The Ancient Traditions of May Day

The Ancient Traditions of May Day

The First of May has long been celebrated by many cultures in the Northern hemisphere; many of the May Day traditions that we are familiar with date far back to pre-Christian times. With less than a week until May Day, this is an excellent time to look at some of these traditions and their significance.

Beltane Fires

May Day is strongly connected to the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane, and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night, both of which fall at the same time. Alongside the date, one thing that Beltane and Walpurgis Night both have in common is the use of bonfires as part of the celebration.

May Day is often regarded as the beginning of Summer – in line with those traditions that regard the first of February as the first day of Spring – and the fires lit on this day are representative of the fiery sun, growing in strength as the year turns. The Beltane fire is often said to have protective powers, and in ancient ceremonies people would gather by the fire until its flames burnt low and then leap over it to secure its protection – a ceremony that is still performed in modern Glastonbury and in other places to this day.

May Flowers

As it marks the beginning of summer, it is quite natural that flowers should be used as part of May Day celebrations. Yellow flowers such as primroses, rowan and hawthorn often feature heavily; in Ireland, the old tradition was to take a small thorny bush and decorate it with painted shells, ribbons and bright flowers, and there was great competition over which household had the best bush. This resulted in May Bushes being stolen from households, and as a result the practice was outlawed in Victorian times!

The May Pole

Still seen in towns and villages across Britain today, the traditional maypole and its dance were recorded as far back as the 14thcentury – although it is possible that the practice dates back even further. Scholars are divided on the meaning and symbolism of the maypole itself; some say that it symbolises the axis upon which the world spins, or perhaps the world tree that features heavily in Scandinavian mythology. Others regarded it as a phallic symbol, signifying fertility for the coming season.

As May Day marks the beginning of a new season, it is an excellent time to seek guidance on your journey through life.

Call me or a member of my team to get a reading now.

To call me, the number for UK callers is 0800 999 3831. Australia 1800 558 140, Canada 1866 403 3407, USA 1855 864 9382, Ireland 015 060 692, Rest of the world +44 1749 860 777.

To call a member of my team, the number for UK callers is 0800 999 8831. Australia 1800 018 367, Canada 1866 76 9422, USA 1855 864 9383, Ireland 015 060 693, Rest of the world +44 207 111 6115.

Tony Hyland