Already the constantly turning wheel of the year has brought us to May Day… Bealtaine…the beginning of Summer in the Celtic calendar. The Blackthorn is in blossom now…soon it will be followed by the Maybush as Hawthorn is often known.
The Romans celebrated this time with the Festival of Floraia…in honour of the Goddess Flora…Goddess of fruit and flowers. They would feast for 5 days.
Imagine the scene in the old days in Ireland…fires lighting on every hill on the eve of Bealtaine…must have been a wonderful sight to see the hills glowing in the distance. The main fire was at Uisneach…in what is now county Westmeath. Fires in the home were quenched and then relit with coals from the embers of the bonfire.
In the not so distant past the churning of butter was an important activity on every farm. Indeed as a child I remember my Mother making butter in a round wooden churn. It was believed that anything leaving the farm on May morning could be used to “steal the butter.” People not of the household would not be allowed enter if butter was being churned for fear of malicious intentions. It was suspected that certain people regularly “stole” their neighbours butter and crops. Potatoes, being an important food crop, were often the focus of these “thefts.” The crop would be “stolen” by the “thief” leaving an egg among the potatoes. The “thief” would then have an excellent crop.
Like Samhain, Bealtaine is considered a time when the veil between the world’s is thin…a time when, at dawn and dusk especially, we can commune with Fairy and Nature spirits more easily.
What does Bealtaine…May Day mean to you? Is it something you mark in any way? For me it is a time of an increased awareness of Nature bursting forth. Everything is so vibrant… green and alive. The fields and hedgerows are once again clothed in green…insects are flitting about doing their pollinating work. So much to observe and revel in. Even though we’ve seen it all before somehow each year we are filled with awe and anticipation at the wonder of it all.