Thanks for inviting me to guest here at Terry’s Place! I’m delighted to stop by, especially as today is Beltane, or May Day, which I’ve decided is a rather auspicious release date for my first paranormal cozy mystery.
When I was a little girl we made up little paper “vases” and filled them with spring flowers early in the morning on the first of May. Then I went around the neighborhood and hung them on all the doorknobs. I loved this annual event, but had no idea what May Day was supposed to be about beyond surreptitious flower deliveries. Since writing about a hedge witch – or green witch – I’ve learned a lot more about this holiday.
May 1st, or May Day, falls halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Like Samhain (Halloween), it’s supposed to be a time when the veils of the two worlds are at their thinnest. Fairies come back into the warming world, led by their queen on a white horse and bring with them plenty of magic and mischief. Rowan branches on the windowsill are a traditional protection against their antics.
On a more practical level, Beltane celebrates passing into a season of growth – and renewed foodstuffs. In a world before you could just pop into the local megamart to pick up some out-of-season produce, the early greens and fresh foods were more than welcome after a long winter of tubers and roots – or worse. Flowers bloom, the trees turn green, and the promise of spring is finally realized on your dinner plate.
The celebration of Beltane often involves a bonfire. Bel is the Celtic Sun God, and “Beltane” translates from the Anglo Saxon as “Bel Fire”. On this day fires in village homes were extinguished and then relit from the central bonfire/belfire.
In agrarian cultures farmers would build two bonfires and lead animals between them to increase fertility. Circling the Beltane bonfire three times deosil (clockwise) is said to bring good luck.
Along with fire, flowers are an important symbol of May Day. In fact the first May Days were Roman rather than Celtic. They celebrated Flora, the goddess of flowers. Wreaths and garlands are typical decorations for Beltane.
You may be also be familiar with the modern traditions of girls dancing around the maypole on May Day and communities crowning a May Queen. Sometime a mummer – someone who acts entirely in pantomime – in the character of Jack the Green (also known as The Green Man) may dance around the maypole, too, along with another mummer known only as the Fool. And you can still find Morris dancers – recorded in England as early as 1555 – frolicking with them. However, Morris dancers apparently weren’t associated with English May Day celebrations until the reign of the Tudors.
As for those paper vases of flowers I used to hang on my neighbors’ door knobs? Turns out that probably originated as offering to the fairies for good luck. Making the offering for your neighbors was an act of kindness. Who knew?
Thanks again, Terry!
This year, Bailey is celebrating Beltane by giving away a copy of Brownies and Broomsticks. Just leave a comment to enter. For more information about her or either of her mystery series, please check out her website at www.cricketmcrae.com , or either of her blogs at www.hearthcricket.com or www.baileycates.com.
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