‘But I must gather knots of flowers,
And buds and garlands gay,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother,
I'm to be Queen o' the May.’
Alfred Lord Tennyson
The name for the month of ‘May’ has been believed to derive from ‘Maia’, who was revered as the Roman ‘Goddess of Springtime, of Growth and Increase’, and the mother of ‘Mercury’, the winged messenger of the Gods. Yet this is disputed as before these deities featured in mythology the name ‘Maius’ or ‘Magius’, taken from the root ‘Mag’, meaning the ‘Growing month’ or ‘Shooting month’ was used. May has also been known as:
‘Thrimilce’ (Cows go to milking three times a day)
‘Bloumaand’ (Blossoming month’
As part of the seasonal calendar May is the time of the ‘Hare Moon’ according to Pagan belief and the period described as the ‘Moon of the Shedding Ponies’ by Black Elk (Black Elk Speaks, Neihardt). This is the first month of ‘Beltaine’ (May - July) within the Celtic calendar, the onset of summer. It was the traditional practice of shepherds to follow and stay with the flock when out to pasture, this being known as transhumance. This is one example of how daily life was closely tied to that of the animal and the earth, an awareness of the balance and harmony needed of man and nature, something today we are desperately trying to save. In ancient times such practice would daily remind the people of the Creation myths, the power of evil, the potential of its destruction, hence their folklore is full of such references. In pagan beliefs man believed himself to be the guardian of nature, perhaps this is one reason why today we also see the close bond between the so called green movement and the knowledge, rituals and beliefs of pre-Christian practice, further connections being made with what is known as the new age movement.
This period has also been associated in the Christian church with ‘St John, the Evangelist’ (27 December), or ‘John’ in the Celtic church (6 May) who describes this month as having the longest days, indicating that light has triumphed over darkness, positive over negative, life over death. The symbol of the eagle is given to St John, emphasising the need for a keen eye and sharp awareness, an eye that does not stray from the task. This could be seen as a metaphor to remind the people of the need to focus on refining the spirit and not being tempted to folly, for not letting the sun affect the work on the land, for pleasure to be kept at bay (hence another indication that love and courting is a distraction at this time despite its natural associations with fertility). This is the time associated with the ritual of baptism too, when the joy of the spirit is given, being seen in all things. It was a time of many rituals establishing man’s relationship and commitment from the earth to a higher level of being. Here the folklore of birds (See Mystical WWW Mystic’s Menagerie) comes in to focus, as it is the power of the invisible spirit, or the wind, which brings hope anew. In Christian beliefs this is reflected in the story of the raven and the dove with Noah whilst it is a time of peace, when thanks and hope was asked for of Bel the Sun God in pagan practice.
Surprisingly perhaps May was believed generally to be an unlucky month which may be linked to the possibility of failure. This belief is thought to be of ancient origin as it was known to be the best time to plant and sow for the next year (See Mystical WWW Plants for more folklore information). It was a time when all spare hands were expected to work the land with no time for personal celebrations and/or courting. It was a time when the food supplies for the rest of the seasonal year were sown and therefore the health of the community depended upon it. An old country (UK) rhyme ‘Marry in May and rue the day!’. Perhaps then quite naturally it was also believed by many rural communities that a baby born in May would always be sickly. It was traditionally believed that any cats born in this month would not be good rat or mice catchers (See Mystical WWW Mystic’s Menagerie : Animals, Cats).
As part of the astrological calendar, May has many associations. This is the month of the house of Taurus ( April 21 - May 21) and the house of Gemini (22 May - June 21).
Taurus is the second sign of the zodiac, symbolised by the ‘Sacred Bull’ or ‘Heavenly bull’ and has close associations with all cattle (See Mystical WWW Mystic’s Menagerie : Cattle, for more folklore information). In ancient Persian astrology Taurus translated as the ‘Bull of light’, and in ancient Egypt Taurus represented fertility and development or growth and was linked closely with the success of the land to produce. The sacred bull was also seen by the ancient Egyptians as the vessel in which the ‘God Osiris’ was celestial. Taurus reflects the second phase of the journey of the sun, and of the child relating to the early teen years.
‘Venus’ is the ruling planet of Taurus and the Roman ‘Goddess of Love’.To the ancients the planet Venus was seen as highly important being second to the Sun and the Moon. The ancient Greeks believed that ‘Phaeton’ nearly destroyed the earth, known as the ‘Blazing Star’, the earth became consumed by fire and Phaeton was transformed into Venus. The ancient Assyrians knew the planet as the ‘fearful dragon...who is clothed in fire’. The Aztecs, called it ‘The star that smoked’, the Quetzalcoatl called it ‘The feathered Serpent’, and the Midrash knew it as ‘The brilliant light... blazing from one end of the cosmos to the other’. Venus, is often used to symbolise the inner qualities of romance, loyalty, practicality, caution and charm whilst also having a love of the land, art, of the finest luxuries that can be obtained with a powerful desire of beautiful possessions, (so there is a danger of excess in all things). ‘Aphrodite’, the ancient Greek‘Goddess of Love’ was seen to influence those around her by the use of her magic girdle. One fitting and you were smitten. Taurus has a way of encouraging this response. Venus also brings the need for affection and a search for love, as those born during this time are also generous in love, sharing their enjoyment and their warmth. Taurus is a fixed, negative earth sign and the first earth sign associated with the statements ‘I am steadfast and provide stability’, ‘Mine’ and ‘I value possessions and enjoy indulgence’. It rules the throat and the neck. Taurus is associated with the Daisy, Dandelion, Foxglove, Lily of the Valley, Narcissus, Poppy and Rose (See Mystical WWW Plants, & Language of Flowers). Taurus is further associated with the Apple, Blackthorn, Fig, Hawthorn, Pear, Vine and Willow (See Mystical WWW Trees). Colours associated with Taurus are pale blue, all shades of green, pink and yellow. The main stone associated with Taurus is the Emerald, whilst the main stone associated with the month of April is the Diamond (See Mystical WWW Mystical Time : Rhymes & Time - Language of Gems).Lucky number is seven, lucky day Thursday (See Mystical WWW Mystical Time : Days of the Week). Metal associated is copper.
‘The time of fertility and growth is upon us.’
‘I could tell you of my adventures -
beginning with this morning.’
Gemini is the third sign of the zodiac symbolised by the ‘Celestial Twins’. The word Gemini is Latin meaning ‘twin’.It has often been suggested that this symbolism indicates the need for the Gemini to find a partner, someone close or to feel needed, an important part of something. In ancient Greek mythology the twins of ‘Castor’ (mortal) and ‘Pollux’ (immortal) were associated with the sign, being the sons of ‘Zeus’ and ‘Leda’. Zeus gave immortality to both upon the killing of Castor. Gemini reflects the third phase of the journey of the sun, and of the child developing from the teen years through adolescence to young adulthood. Here we see the curious mind developing further also to becoming aware of the close connections between thought and action. Gemini possesses the duality and contrast in nature, that of the light and dark or night and day, summer and winter, and the growth and decay in all things.
‘Mercury’ is the ruling planet of Gemini. In Roman mythology Mercury was the ‘Messenger of the Gods’,son of ‘Jupiter’ and ‘Maia’and the equivalent of the ‘God Hermes’ of ancient Greek mythology.Mercury is often used to symbolise the inner qualities of vitality, intelligence, quick thinking, restlessness, co-ordination and flexibility. The liveliness was also seen one draw back this being that settling upon and fully completing a task was very difficult due to the need to explore and develop new projects before boredom set in. Despite the possible unreliability alluded to Gemini have a lot of energy and can bounce back, which means they can adapt well to changing situations and hence they love to be part of a group although their membership is not always maintained. It was once believed that as Gemini represents the twin that those born in Gemini would also be ambidextrous. Gemini is a mutable, neutral sir sign and the first air sign associated with the statements ‘I encircle the earth’, ‘On the wings of the wind’and‘With the swiftness of sound’. It rules thenervous system, the hands, shoulders, arms and lungs.Gemini is associated with Heather, Lavender, Lily of the Valley, Privet, Tansy, Violets, Yarrow and also Ferns (See Mystical WWW Plants, & Language of Flowers). Gemini is further associated with all nut trees, and also the Cedar, Chestnut, Hawthorn, Hazel, Linden and the Oak (See Mystical WWW Trees). Colours associated with Gemini are light green, slate grey, yellow and any colour combinations of spotted mixtures. The main stone associated with Gemini is the Agate, whilst the main stone associated with the month of May is the Emerald (See Mystical WWW Mystical Time : Rhymes & Time - Language of Gems).Lucky number is five, lucky day Wednesday (See Mystical WWW Mystical Time : Days of the Week). Metal associated is quicksilver or mercury.
‘The time of the Sacred Marriage of God and Goddess.’
Newington, Kent, England : ‘Blessing the Cherry Orchards’, date varies, generally until the end of the month.
Rye, Sussex, England : Traditional ‘Scrambling for Hot Pennies’, date varies, generally until the end of the month.
Wye Dale District, Derbyshire, England : Traditional ‘Well-dressing’, generally at the end of the month.
Spring Bank Holiday Monday
Kingsteignton, Devon, England : Traditional ‘Ram Roasting Ceremony’.
Bampton, Oxfordshire, England : Traditional ‘Morris Dancing’ (See Mystical WWW Arts : Dance, Morris).
Endon, Staffordshire, England : Traditional ‘Well-Dressing’.
Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev
Sikh holiday and festival : (1997 June 9, 1998 May 29).
First or second Saturday
Ickwell Green, Bedfordshire, England : ‘May Day Festival’ and ‘Crowning of the May Queen’.
Hayes Common, London, England : ‘Merrie England May Queens' Festival’.
Last Saturday in May
Drumnadrochit, Inverness, Scotland : Traditional ‘Piping and Dancing’.
St. Wenn and district, Cornwall, England : Traditional ‘Cornish Wrestling Championships’.
Whit Sunday (+ other dates)
Walsingham, Norfolk, England : Traditional Pilgrimage to the Shrine (Of Our Lady).
St. Briavels, Gloucestershire, England : Traditional ‘Bread and Cheese Dole’.
Whit Monday (4-yearly)
Dunmow, Essex, England : Traditional ‘Dunmow Flitch Trial’.
Enderby, Leicestershire, England : Traditional ‘Selling of the Keep of the Wether’.
Charing, Kent, England : Traditional ‘Hooden Horse Display’ and ‘Morris Dancing’ (See Mystical WWW Arts : Dance, Morris).
Cooper's Hill, Brockworth, Gloucestershire, England : Traditional ‘Cheese Rolling’.
Lichfield, Staffordshire, England : Traditional ‘Court of Array and Greenhill Bower’.
St. Ives, Huntingdonshire, England : Tradition of ‘Dicing for Bibles’ by local children.
Whitsun Bank Holiday Weekend
Holmfirth, Yorkshire : Traditional Folk Festival (Morris/music/food/entertainment).
Unlucky May Dates
3. 6. 7. 15. 20.
According to the English historian Richard Grafton these certain dates of the month were unlucky as published in the ‘Manual’ in 1565. Days throughout the year were identified and of course could have related to any day of the week. The date was the most important point to consider. The work was reputed to have some credence with support given by astronomers of the day. Exactly why these dates are unlucky is unclear today but by looking at the calendar of days an idea of the major occurrences can be seen.