The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #110682   Message #2325113
Posted By: lady penelope
25-Apr-08 - 05:56 AM
Thread Name: Folklore: May day Rhymes or songs
Subject: RE: Folklore: May day Rhymes or songs
Yes Geoff....   M'aidez = Help Me.

May day... May day as we now know it, is a re-invention/ressurection? The Victorians are kind of to blame. The general folk revivalist movement dragged various May traditions back out into the light and 'civilised' them. Partly due to certain revolutions in Russia and partly because May (specifically in Britain) is usually the first month with good weather for out door events, May Day became associated with workers and their unions.

Much further back it was know as going A Maying. The festivities were not confined to the first day in May, the whole month was considered apt.

Although actual customs (and the often obscure reasons for them) vary wildly from place to place, it's generally looked at as a time to celebrate the beginning of summer, the general idea of fertility, marriages (or handfastings) quite often took place about May time. Winter gear could be put away and lighter clothing worn ("Ne'er cast a clout till May be out" - although whether that refers to the month or the plant is unclear).

In an agricultural setting, May can be a bit of a month off - well, depending. Too soon to start harvesting crops, but the hard work of lambing and other spring husbandry is done. May was a traditonal month for the shearing. Teams of shearers would often go from croft to croft and it was considered a basic requirement to feed these teams well (as well as pay them!) These meals often turned into parties as often the teams would be the first travellers of the year to visit many of the more remote farms.

But the May festivities do go waaay back. Beltaine can be used as another name for the month of May, but was a reference to the Sun God Baal and the fires lit in celebration of his ascendance to reign over the summer months.

I think May has just been the month when the general populace can shake off the last of the winter and have a bit of a laugh, enjoy the good things in life and generally remember why it is we bother with all the hard work.

As for specific customs... that can get a wee bit involved. There's a book coming out at the beginning of May (quite apt eh? And yes, it's a bit of a plug) by a bloke called Keith Leech. It's mainly about Hastings Jack In The Green festival, but he does go into the whole May celebration thing as well. And my husband did most of the photographs... *G*