Category Archives: Beltane

May Day, and Your May Book of Days

And now here is May. Walpurgis Night on the last night of April led us into May Day and Beltane. The conclusion of the Muslim month-long celebration of Ramadan just happened to coincide this year and now it is time to shift greetings from Ramadan Mubarak! to Eid Mubarak!, for now it is Eid, the Sweet Festival. As the month progresses, there will be more and more celebrations of spring and ultimately the spring to summer, for spring is fleeting and ephemeral.

Here now is your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for the month of May. It is our gift to you, a printable PDF, and as usual, an excellent companion to the blog. Cover star this month: a 1913 painting by Iso Rae called “Rogation Day Procession in Étaples” –– and there, in Rogation Sunday, you have another of the lesser known holidays this month. It is a month that’s full of days like this, which is all the more reason to check out the calendar. Happy May! Eid Mubarak! May the month bring many blessings.

Image from our May Book of Days cover star: “Rogation Day Procession in Étaples” by Iso Rae. Oil on canvas, 1913 [Public domain via Wikimedia Commons].

 

Ascending

April comes to a close and as it does, we reach the next spoke in the wheel of the year, as this evening brings Walpurgis Night, named for St. Walpurga, whose feast day is the First of May. In the Celtic tradition, the day is known as Beltane. It is the cross quarter day that helps us spring to summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the direct opposite spoke of the cross quarter day that helps us fall to winter, which is Samhain, or Halloween. The fall to winter brings descent, life burrowing down beneath the earth, while the spring to summer brings ascent, life springing forth from the earth. It is an aspect of the everlasting mysteries of the planet and its place in the universe: we know these things so well, for we witness them each year with the planet’s revolution around the sun, and yet how these things have all come to pass still has the power to leave us breathless. The very names given to these days are shrouded in mystery, too, for their pronunciations are, for most of us, not of our tongue, and what seems apparent is not: Beltane is pronounced bowl-tan-a; Samhain is pronounced sah-win. Like the names of angels in ancient tongues, to speak the names connects us to a long forgotten past whose embers still smolder.

As such, a fire is appropriate for tonight. In Sweden, there will be bonfires, as well as gravlax and sparkling wine, all through the night. There are traditional songs, like “Maj vare välkommen” (May Be Welcome). We don’t do much celebrating of Walpurgis Night here in the States, but in a place where the extremes between winter and summer are keenly felt, May surely is welcome.

Tomorrow, I will write again with your Convivio Book of Days calendar for May. May be welcome. Summer be welcome. We wish you peace.

Nighttime mysteries abound: our image today is of a Guyana Chestnut blossom in our yard. The blossoms burst forth in spring and summer at about 9 PM in small explosions from pods that are about 4 inches long. There may be one on the tree or there may be ten, but they all tend to pop open at about the same time, filling the night with a spicy air that is most definitely a fragrance of spring and summer, most definitely of this ascending time of year.

 

 

May Day, and Your May Book of Days

I like to picture the elliptical orbit of our planet around the sun as the very wheel of the year I so often talk about, and maybe that’s not so far-fetched: perhaps that is the very idea from which the the wheel originates. In this circle around the sun, we find ourselves today at the spoke of the wheel opposite where we were at Hallowe’en: there, we were halfway between autumnal equinox and midwinter solstice, and now here we are, halfway between the vernal equinox and the midsummer solstice. It is the cross quarter day known as Beltane, or, more popularly, May Day. It is a time we mostly ignore here in the States, and we are pretty good at that: ignoring sacred days. I am pretty certain it’s yet another loss we can pin on our country’s Puritan roots, for guess what? The Puritans hated May Day as much as they hated Christmas. May poles and floral nosegays, along with Christmas revelry and days of rest: all of these things were not for them. To make matters even worse, May Day in the past century became associated with labor and workers and (gasp) Communism!… so it became even further removed from the American vernacular.

As usual, I feel we are the poorer for this disconnect. May Day celebrates the height of spring, or even (by traditional reckoning of time) the start of summer. It is a time to be outdoors night and day, a time to bring wild blooms indoors (bringing in the May), a time to revel in an awakening earth. Where our thoughts and outlook at the opposite cross quarter day turned downward, beneath the earth, with May Day we emerge and focus our energies on things above the earth: we revel in greenery and flowers and we spend more time outdoors. We enter the gentle time of year, a time of brightness and light and long days in the Northern Hemisphere.

Your Convivio Book of Days calendar for May celebrates this, too. Cover star: a book illustration for May Day by Kate Greenaway, late 19th century. The calendar is a fine companion to this blog; it’s a printable PDF so you can print it and pin it to your bulletin board or stick it on the refrigerator, if you wish. Happy May!