Beltane has arrived!
(Ok, I admit I have no idea where the pics come from...sorry for lack of credit!)
Excerpts from this very cool article:
"Beltane -- Holiday Details and History
by Christina Aubin
Beltane is the last of the three spring fertility festivals, the others being Imbolc and Ostara. Beltane is the second principal Celtic festival (the other being Samhain). Celebrated approximately halfway between Vernal (spring) equinox and the midsummer (Summer Solstice). Beltane traditionally marked the arrival if summer in ancient times.
At Beltane the Pleiades star cluster rises just before sunrise on the morning horizon, whereas winter (Samhain) begins when the Pleiades rises at sunset. The Pleiades is a cluster of seven closely placed stars, the seven sisters, in the constellation of Taurus, near his shoulder. When looking for the Pleiades with the naked eye, remember it looks like a tiny dipper-shaped pattern of six moderately bright stars (the seventh can be seen on very dark nights) in the constellation of Taurus. It stands very low in the east-northeast sky for just a few minutes before sunrise.
Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain, divide the year into its two primary seasons, winter (Dark Part) and summer (Light Part). As Samhain is about honoring Death, Beltane, its counter part, is about honoring Life. It is the time when the sun is fully released from his bondage of winter and able to rule over summer and life once again.
Beltane, like Samhain, is a time of "no time" when the veils between the two worlds are at their thinnest. No time is when the two worlds intermingle and unite and the magic abounds! It is the time when the Faeries return from their winter respite, carefree and full of faery mischief and faery delight. On the night before Beltane, in times past, folks would place rowan branches at their windows and doors for protection, many otherworldly occurrences could transpire during this time of "no time". Traditionally on the Isle of Man, the youngest member of the family gathers primroses on the eve before Beltane and throws the flowers at the door of the home for protection. In Ireland it is believed that food left over from May Eve must not be eaten, but rather buried or left as an offering to the faery instead. Much like the tradition of leaving of whatever is not harvested from the fields on Samhain, food on the time of no time is treated with great care.
When the veils are so thin it is an extremely magical time, it is said that the Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse. Roving about on Beltane eve She will try to entice people away to the Faeryland. Legend has it that if you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you may see the Faery Queen or hear the sound of Her horse's bells as She rides through the night. Legend says if you hide your face, She will pass you by but if you look at Her, She may choose you. There is a Scottish ballad of this called Thomas the Rhymer, in which Thomas chooses to go the Faeryland with the Queen and has not been seen since.
Beltane has been an auspicious time throughout Celtic lore, it is said that the Tuatha de Danaan landed in north-west Connacht on Beltane. The Tuatha de Danaan, it is said, came from the North through the air in a mist to Ireland. After the invasion by the Milesians, the Tuatha faded into the Otherworld, the Sidhe, Tir na nOg...."
"The Hawthorn Tree - Queen Of The May
By Glennie Kindred
(Originally published at Beltane 1997)
The Hawthorn (Crataegus mongyna), Whitethorn, Haegthorn, Quickthorn or May Tree, is one of the most wild, enchanted and sacred of our native trees. Known as the "faerie tree", this beautiful, often gnarled, thorny little tree can live to a great age, and can be found growing in the wildest and harshest of spots. It grows all over Europe, Greece, North Africa and Western Asia and is rich in folklore and legend.
Even growing in a town, the Hawthorn retains the spirit of the wild, and some town Hawthorn hedges have probably been there for hundreds of years - long before the town built up around them. The beauty of this tree in full blossom touches all our hearts and holds a special place in our affections.
The keyword for the Hawthorn is the heart, and this is reflected in its herbal uses as well as its symbolism and place in folklore and legend. It has a dual sexual significance, as a symbol of abandonment and fertility, linking it to the Beltane celebrations and revelries, and a later overlay in British folklore of misfortune, chastity and sexual abstinence. This later overlay is now being transformed again, coming forward out of the confines of puritanical Christianity to become once again a positive symbol of the heart through its ability on a subtle level to open the heart to spiritual growth and love.
The Hawthorn's many names reflect its uses and properties; Haegthorn is Anglo-Saxon and refers to its use as a hedging plant, and Quickthorn referring to the live hedge or boundary formed by living plants of Hawthorn. Whitethorn refers to the lightness of its bark, contrasted with blackthorn's black bark. In many old tales it is simply referred to as the Thorn, as in "Oak, Ash and Thorn", a particularly potent combination of trees if found growing together. Often it is viewed warily, because of its thorns, and because it is said to be the haunt of faeries, elemental and enchantments.
The most common folk name we have for the Hawthorn is the May Tree. The may blossom appears on the tree at the beginning of May in the south of England, at the time of the Beltane or May Day celebrations, when people and houses were decked with may blossoms ("bringing home the May"). The popular rhyme "Here we go gathering nuts in May" is thought to have been sung by the young men, gathering not "nuts" (which do not grow in May) but "knots" of may blossoms for the May Day Celebrations. These celebrations included a May Queen, representing the Goddess, and a Green May, representing the God and the spirit of the new vegetation. It was known as the "Merry Month" and folk went about "wearing the green", decking themselves in greenery and may blossom. Everywhere, everything is bursting with life and fertility at this time, and Beltane is a celebration of this potential. The cutting of the may blossom had great significance and symbolised the beginning of new life and the onset of the growing season.
The ceremony of the maypole and maypole dancing, is symbolic of renewed life and sexual union. The pole itself is a phallic symbolic, the discus at the top from which the ribbons are tied, represents the female principle, and the wearing of ribbons represents the union of the male and the female and fertility. In some parts of the British Isles, it was the custom to erect a may tree outside every house, or for young men to erect a may tree outside the home of their sweetheart. In folklore, the common practice was to bring a new pole into the village every year representing that year's incarnation of the vegetation of nature spirit. The dancing round the pole would include a green man who would dance around the outside of the maypole dancers. This represented the tree-spirit or nature-spirit who would bless the celebrations and bring fertility to the land. Although it is tradition for the maypole to be a may tree, I look at the Hawthorn and nowhere do I see a straight tall trunk suitable for dancing round in the tradition of the maypole, and I think there is here a much older ceremony of fetching a living tree into the village from the woods. This living tree would still have its resident treespirit or dryad within the tree, and it would be the tree-spirit itself who was central to the ceremony, and would be honoured and enlisted by the villagers to ensure fertility of the land and a good harvest.
This ties in with another old folklore custom of tying ribbons or shreds of ones clothing or rags onto may trees at this time, especially where they grew near wells. These were said to be gifts for the faeries or elementals who were thought to dwell by Hawthorns. Old May Day fertility rites used the sun symbol daisy to protect the participants from the faerie folk who are particularly active then. A twig from an Oak, an Ash and a Thorn, bound together with red thread, was another protective charm, as was the use of bells (on the legs of the dancing Morris men). These customs show the fear and the potency with which country folk viewed these ceremonies, and the Hawthorn, and reflect how watered-down they have become over the years..."
This is from:
Other Historical Oddities:
From PUNCH, The Project Gutenberg eBook, Punch, or the London Charivari, Vol. 102, April 30, 1892, by Various, Edited by F. C. Burnand
TO THE NEW "QUEEN OF THE MAY".
(A HYMN OF HONEST LABOUR.)
After the Proclamation of the Anarchist Manifestoes, (With Apologies to the Author of the magnificent "Hymn to Proserpine.")
["For the third time the International mobilises its battalions.... Already the mere mention of the magical word 'May-Day' throws the bourgeoisie into a state of nervous trembling, and its cowardice only finds refuge in cynicism and ferocity. But whether the wretch (the bourgeoisie) likes it or not, the end draws nigh. Capitalist robbery is going to perish in mud and shame.... The conscious proletariat organises itself, and marches towards its emancipation. You can have it all your own way presently; proletarians of the whole world, serfs of the factory, the men of the workshop, the office, and the shop, who are mercilessly exploited and pitilessly assassinated.... For, lo! '93 reappears on the horizon.... 'Vive l'Internationale des Travailleurs!'"—Manifesto of the May-Day Labour Demonstration Executive Committee.]
Have we lived long enough to have seen one thing, that hate hath no end?
Goddess, and maiden, and queen, must we hail you as Labour's true friend?—
Will you give us a prosperous morrow, and comfort the millions who weep?
Will you give them joy for their sorrow, sweet labour, and satisfied sleep?
Sweet is the fragrance of flowers, and soft are the wings of the dove,
And no goodlier gift is there given than the dower of brotherly love;
But you, O May-Day Medusa, whose glance makes the heart turn cold,
Art a bitter Goddess to follow, a terrible Queen to behold.
We are sick of spouting—the words burn deep and chafe: we are fain,
To rest a little from clap-trap, and probe the wild promise of gain.
For new gods we know not of are acclaimed by all babbledom's breath,
And they promise us love-inspired life—by the red road of hatred and death.
The gods, dethroned and deceased, cast forth—so the chatterers say—
Are banished with Flora and Pan, and behold our new Queen of the May!
New Queen, fresh crowned in the city, flower-drest, her snake-sceptre a rod,
Her orb a decked dynamite bomb, which shall shatter all earth at her nod;
But for us their newest device seems barren, and did they but dare
To bare the new Queen of the May, were she angel or demon when bare?
Time and old gods are at strife; we dwell in the midst thereof,
And they are but foolish who curse, and they are but shallow who scoff.
Let hate die out, take rest, poor workers, be all at peace;
Let the angry battle abate, and the barren bitterness cease!
Ah, pleasant and pastoral picture! Thrice welcome whoever shall bring
The sunshine of love after Winter, the blossoms of joy with the Spring!
Wilt THOU bring it, O new May Queen? If thou canst, come and rule us, and take
The laurel, the palm, and the pæan; all bondage but thine we would break,
And welcome the branch and the dove. But we look, and we hold our breath,
That is not the visage of Love, and beneath the piled blossoms lurks—Death!
A Society all of Love and of Brotherhood! Beautiful dream!
But alas for this Promise of May! Do not Labour's Floralia seem
As flower-feasts fair to her followers? Look on the wreaths at her feet,
Flung by enthusiast hands from the mine, and the mill, and the street,
Piled flower-offerings, thine, Proletariat Queen of the May!
And what means the new Bona Dea? and what would her suppliants say?
Organised strength, solidarity, power to band and to strike,
Hope that is native to Spring,—and Hate, in all seasons alike;
Mutual trust of the many—and menace malign for the few.
Citizen, capitalist,—ah! the hours of your empire seem few,
An empire ill-gendered, unjust, blindly selfish, and heartlessly strong
For the crushing of famishing weakness, the rearing of wealth-founded wrong.
Few, if these throngs have their will, for the fierce proletariat throbs
For revenge on the full-fed Bourgeoisie which ruthlessly harries and robs.
'Tis fired with alarms, and it arms with hot haste for the imminent fray,
For it quakes at the tramp of King Mob, and the thought of this Queen of the May.
The bandit of Capital falls, and shall perish in shame and in filth!
The harvest of Labour's at hand!—The harvest; but red is the tilth,
And the reapers are wrathful and rash, and the swift-wielded sickle that strives
For the sheaves, not the gleaners' scant ears, seems agog for the reaping of—lives!
Assassins of Capital? Aye! And their weakening force will ye meet
With assassins of Labour? Shall Brotherhood redden the field and the street?
Beware of the bad black old lesson! Behold, and look close, and beware!
There are flowers at your newly-built shrine, is the evil old serpent not there?
THE NEW "QUEEN OF THE MAY."[pg 213]
The sword-edge and snake-bite, though hidden in blossoms, are hatred's old arms.
And what is your May Queen at heart, oh, true hearts, that succumb to her charms?
Dropped and deep in the blossoms, with eyes that flicker like fire,
The asp of Murder lies hid, which with poison shall feed your desire.
More than these things will she give, who looks fairer than all these things?
Not while her sceptre's a snake, and her orb the red horror that rings
Devilish, foul, round the world; while the hiss and the roar are the voice
Of this monstrous new Queen of the May, in whose rule you would bid us rejoice.
That's about it for now...
I'm painful, exhausted and my son is having to tie bits of ribbon to our Hawthorne for me...Sad lot for a HPS, but I'm proud that he'd do it for me.
To the Queen o' the May,
Thank you for every breath.