and May 1st. The celebration is dedicated to fertility and the returning of the sun. It is a holiday that includes maypole dancing, leaping through fires (Bel-fires) to ensure fertility, feasting, drinking, dancing, as well as acting upon the urges that go along with such activities. By this I mean the act of physical union. In older times the Bel-fires were lit on May eve and the festivities would begin at this time. As the festivities carried on into the night, young men and women would wander into the woods or other places of seclusion before the sun rose on May Day; the girls with garlands of flowers in their hair and the men with branches of trees. It was a time when society’s view of sexuality and fertility was much carefree and not bound with the intense feelings of guilt and shame. It was rather a time to be joyous and allow ones passions to flow freely. There are still people today who likewise celebrate Beltane in a similar manner.
The Maypole is another symbol of that is highly associated with Beltane. A tall pole representing a phallic symbol (although many do not realize this) is placed in an open area. It is decorated with flowers, leaves and brightly colored ribbons which hang from top to bottom. When the dance is to begin each participant takes a ribbon in hand. Half dance to the left while the other half dance to the right. As they do so they wind the ribbon around the pole. It is thought that the pattern created by the dance of the maypole can be predictive of the yield of harvest from the seeds that have been planted.
In many areas a Queen of May is selected. She is chosen on May eve and wears a gold crown with a single gold leaf on it. Flowers are also woven into her crown. In some instances a May King is also chosen and they reign for the time that the festivities continue. Wedding gifts are sometimes made for the King and Queen such as strings of beads, potpourri bags, or garlands of flowers. Such gifts are hung in the trees which surround the festivities. Because of the emphasis on union, Beltane is said to be a good time to announce one’s wedding engagement. In fact in older times, there were trial unions which took place. The hand fasting ( or wedding) would be for a year and a day. Simply they were statements of intent between the couple participating which were not considered to be legally binding. If after such a period the two realized they were not as compatible as first thought, they were allowed to part and go their separate ways. It seems they understood the point that things do change once you start living together.
The wee folk or fairies are also thought to be quite active at this time. Much like is thought at Samhain or Halloween, the veil which falls between the two worlds of humans and fairies is said to be thinnest at this time. It is always a good idea to set out a treat for them on May Eve. A plate of something sweet is always welcomed. A piece of bread with fresh butter and honey is a favorite. Faeries can be a good friend if you welcome them into your home or garden. If you acknowledge them, they in turn will acknowledge you.
May is a month when the earth once again awakens. Bright vivid colors can be seen across the fields as the wild flowers turn their faces upward towards the sun. Their scent flows across the breeze and reminds us why we love this time of year so. The harvest begins from the vegetables and fruits that have been planted. Trips to the Farmer’s Markets are once again a weekly activity. The sun is once again with us. He stays longer than before allowing us to enjoy what he gives that much more. It is a time of excitement and beauty. It is a time when Spring fever reaches its peak, for we are all weary of the cold dampness of winter. As you enjoy today as well as your weekend, take a moment and enjoy all that is around you. Give thanks for all that you have. Remember to not forget your inner child. If only for a moment, release the adult sensibilities that bind you and take pleasure in May Day.
For further information: The Magic Of Beltane - another post of mine