Tis May! Tis May!
The Lusty Month of May!
When Everyone and Everything,
Goes Blissfully Astray!
Bringing in the May
If the idea of giving into abandon makes your cringe, you can celebrate in a tamer mode. Take part in an
age old custom of bring fresh flowers into your home. With conquering Rome came the May feast of
Flora, the goddess of flowers, and Maia, the goddess of rebirth whom the month of May is named and
the act of 'Bringing in the May' was adopted. It was customary to get up with the dawn and go out into
the fields to gather flowers and greenery or 'gather the spring' and bring it in to decorate the homes and
villages in the belief that the vegetation spirits would bring your home good fortune.
You will need:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup warm strong black or earl grey tea
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup whisky
May Day Customs
May 1st has long herald the coming of Summer as agricultural societies rejoiced in
the return of life and the promise of a bountiful season. To a society whose
prosperity depended so much on the weather and the changing of the seasons, the
celebration of the First of May was as much a part of the medieval calendar as
Christmas and Easter. In some parts of the world, dancing the Maypole continues.
Dancers hold colourful ribbons that become decoratively intertwined as they go
around, then change direction repeating the steps in reverse. "By the Middle Ages,
every English village had its Maypole. The earliest Maypoles were tall trees
stripped of their branches, and one village would vie with the next to show who
could produce the tallest one. On May Day itself, the Maypole served as the
centerpiece for sports, dancing and games that took place around it." -Jennifer
Cutting, American folklorist.
The Middle Ages introduced the "Queen of the May" chosen from the prettiest of
the eligible young women. She was crowned with flowers and paraded around the
village. By tradition she took no part in the games or dancing, but sat like a queen
in a flower-decked chair to watch as the human replica of Flora.
May is a Lusty Month
The first of May, or May Day, is the remnant of Beltane an ancient spring festival
celebrating the fertility of nature. It is one of the year’s four cross-quarter days,
falling midway between an equinox and solstice. Long ago the Celtic festival of
Beltane signaled the end of the dark-half of the year and the people who had
survived the hardships of winter rejoiced celebrating with a great fire festival
honoring life, birth, and fruitfulness, the sun's life giving energy, vitality, and the act
Only a century ago it was customary for the young to
go a-Maying or to go out and gather blossoms for
May Day baskets before sunrise. Flowers and
greenery were gathered and brought in to decorate
their houses and villages in the belief that the
vegetation spirits would bring good fortune. Girls and
young women bathed their faces in the morning dew
to prolong their youth and beauty the year through.
May Day is a Faery Day
May Day is not just a day of merrymaking. It is also known as the time that
the trickster gods come out to revel and the faeries come out to play. Like
on Samhain the veil between the worlds grows thin and as a result on May
Day eve and May day chance encounters become more frequent. But be
warned, not all faeries are helpful. Some have a propensity for mischief,
seducing, distracting, sometimes throwing glamours to make things appear
other than how they are, while others can be down right malicious so take
caution when trying to make contact.
Instead of tring to invoke a faery, leave an offering. Beltane is a time to
honor the spirits of Nature and the Fae. They love a dish of cream, milk and
honey, or a tiny glass of May Wine. Offerings should always be of the best
quality and the first of the cream out of the carton or one of the first and
nicest loaves of bread made that day. Gift of a buckeye or a handful of
acorns will gain faery favor, especially if the acorns were gathered under a
full moon's light.
Let the Sun In
"Both May Eve and May Day were traditionally a time of letting your hair down and getting a little crazy,
of acting out your spring fever. But as early as 1240, the Bishop of Lincoln complained in writing that too
many priests were also joining in the fun! " - Jennifer Cutting, a folklife specialist in the American
Folklife Center. Marjorie Rowling in Life in Medieval Times [Perigree,1973] writes, "The Green Man makes
an appearances in later medieval records as a Lord of Misrule for the day, leading the revelers wherever
he pleased and poking fun at the authorities. Morris Dancers were a part of the celebrations, usually at
the end of the day, when the feasting and dancing began in earnest. The dancers were always male and
often dressed as animals." Passions ran high and romance bloomed on Beltane eve and as a result many
babies were born the following spring. The Puritans tried to put an end to 'going a-Maying' sighting that
afterward not one of the girls remained a virgin. "It was an established custom for all classes to go
a-maying in Hyde Park. The practice was for a time discontinued during the Commonwealth, but about
1654 it was revived, to the disgust of the Puritans." Wheatley, 1899.
Modern songs still proclaim the reawakening power of the natural world. From "The hills are alive with
the sound of music, songs they have sung for a thousand years." To the more recently "Summer's here
and the time is right for dancing in the street". You only have to look out your window to note that May
is a sensual month. The world is alive and it is celebrating the fact. Embrace the energy dancing all
around. Allow it to awaken your senses. Celebrate life by joining in the dance of creation and let your
spirit soar. Put on some music and give in to the lure of rhythm by abandoning yourself to dance.
Flowers that bloom in April:
Alstroemeria: friendship and devotion
Bachelor's Button: love
Delphinium: generosity and healing
Freesia: innocence and thoughtfulness.
Iris: communication, creativity, hope
Lilac: joy of youth
Peonies: good fortune and nobility of
Ranunculus: you are captivating
Tulips: undying love
The May Day Basket
Back when neighborhoods were rural and everyone knew each other, friendships were
celebrated with the giving of a May Day basket and making the baskets was a family
activity. On the eve before the first of May, family members would gather with scissors,
glue, and paper to make pretty baskets. Then early the morning of May 1st flowers
were picked and candy sorted to fill the baskets which then were left anonymously on
the front steps of a friend's house. Though the tradition has faded, it still lingers in
small towns and rural areas. Families still labor over homemade baskets, fill them with
treats and then sneak out to slip the basket on the neighbor's doorknob, ring the bell,
and run because tradition holds that if you were caught you'd be expected to receive a
Start your own tradition by creating a May basket. They can be fancy or as simple as
you want them to be. If you are working with your children you can simply fold colorful
pieces of construction paper to form a cone basket. Secure the side with tape or glue
and add a handle at the top. Decorate it with ribbon or paper flowers. Fill your basket
with candy, baked treats, or flowers and leave anonymously on a friend's, neighbor's,
teacher's, or loved one's doorstep. To keep it safe from marauding animals, if the
handle allows, you can also tie it to the door handle.
Click here for more May Basket ideas.
Baltane Food and Drink
In Germany you will find a spiced wine called Maiwein, a May favorite flavored with the low-lying ground cover
sweet woodruff (galium odoratum). Woodruff is found in shady places and often blooms around the first of May.
When picked woodruff begins to develop a wonderful sweet aroma akin to hay mixed with vanilla.
You will need:
One bottle of a light white wine
A half ounce of dried woodruff or 12 sprigs of fresh
Sweeten with a ½ cup of slice strawberries sliced or a spoon of sugar, if desired
Mix together all of the ingredients, cover and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 8 hours so the
wine can be infused with the spice and sugar.
Note: Woodruff contains coumarin an anti-coagulant often used in blood-thinning medication.
Before lawns, gardeners cultivated dandelions prizing them as food, medicine, and magickal plants. Settles
carried the dandelion with them adding the flower to their gardens and as a result the dandelion has naturalized
in many countries. The bright yellow flower symbolizes the sun and carries energy for health, luck, and wish
DANDELION FLOWER JELLY
1quart Dandelion blossoms (without stems)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
5½ cups sugar
In the early morning, pick blossoms. Remove and discard the stems. Wash the flowers well and then boil the
blossoms in the water for 3 minutes. Drain off 3 cups of the liquid and discard the blossoms. Add pectin, lemon
juice, add sugar. Boil for 3 minutes, then skim off the foam on top. Put in jars and seal. Taste resembles honey.
*From The Dandelion Celebration by Peter Gail
|The fair maid who, the First of May,
Goes to the field at break of day
And washes in the dew from the
Will ever after handsome be.
Directions: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom
with lightly greased parchment paper and lightly grease
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking
powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Make a well in
the center and add the oil, honey, sugars, eggs, vanilla,
tea, orange juice, and whisky.
Mix to combine ingredients to make a thick batter.
Pour into the prepared pan
Bake for 60 to 70 minutes until cake springs back when
gently pressed. Let stand for 15 minutes. Then invert
cake onto a wire rack to cool completely. Place on
serving dish and drizzle with honey.
COOL SUMMER TEA SANDWICHES
You will Need:
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and very thinly sliced (about
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup coarsely chopped watercress leaves
16 slices best-quality white bread
Salt to taste1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
The Beltane Fire
On the Beltane eve, or the night before the first of May, across the world bonfires were built to honor the power of the Sun.
Embers from the fire were scooped and taken to light the hearth fires and ensure prosperity and happiness. Cattle were
driven through the smoke to ensure health and drive away pestilence. Ashes from the ceremonial bonfire were collected and
scattered on fields and gardens to ensure fertility. Gathering around the bonfire is still practised across Europe in the
Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland and Estonia. In Germany the night of April 30 is
Walpurgis Night. In Scotland the Beltane fire is still a big community affair open to all to participate in. Herbs are tossed into
the flame to dispel grief and bad fortune or the fire is leapt over to shed the old and come out anew. Couples wishing to
conceive jump over the fire to become fertile in the year to come. Ash from the ceremonial fire is saved and used as a
fixative in magickal recipes, smudged across the forehead to sharpen clear sight, sprinkled into charms and amulets to boost
protection, and fed to the garden to increase its bounty.
If a faery encounter is what you seek you might try going to a wild place and seeking out the oldest tree. Sit
with your back to its truck and open your mind. You can also seek out a natural mound or a ring of mushrooms.
Both are places known for faery activity indicating a gathering, or a place they frequent and may soon return
to. There is an old saying, "Where oak and ash and thorn grow together one is likely to see Fairies." If you find
a grove where these faery trees grow, sit quietly and meditate. Or if you find a stone with a natural hole
through it, hold it up and peer through it and you might just see one of the folk, especially if you are on a
beach, river bank, or if it is dusk or dawn. Faery encounters are more apt at liminal times, at the equinoxes and
the solstices, at sunrise or sunset.
The Sunny Energy of Honey
Prehistoric man drew bees and honey on the walls of his cave. He carved their images in stone and later wrote
about them in the earliest human writings calling them as both medicine and sacred food. Early civilizations
honored the bees. The Sumerians, Babylonians, Indians, and Egyptian wrote about the miracle cures of honey
while the Greeks names it 'the food of the Gods'. Honey is one of the earliest known offertories. "One jar of
honey to all the gods, one jar of honey to the Mistress of the Labyrinth," was written on a Knossos tablet from
1300 BC. Honey has magickal energy for: beauty, fulfilment, love, and happiness. It is the key ingredient in
sweetening spells and Cleopatra's famed milk bath. Honey can be used to compel someone to speak the truth.
Directions: Place cucumber slices between layers of
paper towels to remove excess moisture.
In a small bowl, combine butter and watercress;
spread on one side of each slice of bread. Lay
cucumber slices onto the buttered side of 8 slices of
bread. Sprinkle with salt. Cover each with 1
tablespoon alfalfa sprouts and top with the
remaining slices of bread, buttered side down. Or
substitute the butter with a mixture of mayonnaise
mixed with lemon juice for a lighter, brighter tasting
Carefully cut the crusts from each sandwich with a
sharp knife. Cut the sandwiches in half diagonally
and then cut in half again.
Yields 8 whole sandwiches or 16 halves or 32
Invite Summer into your kitchen with leafy green salads and dishes topped with strawberries. Add flavor to
your recipes with the tangy juice of lime and bright zest of lemon. Hold a family luncheon comprised of fresh
fruit and this traditional tea sandwich that is always a favorite!
|Rock Painting in the
Arana Cave Bicorp
in Valencia, eastern
May Day is a National Holiday in:
Eland, Belgium, Estonia, Finland,
Gibraltar, Iceland, Norway,
Svalbard and Jan Mayen, Sweden,
Bangladesh, Cyprus, Czech
Republic, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana,
Greece, India, Libya, Luxembourg,
Montenegro, Poland, Serbia,
Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sri Lanka