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Grey Matter


Happy May Day !

I doubt many people in the US actually celebrate May Day, but I normally do something Celtic, for lack of a better, descriptive word. This year we will be attending the Celtic Women concert in the evening. Normally we just drop by a local pub where we can hear a Celtic band, or some bagpipes. If it is a nice night we will sit outside and look at the sky and think about lighting a bonfire, but then we always chicken out because we are afraid the neighbors will call the fire department.

I don’t know about other parts of the country, but in New Mexico you pretty much have to know where to go to celebrate May Day. Maybe other parts of the country have more going on than just a few pubs that celebrate it, but I don’t know.

Though May Day maybe isn’t such a big deal in most places anymore, at one time it was a very big deal. Most people think of it as a Celtic holiday celebrated only by ancient Britons, Scots and Irish, but that is wrong. Some form of May Day was celebrated by many diverse cultures, including The Romans and most Native American cultures.

Intriguingly there is a lot of similarity in the way it was celebrated. Most are probably familiar with the Celtic May Pole, a pole that is danced around on May Day, which has streamers that hang down representing the rays of the sun. The native Americans also danced around a pole and it also had representations of the rays of the sun hanging off of it. Coincidence or is it true that there was contact with the Americas long before Columbus? You could probably guess that I believe “the new world” was discovered long before Columbus, discovered and later forgotten.

In most celtic tradition, on May Day, Bonfires were lit to honor the sun, this practice was known as Beltun. As with most Celtic rituals, May Day also was a ritual of fertility for both people and the earth. After all, if you don’t have a good harvest you are likely to die, so fertility is very important.

For the ancient Britons, the eve of May Day was believed to be a night when sinister forces were loosed upon the earth and bonfires were built to banish them. Rather like Christmas, at dawn there were wreaths left on each house door, but carolers. There were also bowls of milk and other tasty treats left on the doorstep for the fairies and so that their home would be blessed by the good fairies. May Day must be feast day for the fairies!

So next time May Day comes around, do something weird, hang a wreath on your door or leave a bowl of milk out for the fairies. Who knows, maybe it will catch on and we can add a holiday to the calendar and some people might even get another day off from work!

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