May Day

maypole.gifI refer not to a panicked entreaty from a ship at sea, nor to the planned March in MacArthur Park, LA, regarding immigrants’ rights.

Instead, I return to the original usage of the term, and offer warm wishes for the festival marking the beginning of the fertile season of the year.  May Day is approximately equivalent to the festival of Beltane in the old Gaelic tongue (which indeed is the word for the month of May in that language), one of the eight festivals marking the turning of the wheel of the year in the ancient earth-centered traditions, and revived today among Neo-Pagans, who generally celebrate it on April 30th.  Specifically, Beltane is one of the cross-quarter holidays, midway in the solar cycle between the spring equinox and the summer solstice.

wheelofyear.jpgFor the ancient Celts, who were primarily herders, Beltane marked the beginning of the warm months of the year, when the cattle were brought out to their summer pastures, and crops began to grow.  It was celebrated with bonfires and (evidently rather bawdy) dancing around the Maypole, the significance of which in a fertility celebration is not difficult to guess.  At least these are some of the traditions that have survived into recent centuries and even to the present day in various countries of the Celtic fringe of Europe.

So: This is an opportunity to step back from our electronically saturated indoor lives, open our eyes and other senses to the world waking up around us, smell the fresh earth, and remember where it all comes from.

Good wishes to all for a fertile season and a happy harvest to come.

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About Emmett Duffy

I am a Natural Patriot and an ecologist with expertise in biodiversity and its importance to human society. My day job is Professor of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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2 Responses to May Day

  1. It’s sad to think how far we’ve come from the holidays that celebrated the change of seasons, the equinoxes, in short anything that put is in touch with our environment around us. Why aren’t these national holidays? Why aren’t we encouraging our nations to step outside and remember where our food comes from, where our very lives come from.

    Dagny McKinley
    http://www.onnotextiles.com
    organic apparel

  2. Abry Connel says:

    I like your conclusion:
    “This is an opportunity to step back from our electronically saturated indoor lives, open our eyes and other senses to the world waking up around us, smell the fresh earth, and remember where it all comes from.”
    I see you sitting there now with your new MAC notebook and reading this … very relaxed and cool.
    Absolutely true, and combining old traditions with modern technology is fascinating. Enjoy Beltane ..

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