Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Happy Beltane!

Bailey Cates writes the Magical Bakery Mysteries. The first in the series, Brownies and Broomsticks, releases today in mass market paperback and ebook formats from NAL/Penguin. She also writes the Home Crafting Mystery Series as Cricket McRae. The sixth in that series, Deadly Row to Hoe, will release in November from Midnight Ink/Llewellyn. There's a giveaway, so be sure to leave a comment. And check back this weekend to see if you won.

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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Anonymous said...

WOW, I never knew all of this about May Day. I have been reading the craft series and love them so am sure that I will love this new series.

Thanks for the chance to win.


Shell said...

Great Info! I just signed up to follow!


Suzanne said...

Does any municipality in the U.S. still have Maypole dances? They did when I was a girl, but I haven't seen one in decades.

Suzanne said...
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Dean K Miller said...

Thanks, Terry for hosting Bailey. I am interested to see how this paranormal mystery pans out.

I, too, will be tagging along on your blog.

May the veil be ever thinner...

Bailey Cates said...

Hi Nancy -- I loved researching the new series -- all sorts of fun stuff to learn!

Thanks for stopping by, Shell!

Suzanne, I'm not sure where they may still have maypole dances in the U.S. -- now I have to go see what I can find. ; )

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks for hosting Bailey, Terry. I remember gathering violets (and dandelions) for May Day baskets when I was a kid. I don't think I ever gave the reason a thought...it was just something we did. :D

Maryannwrites said...

This was so interesting. I did not know all this history of May Day. I was raised Roman Catholic and May Day was always the first of a month-long celebration of Mary the mother of Jesus. We would crown a stature of Mary, and surround the statue with flowers. Each day of May fresh flowers would be placed by the statue.

I always suspected this tradition, as so many Christian traditions are, was connected to practices and lore from early cultures.

Helena said...

I never knew all that about May Day. I've been looking forward to this book's release, thanks for hosting the giveaway!

Bailey Cates said...

Glad to know I wasn't the only one giving away dandelions, Pat!

Maryann, that's very interesting -- there are a lot of traditions that seem to have crossed over.

Hi Helena -- good luck in the drawing!

Brenda Erickson said...

We made May baskets from old wall paper books and filled them with candy to leave on doorsteps.

Unknown said...

I never realized May Day was tied to fairy lore. Thanks for the wonderful explanation. Good luck with the new series. I can't wait to start reading the first book!

Jane Isenberg said...

Who knew from May Day? Maybe we didn't celebrate it in New Jersey! Anyway, I loved reading about it and can't wait to check out your latest book! Go, Cricket!

Anonymous said...

Loved reading about may day. And can't wait to read the new book!

Bailey Cates said...

Love the idea of using wallpaper books, Brenda!

Thanks, Janel -- have fun with the book!

What, no first of May in Jersey, Jane? ; ) Thanks for the kind words.

Thanks, Pamela!

And thanks to Terry for hosting me -- I had a great time!

Rini K said...

Wow, interesting information. I never knew!

Thanks for the drawing. :)

rinib2 (at) yahoo (dot) com

kiki w said...

This is so cool. Learn something new.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the info about May Day. I read a lot of articles about the day, but this one is the most interesting. The title of your book is fascinating, and I can't wait to read it.