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Maypoles & May-queens

‘Come listen awhile unto what we shall say, concerning the season, the month of May; For the flowers they are springing ,and the birds they do sing, And the baziers are sweet in the morning of May’.

Maypoles having been banned by Cromwell were joyfully restored in 1660 when Charles ll was restored to the throne and once again became a centre of MayDay celebrations . Equally the crowning of May-queens accompanied by a May-King (often a Jack - in- the - Green ) set the scene across many villages as the1st May was marked with merriment and mirth.

On May eve country folk would ramble collecting armfuls of sweet smelling hawthorn (May-flower) that had just come into bloom ready to adorn the tops of maypoles, to make bowers to put above doors and barns and to make into hoops and garlands on May Day morn. A festival that seems steeped in pagan fertility rights May Day became a day of merrymaking for all ages, as children and adults alike danced around maypoles, lit bonfires (Beltane fires) and truly welcomed the beginning of summer. To us we think of MayDay as a springtime festival but at one time we had only two seasons summer and winter which was known a Samhain in Gaelic/Celtic tradition.

In parts of Cornwall in 1826 it is recorded that on May eve at Midnight people went from door to door for ‘junket’ with cream & sugar and a piece of rich fruited cake. Cow horns were blown throughout the night and whistles made from May twigs shrilled as many stayed up to welcome the dawn and bathed in the May morning dew that was known for its magical beauty properties.

Here in Shropshire I always associate Mayday with bluebell woods as often the May blossom is not yet fully out. An early morning walk amongst the heavily scented bluebells is always wonderful but on May morning has a magick all of its own.

And of course the sweet little forget-me-not is everywhere in our garden at this time of the year. We have also been blessed once again to have hares inhabiting the fields around us and have two little leverets that play on our front lawn early each morning.

Although we now have an official MayDay bank holiday please do remember the true Mayday - 1st May. Maybe go on a stroll to try and hear a cuckoo, or perhaps a picnic in a park, have a look at the wonderful hedgerows we have in our leafy lanes or perhaps just raise a glass of your favourite tipple (saving a little to pour as libation to Mother Earth) to toast this our most favourite of months. Happy Beltane/Mayday - May you have a month full of joy x

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