Monday, May 10, 2010


Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave as King Arthur and Guinevere in film 'Camelot'

Those lyrics are from Lerner and Loewe's wonderful musical 'Camelot', which is based on Arthurian legend and in particular, the romantic triangle of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot and Guinevere. The song, 'It's May' is a frolicsome, wistful piece sung by Guinevere and company, set amongst woods, food and wine ... delighting in the sport of wooing and spooning. The very fastidious and very christian Lancelot, who has heard tell of King Arthur and his round table in his native land, France, sets sail for England to become one of Arthur's knights and join in his quest ...'Might for Right'. When this rather handsome but seriously earnest young man arrives at Camelot into the middle of all this merrymaking, he succeeds in distracting Arthur's attention away from the frivolity of May, which in turn annoys and irritates Guinevere, because she believes there has to be time for the sports and spoils of love, even if you are following a quest for truth and honour. Eventually, of course, she falls deeply, deeply in love with Lancelot... and I'm not going to say another word. Watch the movie, read the book! Both Limerick's own Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave give jaw-dropping performances.

Glorious Wisteria - Couldn't live without it!

May Day is also called International Labour Day, with its roots in the trade union movements across the globe; and is not just a celebration of the working classes and their contributions to the world economy, but a reminder that the working classes of this world require an equitable slice of the cake, so to speak. Throughout history, long before trade unions were established, festivals, and in particular, May Day was a holiday and an opportunity for those in the service of the 'big house folk', to partake in merry-making and abandonment, away from the irksome grind of everyday existence. Perhaps Mother Nature, listening to the needs of her children designed May with this in mind. May is a 'calming', but 'liberating' month. It acts like an overture or prelude, it previews what's to come in the rest of the opera or suite, the Summer; a quietness before the full glory of Summer; a preview of the promise of prime. The month of May is called after the Roman goddess Maia, daughter of Faunus and wife of Vulcan (his Greek counterpart, Hephaestus, who married Aphrodite.) Farmers were cautioned not to sow grain before the time of her setting, or conjunction with the sun, which has apparently shifted from April in early Roman times, due to the precession of the Earth's axis.

Bluebells - Two days ago!

As the Romans invaded Western Europe and Britain, much of the symbolism of the Floralia and Beltaine became entwined, eventually becoming the holiday we know as Mayday or Walpurgis. The customs of going 'a-maying', collecting flowers, greenery and the maypole survives virtually to this day, as do the balefires in Britain, Germany and other countries of Europe. The sexual aspect of the holiday, however, has become almost extinct in many countries. The festivities were viewed as sinful by some Christian leaders, and in 1644, the celebrations were banned by the Puritan-controlled Parliament in Britain. 

My Cherry Blossom!

Beltane, lst day of May and Summer, is the anglicization of the Irish 'Bealtaine' or Scottish 'Beatuinn'. While 'tene' clearly means 'fire, 'Bel' might refer to Belenus, a pastoral god of the Gauls or from 'Bel' meaning 'brilliant'.

My Japanese Maple - Taken lying on my back looking upwards and through!

The Druids and their successors lit fires on the hilltops at Beltane to bring the sun's light down to earth. In Scotland every household fire was extinguished and hill top fires were kindled 3 times by 3 men using wood from 9 sacred trees. (3's crop up everywhere in mythology. Dante was also fond of number 3). People thrust brands into the roaring flames, whirling them around their heads in imitation of the circling of the sun. As the fires sunk low, girls jumped across them to procure husbands and pregnant women stepped through the ashes  to ensure easier births.

A variegated version - Taken the same way. Like the contrast between leaf and branch!

Beltane was a time of fertility and unbridled merry-making, when young and old would spend the night making love in the Greenwood. In the morning, they would return home to the village bearing budding branches of hawthorn (the May Tree) and other spring flowers to decorate themselves, their families and their homes.


In every village, the maypole, usually a birch or ash pole, would be raised, and the dancing and feasting began, led by the May Queen, her consort, the King, sometimes called 'Jack-in-the-Green' or the 'Green Man', the old god of the wildwood. They were drawn in a cart, covered in flowers and enthroned in a leafy arbour as the divine couple that symbolized the sacred marriage of earth and sun.

On my back again!

I have been minding a friend's dogs for the last week or so. The ten mile drive over there has produced so many gasps and whoops of delight, as I witness glorious sunsets, bouncing lambs, clumsy calves, leggy foals,  and rabbits bobbing here and there, peaking out from behind tufts of grass, and I drive ever so slowly by to get a look at soft brown eyes, yearning to be seen as friend not foe, and fields of flax wearing, 'an almost painful yellow'. As a youngster, I always dressed up for May Day, calling to houses, singing a few songs, collecting a few pennies for sweets. One year, I can remember dressing up my brother, Martin as an Indian, complete with turban, daubing some of my mother's dark brown foundation (at least I think that's what it was!) onto his face, placing him out in front, because he looked so cute! I wonder does he remember ... probably not! 

Some things that I am going to do next May Day:

Arise at dawn and wash in the morning dew: the woman who washes her face in it will be beautiful; the man who washes his hands will be skilled with knots and nets.

If you live near water, make a garland or posy of spring flowers and cast it into stream, lake or river to bless the water spirits.

Prepare a May basket by filling it with flowers and goodwill, then give it to one in need of caring, such as an elderly friend.

Beltaine is one of the three "spirit-nights" of the year when the faeries can be seen. At dusk, twist a rowan sprig into a ring and look through it, and you may see them.

Make a wish as you jump a bonfire or candle flame for good luck—but make sure you tie up long skirts first!

Make a May bowl —wine or punch in which the flowers of sweet woodruff or other fragrant blossoms are soaked—and drink with the one you love.try out next May Day:

Enjoy the rest of May ... its special! My love for May is rooted in the lime-green of newness, the 'hum' of 'may'bes, an excuse to idle ... anticipate the arrival of the May Fly alongside an expectant, rising nation of salmon, the onslaught of heady, aphrodisiac scents of lilac, hawthorn, viburnum and wisteria, in veils of mauve, white and puple. Anyway, I'm off to a favourite spot of mine, Crete, later this week for a few days, and will celebrate my birthday there! How lucky am I! I get to smell majoram, oregano and rosemary growing wild, taste Cretan honey, bananas and yogurt, listen to Cretan music, touch the soil of Zeus's homeland, and see the smiles of the Cretan people, and in particular, my friend, Manolis. A feast for all my senses! Crete in May! 

Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald -  Film 'Maytime'

Ciao for now!

Painfully Beautiful Flax Field in Orchardstown!


mairead said...

I love reading your blogs!
I hear English accents all day these days because I work in a call centre and we call lots all the sky customers in the uk.
Glasgow Wales london all over. reminds me of you every now and again. I love your pictures. I must say as an aside I laughed heartily at your gag with Prince Charles. :)

Maureen Walsh said...

Thanks M. Glad you enjoy!X

Caitriona Kenny said...

Ah, the celebration of Druid ways! great photos Maureen xx

Maureen Walsh said...

Yes absolutely! Would love to have been in Donegal this morning. Apparently choirs from all over congregate on the beach at 6am ...'Operation Dawn Chorus' to celebrate the end of Beltaine. Can you just imagine the MAGIC of that!!! X