May day.. May it fill your heart with joy as spring is finally here and summer is sure to follow. A time to celebrate, May Day is the day that local communities come together to enjoy old traditions, like the May-pole. You’ll see children dancing and singing around the May-pole and the May-queen with flowers in her hair. This old tradition comes from a pagan fertility ritual and is believed to date back to the 14th century, although many say it is a lot older.
Beltane .. Bel the Celtic god of fire, another yearly tradition held on or around May Day. Many honour the god of fire by lighting fires upon sacred hills, legend says the smoke has protective powers and would protect the local cattle, crops and people. The smoke is believed to be a blessings which can appease the faerie folk.
As we all celebrate the welcome arrival of spring, we must also remember May is the favourite month of the faeries. The little people, nature spirits, call them what you will, they love May and they will be out and about causing mischief and mayhem. The little folk can hold many grudges so take heed and never cross a faerie ….
You’ve heard the tales from many years gone by, never mess with a hawthorn or blackthorn tree for that is where the faeries live. Never cross a faerie path, for that is the faeries path and not your own. Never mess with a faerie rath or fort, for that is sure to bring you trouble. Leave and let be that would be my message, as long as we let them be they will cause us no harm.
A well known May Day eve tradition in Ireland is to lay yellow flowers on your doorstep, for the faeries will not cross over yellow flowers. Many folk will lay marigold or cowslip or other yellow flowers to protect them and their homes from the mischief that a faerie may want to bring. Folk also lay the yellow flowers outside the entrance to cowsheds or barns, it’s even known for the yellow flowers to be placed in a cows tail or a horses bridle.
Top of the well ..
In Ireland it is known for farmers to dread the eve of May Day, they will sit up all night by their water wells. For it is bad luck if the faeries take the first drink of water upon a May Day morning. The farmers will sit up all evening watching over their water supply so they can ensure they will be the first to pour the water on the morning of May Day. Known as the “top of the well” for this old tradition brings in the good fortune, protection and healing. It is said that the first water of May morning must be saved and kept safe for it can provide protection and bring good fortune for the year ahead.
So what ever May Day and the month of May brings for you, remember it’s also the month of the faeries….
Written by Athey Thompson
All pictures by Cicely Mary Barker