Fertility

The Powamu Festival is the mid-winter ceremony and also called the Bean Planting Festival. It is observed in late January or early February. The celebration lasts 8 days and is mainly celebrated by the Hopi Indians in Arizona.

The Hopis call their ancestral spirits, Katchinas. They believe that for 6 months of the year, these spirits leave their mountain homes and visit the tribe. When they do this, they bring along with them good health to the Hopi and rain for their crops. The Powamu Festival celebrates the spirits return, just like the Niman Katchina ceremony in July celebrates their departure.

The preparations for the ceremony include repainting of the masks that will be worn by those Hopi who impersonate the Katchinas. On the third day, young men bring baskets of wet sand that they leave near the entrance to the kiva, the ceremonial meeting room (see more about this on Wuwuchim page). A hot fire also burns in every kiva of very Hopi village the entire 8 days of the Powamu Festival. Blankets are also stretched across the opening so that the atmosphere inside is similar to a hothouse.

Each man who enters the kiva during this period carries a basket (or bowl) of sand into it. He also plants a handful of beans, which sprout really fast due to all the heat and humidity inside the kiva.

Why bean sprouts? The Hopi believe that bean sprouts represent fertility. Because the Hopi rely strongly on the Katchinas to bring rain (and other good weather conditions) essential to the growth of their crops, bean sprouts also symbolize the approaching spring too.

The Powamu comes to it’s conclusion with a dance that takes place in the nine kivas that dot the northeastern Arizona mesa. The bodies of the dancers are painted red and white and they wear squash blossoms in their hair. These are really yucca fibers twisted into the shape of a squash blossom. They also wear white kilts and sashes, plus leggings with a fringe of shells tied down the side.

The dance takes place inside the hot kiva and is done in two lines. When the dance is over, the dancers then leave for the next village’s kiva, and another group arrives. So, by the time the night is over, each group will have danced at all of the nine kivas.

Then, the Katchinas arrive the next morning wear masks and painted bodies. They bring dolls and rattles for the girls; and, bow and arrows for the boys. Both of the boys and girls get the green bean sprouts that have been growing in the hot kivas.

Clowns run around making jokes, tripping each other and performing pantomines for everyone’s pleasure and fun. The conclusion of the Powamu ends with a feast in which bean sprouts are the main ingredient.

From this time until their departure in July, the Katchinas appear regularly in masked ceremonies performed in the Hopi villages.

The men who impersonate the Katchinas wear masks which vary from year to year. A few of the masks will, however, remain the same. Before the dance, the masks are repainted and refurbished. They are made to fit closely over the head, hiding it totally. There is also a ruff of feathers, fur or spruce at the neck. The face on the mask usually resembles a bird, a beast, a monster or a man or a combination of all of these.

Those who wear the Katchina masks usually also carry an object associated with the being they are suppose to represent (i.e. bow and arrow, a yucca whip or feathers.)

The female Katchinas (who are not really women but are impersonated by the men) wear wigs or long hair styled in flat swirls over the ears known as squash blossoms. This hair style represents virginity.

The Soyokmana is a witch-like creature that carries a crook and a bloody knife. She goes along with the Katchinas as they go from Hopi village to another visiting their kivas. This group also goes from house to house demanding food, receiving gifts and presenting bean sprouts.

When the food they are offered does not meet their requirements, the Katchinas get upset and make hooting and whistling noises and refuse to leave until they have been properly fed! (This sort of reminds me of trick or treating on Halloween.) Sometimes that mean ol’ Soyokamana will use her crook to hook a child around the neck and hold him or her there, screaming in terror. Parents tell their children that this is a punishment for being naughty.

The Flogging  Ceremony

Up until a Hopi child is 9 or 10, they believe that the Katchinas are superhuman. So when Hopi children, who have been seeing the Katchinas at many ceremonial dances grow up, they are told that the real Katchinas no longer visit the earth, but are merely impersonated by men wearing masks.

The price for this sudden wisdom is to participate in a ritual flogging or whipping ceremony. Now, the children are NEVER struck hard enough to cause serious injury or pain! This ritual is not intended to be cruel. In fact, sometimes a child who is really frightened, isn’t flogged at all but has a yucca whip whirled over his or her head. Occasionally, an adult will be flogged too, which is believed to promote healing.

For four successive mornings, the child who has been flogged is taken to a special place on the mesa where he or she can make an offering at a shrine and casts meal towards the sun. During the first 3 days of this 4 day period, the child is not allowed to eat salt or meat. But, on the fourth day, these rules are lifted. And, from this time on, the child is now allowed to look at the Katchinas without their masks and at other sacred objects in the kiva without incurring any punishment.

Source: Brownielocks

According to moon lore, for best results you should set eggs (place eggs under a hen or in an incubator) during specific phases of the moon. It occured to me that if these are good days to set eggs, they might also be good days for fertility magick.

Here are the optimum dates for 2019:

  • January: 16 – 18, 26, 27
  • February: 13, 14, 22, 23
  • March: 21 – 23
  • April: 18, 19, 26
  • May: 15, 16, 24, 25
  • June: 11, 12, 20, 21
  • July: 10, 17, 18
  • August: 13, 14, 23
  • September: 10, 11, 19 – 21
  • October: 7, 8, 16 – 18
  • November: 5, 13, 14
  • December: 10, 11

Source: The Farmers’ Almanac

May Day is a public holiday usually celebrated on 1 May. It is an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the festivities.

Ancient spring rites that related human fertility to crop fertility gave birth to most modern May Day festivities. May 1 is the traditional day to crown the May queen, dance around the maypole, perform mummers’ plays, and generally celebrate the return of spring. Although our Pilgrim fathers were horrified by these reminders of a pagan past and outlawed all such activities, the maypole dance remains an enduring event.

In Great Britain, the custom of “bringing in the May” involves gathering “knots,” or branches with buds, on the eve or early morning of May 1. In England, a favorite branch is hawthorn. In Scotland and Wales, people choose the rowan, or mountain ash. In North America, we often select forsythia, lilac, or pussy willow branches to bring spring and the prospect of new life into our homes.

The best known modern May Day traditions, observed both in Europe and North America, include dancing around the maypole and crowning the Queen of May. Fading in popularity since the late 20th century is the tradition of giving of “May baskets,” small baskets of sweets or flowers, usually left anonymously on neighbors’ doorsteps.

In the late 20th century, many neopagans began reconstructing some of the older pagan festivals and combining them with more recently developed European secular and Catholic traditions, and celebrating May Day as a pagan religious festival.

The Maypole

It’s impossible to think of Mayday without thinking of the Maypole. This is perhaps one of the most popular symbols of the season, representing the Divine Marriage between the Lord and Lady of the Greenwood. The pole represents the male principle, and the ribbons that wrap around it (and the wreath placed atop the pole) are symbolic of the female principle.

The Maypole represents the phallus of the God. The wreath atop represents the vagina of the Goddess. As the Maypole is danced, the ribbons wind around the pole and the wreath lowers, symbolizing the Divine Marriage, the sexual union of God and Goddess.

The Maypole Dance

The May Day dance is rich in pagan symbolism. There are usually eight dancers, one for each sabbat of the year, paired into four couples. (Of course, many more may dance. This is only a suggestion.) The dance involves moving in circles and weaving over and under the other dancers. The women take the white ribbons with their right sides to the pole, and the men take the red ribbons with their left sides to the pole.

The weaving of the symbolic birth canal begins with music or chanting as everyone moves forward from where they stand, moving alternately over and under each person coming toward them. (To start, the men begin weaving under the upheld ribbon of the first woman they encounter). Continue the dance until the maypole is wrapped. Tie off the ribbons and let the wreath drop to the ground.

Many folks wear bells when dancing the May dance. Make your steps a cross between a skip and a jog, coming down in time to the music, so that the bells mark off the beats of the music or chant.

May Day Chants

We are the flow and we are the ebb
We are the weavers, we are the web

We are the needle, we are the thread
We are the witches, back from the dead

Weavers, weavers,
We are weaving the web of life.
Weave, weave, weave me a rainbow
Out of the falling rain.
Weave me the hope of a new tomorrow.
Fill my cup again

Lady, weave Your circle tight
With a web of living light
Earth and Air and Fire and Water
Bind us to you.

The Pole

The traditional Maypole is a fir tree that has been stripped of all but its uppermost branches (often the trunk of the Yule tree was saved for the Maypole), but traditions vary. Some use oak; others pine. It may range in height from a few feet to as large as you care to make it. (Bear in mind, ribbon will need to be twice as long as the pole.) With unlimited space outdoors, ten feet is a good length. Of course, in a pinch, even a flagpole would do. For those who have restricted space or who have to celebrate indoors, a 3-4 foot dowel inserted in a wooden base and placed upon the altar will work as well.

If you cut a tree for the Maypole, please ask the tree’s permission before cutting and leave an offering at the base. An offering of food, wine, or flowers is entirely appropriate.

The Ribbons

However many ribbons you use, you will need equal numbers of at least two colors, depending on the number of dancers you’ll have. I recommend at least 6-8 dancers. Ribbons for the pole should be twice as long as the pole and about two to three inches wide. Colors vary according to preference. Traditional colors are red for the God and white for the virgin Goddess. Some use colors of the season — hunter green for the forest, gold for the sun, or purple for the color of grapes and wine. I’ve even heard of people using a rainbow of colors to represent the signs of the zodiac. Some traditions request that dancers bring a ribbon in a color representing a certain blessing they might wish for.

The ribbons can be tied just below the topmost branches of the tree or adhered to the top of the pole with thumbtacks, nails, or glue. In Dancing with the Sun, Yasmine Galenorn recommends making crosscuts on the top end of the pole, tying knots on the end of each ribbon, and threading the ribbons through the slits at the top of the pole. The knots will keep the ribbon from sliding out of the slits as it is woven around the pole.

The Wreath

The wreath should be made on Beltane morning. It is traditional to go to the fields to gather May flowers at this time. Fashion a wreath from greenery and decorate with the first blooms of the season. It must be somewhat bigger than the top of the maypole, taking into account any branches you left at the top, in order that it may fall down the pole as the ribbons are wound.

Consecrate the Maypole

Erection of the Maypole should be carried out with great fanfare. Once the tree has been selected, cut down, and the branches removed, it might be carried in processional to the dance site. Next, a hole must be dug. Pour an offering of water with a pinch of salt or a purifying herb like rosemary into the opening with words like:

Earth Mother, may this offering
Prepare you to receive
This symbol of your consort, our Lord.

Next, anoint the Maypole itself, using altar oil or a mixture of any of the following: myrrh, musk, and/or sweet woodruff. With the oil, make the sign of the solar cross, or the Rune inguz, a rune related to the annual “king’s circuit,” or walking of the land, to ensure the fertility of the land:

At each anointing, say:

Blessed be this tree,
Vehicle of our Lord
Which shall soon enter
Our Mother, the Earth.

When the Maypole has been erected and decorated, light the balefire and celebrate!

Historical May Day Celebrations

The earliest known May celebrations appeared with the Floralia, festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, held on 27 April during the Roman Republic era, and the Maiouma or Maiuma, a festival celebrating Dionysus and Aphrodite on an unknown date in May every three years. The Floralia opened with theatrical performances. In the Floralia, Ovid says that hares and goats were released as part of the festivities. Persius writes that crowds were pelted with vetches, beans, and lupins. A ritual called the Florifertum was performed on either April 27 or May 3, during which a bundle of wheat ears was carried into a shrine, though it is not clear if this devotion was made to Flora or Ceres. Floralia concluded with competitive events and spectacles, and a sacrifice to Flora.

According to the 6th century chronicles of John Malalas, the Maiouma was a “nocturnal dramatic festival, held every three years and known as Orgies, that is, the Mysteries of Dionysus and Aphrodite” and that it was “known as the Maioumas because it is celebrated in the month of May-Artemisios”. During this time, enough money was set aside by the government for torches, lights, and other expenses to cover a thirty-day festival of “all-night revels.” The Maiouma was celebrated with splendorous banquets and offerings. Its reputation for licentiousness caused it to be suppressed during the reign of Emperor Constantine, though a less debauched version of it was briefly restored during the reigns of Arcadius and Honorius, only to be suppressed again during the same period.

A later May festival celebrated in Germanic countries, Walpurgis Night, commemorates the official canonization of Saint Walpurga on May 1st, 870. In Gaelic culture, the evening of April 30th was the celebration of Beltane (which translates to “lucky fire”), the start of the summer season. First attested in 900 AD, the celebration mainly focused on the symbolic use of fire to bless cattle and other livestock as they were moved to summer pastures. This custom continued into the early 19th century, during which time cattle would be made to jump over fires to protect their milk from being stolen by fairies. People would also leap over the fires for luck.

May Day was abolished and its celebration banned by Puritan parliaments during the Interregnum, but reinstated with the restoration of Charles II in 1660. 1 May 1707, was the day the Act of Union came into effect, joining England and Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Queen Guinevere’s Maying, by John Collier

For thus it chanced one morn when all the court,
Green-suited, but with plumes that mocked the may,
Had been, their wont, a-maying and returned,
That Modred still in green, all ear and eye,
Climbed to the high top of the garden-wall
To spy some secret scandal if he might,

Since the 18th century, many Roman Catholics have observed May – and May Day – with various May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In works of art, school skits, and so forth, Mary’s head will often be adorned with flowers in a May crowning. 1 May is also one of two feast days of the Catholic patron saint of workers St Joseph the Worker, a carpenter, husband to Mother Mary, and surrogate father of Jesus. Replacing another feast to St. Joseph, this date was chosen by Pope Pius XII in 1955 as a counterpoint to the communist International Workers Day celebrations on May Day.

In the late 19th century, May Day was chosen as the date for International Workers’ Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago. International Workers’ Day can also be referred to as “May Day”, but it is a different celebration from the traditional May Day.

May Day Celebrations Around The World

  • England

Traditional English May Day rites and celebrations include crowning a May Queen and celebrations involving a maypole, around which dancers often circle with ribbons. Historically, Morris dancing has been linked to May Day celebrations. The earliest records of maypole celebrations date to the 14th century, and by the 15th century the maypole tradition was well established in southern Britain.

In Oxford, it is a centuries-old tradition for May Morning revellers to gather below the Great Tower of Magdalen College at 6 am to listen to the college choir sing traditional madrigals as a conclusion to the previous night’s celebrations. Since the 1980s some people then jump off Magdalen Bridge into the River Cherwell. For some years, the bridge has been closed on 1 May to prevent people from jumping, as the water under the bridge is only 2 feet (61 cm) deep and jumping from the bridge has resulted in serious injury in the past. There are still people who climb the barriers and leap into the water, causing themselves injury.

In Durham, students of the University of Durham gather on Prebend’s Bridge to see the sunrise and enjoy festivities, folk music, dancing, madrigal singing and a barbecue breakfast. This is an emerging Durham tradition, with patchy observance since 2001.

Whitstable, Kent, hosts a good example of more traditional May Day festivities, where the Jack in the Green festival was revived in 1976 and continues to lead an annual procession of Morris dancers through the town on the May bank holiday.

A separate revival occurred in Hastings in 1983 and has become a major event in the town calendar. A traditional sweeps festival is performed over the May bank holiday in Rochester, Kent, where the Jack in the Green is woken at dawn on 1 May by Morris dancers.

At 7:15 p.m. on 1 May each year, the Kettle Bridge Clogs Morris dancing side dance across Barming Bridge (otherwise known as the Kettle Bridge), which spans the River Medway near Maidstone, to mark the official start of their Morris dancing season.

Also known as Ashtoria Day in northern parts of rural Cumbria. A celebration of unity and female bonding. Although not very well known, it is often cause for huge celebration.

Padstow in Cornwall holds its annual Obby-Oss (Hobby Horse) day of festivities. This is believed to be one of the oldest fertility rites in the UK; revellers dance with the Oss through the streets of the town and even through the private gardens of the citizens, accompanied by accordion players and followers dressed in white with red or blue sashes who sing the traditional “May Day” song. The whole town is decorated with springtime greenery, and every year thousands of onlookers attend. Prior to the 19th-century, distinctive May Day celebrations were widespread throughout west Cornwall, and are being revived in St. Ives and Penzance.

Kingsand, Cawsand and Millbrook in Cornwall celebrate Flower Boat Ritual on the May Day bank holiday. A model of the ship The Black Prince is covered in flowers and is taken in procession from the Quay at Millbrook to the beach at Cawsand where it is cast adrift. The houses in the villages are decorated with flowers and people traditionally wear red and white clothes. There are further celebrations in Cawsand Square with Morris dancing and May pole dancing.

  • Scotland

May Day has been celebrated in Scotland for centuries. It was previously closely associated with the Beltane festival. Reference to this earlier celebration is found in poem ‘Peblis to the Play’, contained in the Maitland Manuscripts of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Scots poetry:

At Beltane, quhen ilk bodie bownis
To Peblis to the Play,
To heir the singin and the soundis;
The solace, suth to say,
Be firth and forrest furth they found
Thay graythis tham full gay;
God wait that wald they do that stound,
For it was their feist day,
Thay said, […]

The poem describes the celebration in the town of Peebles in the Scottish Borders, which continues to stage a parade and pageant each year, including the annual ‘Common Riding’, which takes place in many towns throughout the Borders. As well as the crowning of a Beltane Queen each year, it is custom to sing ‘The Beltane Song’.

In Edinburgh, the Beltane Fire Festival is held on the evening of May eve and into the early hours of May Day on the city’s Calton Hill. An older Edinburgh tradition has it that young women who climb Arthur’s Seat and wash their faces in the morning dew will have lifelong beauty. At the University of St Andrews, some of the students gather on the beach late on April 30 and run into the North Sea at sunrise on May Day, occasionally naked. This is accompanied by torchlit processions and much elated celebration.

  • Wales

In Wales the first day of May is known as Calan Mai or Calan Haf, and parallels the festival of Beltane and other May Day traditions in Europe.

Traditions would start the night before (Nos Galan Haf) with bonfires, and is considered a Ysbrydnos or spirit night when people would gather hawthorn and flowers to decorate their houses, celebrating new growth and fertility. While on May Day celebrations would include summer dancing and May carols other times referred to as “singing under the wall”, May Day was also a time for officially opening a village green.

  • Finland

In Finland, Walpurgis night (Vappu) (“Vappen”) is one of the four biggest holidays along with Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and Midsummer. Walpurgis witnesses the biggest carnival-style festival held in Finland’s cities and towns. The celebrations, which begin on the evening of 30 April and continue on 1 May, typically centre on the consumption of sima, sparkling wine and other alcoholic beverages.

Student traditions, particularly those of engineering students, are one of the main characteristics of Vappu. Since the end of the 19th century, this traditional upper-class feast has been appropriated by university students. Many university-preparatory high school alumni wear the black and white student cap and many higher education students wear student coveralls. One tradition is to drink sima, a home-made low-alcohol mead, along with freshly cooked funnel cakes.

  • France

On 1 May 1561, King Charles IX of France received a lily of the valley as a lucky charm. He decided to offer a lily of the valley each year to the ladies of the court. At the beginning of the 20th century, it became custom to give a sprig of lily of the valley, a symbol of springtime, on 1 May. The government permits individuals and workers’ organisations to sell them tax-free on that single day. Nowadays, people may present loved ones either with bunches of lily of the valley or dog rose flowers.

  • Germany

In rural regions of Germany, especially the Harz Mountains, Walpurgisnacht celebrations of pagan origin are traditionally held on the night before May Day, including bonfires and the wrapping of a Maibaum (maypole). Young people use this opportunity to party, while the day itself is used by many families to get some fresh air. Motto: “Tanz in den Mai” (“Dance into May”).

In the Rhineland, 1 May is also celebrated by the delivery of a maypole, a tree covered in streamers to the house of a girl the night before. The tree is typically from a love interest, though a tree wrapped only in white streamers is a sign of dislike. Women usually place roses or rice in the form of a heart at the house of their beloved one. It is common to stick the heart to a window or place it in front of the doormat. In leap years, it is the responsibility of the women to place the maypole. All the action is usually done secretly and it is an individual’s choice whether to give a hint of their identity or stay anonymous.

  • Ireland

May Day has been celebrated in Ireland since pagan times as the feast of Beltane (Bealtaine) and in latter times as Mary’s day. Traditionally, bonfires were lit to mark the coming of summer and to grant luck to people and livestock. Officially Irish May Day holiday is the first Monday in May. Old traditions such as bonfires are no longer widely observed, though the practice still persists in some places across the country.

  • Italy

In Italy it is called Calendimaggio or cantar maggio a seasonal feast held to celebrate the arrival of spring. The event takes its name from the period in which it takes place, that is, the beginning of May, from the Latin calenda maia. The Calendimaggio is a tradition still alive today in many regions of Italy as an allegory of the return to life and rebirth. This magical-propitiatory ritual is often performed during an almsgiving in which, in exchange for gifts (traditionally eggs, wine, food or sweets), the Maggi (or maggerini) sing auspicious verses to the inhabitants of the houses they visit.

Throughout the Italian peninsula these Il Maggio couplets are very diverse—most are love songs with a strong romantic theme, that young people sang to celebrate the arrival of spring. Symbols of spring revival are the trees (alder, golden rain) and flowers (violets, roses), mentioned in the verses of the songs, and with which the maggerini adorn themselves. In particular the plant alder, which grows along the rivers, is considered the symbol of life and that’s why it is often present in the ritual.

Calendimaggio can be historically noted in Tuscany as a mythical character who had a predominant role and met many of the attributes of the god Belenus. In Lucania, the Maggi have a clear auspicious character of pagan origin. In Syracuse, Sicily, the Albero della Cuccagna (cf. “Greasy pole”) is held during the month of May, a feast celebrated to commemorate the victory over the Athenians led by Nicias. However, Angelo de Gubernatis, in his work Mythology of Plants, believes that without doubt the festival was previous to that of said victory.

It is a celebration that dates back to ancient peoples, and is very integrated with the rhythms of nature, such as the Celts (celebrating Beltane), Etruscans and Ligures, in which the arrival of summer was of great importance.

  • Greece

Maios (Latin Maius), the month of May, took its name from the goddess Maia (Gr Μαία, the nurse), a Greek and Roman goddess of fertility. The day of Maios (Modern Greek Πρωτομαγιά) celebrates the final victory of the summer against winter as the victory of life against death. The celebration is similar to an ancient ritual associated with another minor demi-god Adonis which also celebrated the revival of nature.

There is today some conflation with yet another tradition, the revival or marriage of Dionysus (the Greek God of theatre and wine-making). This event, however, was celebrated in ancient times not in May but in association with the Anthesteria, a festival held in February and dedicated to the goddess of agriculture Demeter and her daughter Persephone. Persephone emerged every year at the end of Winter from the Underworld. The Anthesteria was a festival of souls, plants and flowers, and Persephone’s coming to earth from Hades marked the rebirth of nature, a common theme in all these traditions.

What remains of the customs today, echoes these traditions of antiquity. A common, until recently, May Day custom involved the annual revival of a youth called Adonis, or alternatively of Dionysus, or of Maios (in Modern Greek Μαγιόπουλο, the Son of Maia). In a simple theatrical ritual, the significance of which has long been forgotten, a chorus of young girls sang a song over a youth lying on the ground, representing Adonis, Dionysus or Maios. At the end of the song, the youth rose up and a flower wreath was placed on his head.

The most common aspect of modern May Day celebrations is the preparation of a flower wreath from wild flowers, although as a result of urbanisation there is an increasing trend to buy wreaths from flower shops. The flowers are placed on the wreath against a background of green leaves and the wreath is hung either on the entrance to the family house/apartment or on a balcony. It remains there until midsummer night.

On that night, the flower wreaths are set alight in bonfires known as St John’s fires. Youths leap over the flames consuming the flower wreaths. This custom has also practically disappeared, like the theatrical revival of Adonis/Dionysus/Maios, as a result of rising urban traffic and with no alternative public grounds in most Greek city neighbourhoods, not to mention potential conflicts with demonstrating workers.

  • Bulgaria

On May Day, Bulgarians celebrate Irminden (or Yeremiya, Eremiya, Irima, Zamski den). The holiday is associated with snakes and lizards and rituals are made in order to protect people from them. The name of the holiday comes from the prophet Jeremiah, but its origins are most probably pagan.

It is said that on the days of the Holy Forty or Annunciation snakes come out of their burrows, and on Irminden their king comes out. Old people believe that those working in the fields on this day will be bitten by a snake in summer.

In western Bulgaria people light fires, jump over them and make noises to scare snakes. Another custom is to prepare “podnici” (special clay pots made for baking bread).

This day is especially observed by pregnant women so that their offspring do not catch “yeremiya” — an illness due to evil powers.

  • Romania

On May Day, the Romanians celebrate the arminden (or armindeni), the beginning of summer, symbolically tied with the protection of crops and farm animals. The name comes from Slavonic Jeremiinŭ dĭnĭ, meaning prophet Jeremiah’s day, but the celebration rites and habits of this day are apotropaic and pagan (possibly originating in the cult of the god Pan).

The day is also called ziua pelinului (“mugwort day”) or ziua bețivilor (“drunkards’ day”) and it is celebrated to ensure good wine in autumn and, for people and farm animals alike, good health and protection from the elements of nature (storms, hail, illness, pests). People would have parties in natural surroundings, with lăutari (fiddlers) for those who could afford it. Then it is customary to roast and eat lamb, along with new mutton cheese, and to drink mugwort-flavoured wine, or just red wine, to refresh the blood and get protection from diseases. On the way back, the men wear lilac or mugwort flowers on their hats.

Other rites include, in some areas of the country, people washing their faces with the morning dew (for good health) and adorning the gates for good luck and abundance with green branches or with birch saplings (for the houses with maiden girls). The entries to the animals’ shelters are also adorned with green branches. All branches are left in place until the wheat harvest when they are used in the fire which will bake the first bread from the new wheat.

On May Day eve, country women do not work in the field as well as in the house to avoid devastating storms and hail coming down on the village.

Arminden is also ziua boilor (oxen day) and thus the animals are not to be used for work, or else they could die or their owners could get ill.

It is said that the weather is always good on May Day to allow people to celebrate.

  • Portugal 

“Maias” is a superstition throughout Portugal, with special focus on the northern territories and rarely elsewhere. It may also be referred to by other names, including Dia das Bruxas (Witches’ day), O Burro (the Donkey, referring to an evil spirit) or the last of April, as the local traditions preserved to this day occur on that evening only.

People put the yellow flowers of Portuguese brooms, the bushes are known as giestas. The flowers of the bush are known as Maias, which are placed on doors or gates and every doorway of houses, windows, granaries, currently also cars, which the populace collect on the evening of the 30th of April when the Portuguese brooms are blooming, to defend those places from bad spirits, witches and the evil eye. The placement of the May flower or bush in the doorway must be done before midnight.

These festivities are a continuum of the “Os Maios” of Galiza. In ancient times, this was done while playing traditional night-music. In some places, children were dressed in these flowers and went from place to place begging for money or bread. On the 1st of May, people also used to sing “Cantigas de Maio”, traditional songs related to this day and the whole month of May.

  • Serbia

“Prvomajski uranak” (Reveille on May 1st) is a folk tradition and feast that consists of the fact that on May 1, people go in the nature or even leave the day before and spend the night with a camp fire. Most of the time, a dish is cooked in a kettle or in a barbecue. Among Serbs this holiday is widespread. Almost every town in Serbia has its own traditional first-of-may excursion sites, and most often these are green areas outside the city.

  • Poland

In Poland, there is a state holiday on 1 May. It is currently celebrated without a specific connotation, and as such it is May Day. However, due to historical connotations, most of the celebrations are focused around Labor Day festivities. It is customary for labor activists and left-wing political parties to organize parades in cities and towns across Poland on this day. The holiday is also commonly referred to as “Labour Day” (“Święto Pracy”).

  • Czech Republic

In Czech Republic, May Day is traditionally considered as a holiday of love and May as a month of love. The celebrations of spring are held on April 30th when a maypole (“májka” in Czech) is lifted—a tradition possibly connected to Beltane, since bonfires are also lit on that day. The event is similar to German Walpurgisnacht. It’s public holiday on April 30th. On May 31st, the maypole is taken down in an event called Maypole Felling.

On 1 May, couples in love are kissing under a blooming tree. A cherry, an apple or a birch is most often considered a suitable tree.

  • United States

May Day was also celebrated by some early European settlers of the American continent. In some parts of the United States, May baskets are made. These are small baskets usually filled with flowers or treats and left at someone’s doorstep. The giver rings the bell and runs away.

  • Hawaii

In Hawaii, May Day is also known as Lei Day, and it is normally set aside as a day to celebrate island culture in general and the culture of the Native Hawaiians in particular. Invented by poet and local newspaper columnist Don Blanding, the first Lei Day was celebrated on 1 May 1927 in Honolulu. Leonard “Red” and Ruth Hawk composed “May Day Is Lei Day in Hawai’i,” the traditional holiday song.

Sources:

Belenus, whose name means “Bright One,” was one of the most ancient of Celtic gods. The Celtic fire festival, held on the eve of the first of May, known as Beltane, (the fires of Bel) is probably derived from the name of this deity. Beltane fires were lit to encourage the sun’s warmth. These fires also had restorative properties and cattle were herded between them before being loosed on the new spring pastures.

Closely connected to the Druids, ruler of science, healing, hot springs, fire, success, prosperity, purification, crops, vegetation, fertility. It is likely that Belenus (Bel, or Beli) was a fire deity, a patron of flame and the sun’s restorative powers (which explains his classical association with Apollo). Originally he may have been a pastoral deity and in Cymric myth is associated with cattle, sheep and crops. Though this may be because Beltane was the time that herds were moved to the high pastures.

The Celtic god of light and healing, “Bel” means “shining one,” or in Irish Gaelic, the name “bile” translates to “sacred tree.” It is thought that the waters of Danu, the Irish All-Mother goddess, fed the oak and produced their son, The Dagda. As the Welsh Beli, he is the father of Arianrhod by Don.

Patron of sheep and cattle, Bel’s festival is Beltane, one of two main Celtic fire festivals. Beltane celebrates the return of life and fertility to the world — marking the beginning of Summer and the growing season.

Taking place on April 30 (May Eve) and in some areas on May 1, Beltane also is sometimes referred to as “Cetsamhain” which means “opposite Samhain.” The word “Beltaine” literally means “bright” or “brilliant fire,” and refers to the bonfire lit by a presiding Druid in honor of Bile.

Found at: Encyclopedia Mythica

The Goddess Carmenta is celebrated on two dates of the Roman calendar, (January 11 and 15), each day called Carmentalia. These dates should be considered as two separate festivals, rather than one festival extending over this period, yet it is not clear to us today, any more than it was during the Late Republic, why two such holidays should be in such close proximity in one month.

The festival, chiefly observed by women, celebrates Carmenta, who is the Goddess of women’s health, birthing, and prophecy. She is the inventor of letters, as Minerva is the inventor of numbers. She tells the future through Her sister Porrima and reveals the past through Her sister Postvorta, while Carmenta knows all that happens in the present.

Together the three Carmenae sisters are the Good Fates, the Three Mothers, and the Muses. The very name of Carmenta was given to song (carmen) and Latin terms for poetry, charms, and speaking-in-tongues. With Her songs she would soothe the ill and taught women how to care for themselves and their children. Her sanctuaries thus became places for women and children to receive traditional medical treatments using herbs and music.

Carmenta takes us back to a very early period, a time well before the beginnings of Rome around three thousand years ago, back into the Italian Bronze Age. She takes us back to the ecstatic tradition of the female priestesses called vates in which Latin religion began and in which the Religio Romana was first founded.

The sacred grove of Carmenta, the most ancient sanctuary in all of Rome, was located at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. It is still visited today where people gather waters from Her sacred spring. It was in this very grove that Carmenta appeared to Numa Pompilius in his dreams as the nymph Egeria. She instructed Numa on how to commune with the Gods.

With Egeria’s instruction, Numa Pompilius then established rituals for the Gods, festivals, and a calendar by which the Romans could attend these. Numa set out sanctuaries for Gods and Goddesses and he created colleges of priests and priestesses to serve the Gods and Goddesses. Egeria taught Numa the laws which he handed down to the Romans and which still govern our sacramental rituals today.

One of the laws of Numa states:

“The Gods are not to be represented in the form of man or beast, nor are there to be any painted or graven image of a deity admitted (to your rites).”

As one of the oldest Goddesses of Rome, whose worship was established by Numa, Carmenta was never represented by an image. It was sufficient to feel Her presence in the sacred grove below the Capitoline. In the same way, Vesta, Goddess of the Hearth, is never represented by an image but only by living fire.

Another law of Numa holds that:

“Sacrifices are not to be celebrated with an effusion of blood, but consist of flour, wine, and the least costly of offerings.”

The restriction against the use of blood sacrifices was so strong in the worship of Carmenta that no one was allowed to enter Her sacred grove wearing anything made of leather or animal hide. It is not right to take the life of another creature in worshiping the Goddess who helps birth life into the world. And thus it follows that today we offer Carmenta bay leaves as incense, a libation of milk, and popana cakes made of soft cheese and flower.

Invocation to Carmenta

Goddess of Women’s Health
Come, be present, Carmenta.

May Your sisters Porrima and Postvorta attend You.
With joyful mind come, Mother Carmenta, on You I call,

Come, stand by me, stay, and listen to my pleas.
Speak to me once more, in Your own words, as You did before.

In Your sacred grove where Egeria counseled King Numa,
bear forth now Your soothing songs to dispel our sorrows.

Come forth! I call to You, Good Goddess,
Great Goddess of charms.

Give voice, happy Voice of song,
With soothing songs as will cure our ills, or whatever else we fear.

Spare our daughters heavy with child, spare our wives in their pangs of labor,
Care for the mothers who worry over their children.

With pious rite I call out, I summon,
I entice with songs that You come forth, Carmenta,

And look favorably upon the matrons of our families.
In You, dearest Mother, in Your hands we place our safekeeping.

In offering to You this cake of cheese I pray good prayers
in order that, pleased with this offering of popana,

May You be favorable towards our children and to us,
Towards our homes and our households.

More About The Festivals:

According to legend, the cult of Carmenta predated Rome itself. In some accounts She was known as Nicostrate, the mother of Evander, who was fathered by Mercurius. Evander was the legendary founder of Paletum, a village that gave its name to the Palatine Hill. Her sacred grove, therefore, may have originally lain beneath the Palatine Hill as some ascribe it.

Indeed, it may be that it was in Her sacred grove beneath the Palatine that Romulus and Remus were said to have been discovered being suckled by a she-wolf, since Carmentis was so closely associated with the care of infants.

It was said that later Numa Pompilius founded a sacred grove for Her beneath the Capitoline Hill. The dedication of two groves to Carmentis is one possible reason why there were two days celebrated as Carmentalia in the month of January.

It was proposed by Huschke that the two festival days represented the Latins of Romulus and the Sabines of Titus Tatius, just as there were two companies of Luperci and two companies of Salii. Were that the case we might expect that She once had a sacred grove on the Esquiline Hill, and that Numa’s dedication beneath the Capitoline represented a union of the two culti Carmentalis.

The fasti Praeneste suggests that the second date was added by a victorious Roman general who had left the City by the Porta Carmentalis for his campaign against Fidenae. The gate received its name from its proximity to the sacred grove of Carmentis.

Yet another story was told by Ovid, linking the two dates to a protest by the matrons of Rome in 195 BCE. During the fourth century the Roman Senate had granted patrician matrons the privilege of riding in two- wheeled carriages in reward for their contribution in gold to fulfilling a vow to Apollo made by Camillus. The privilege was later to be temporarily revoked during the Second Punic War (215 BCE) along with sumptuary laws that limited the use of colored cloth and gold that women could wear, in order to save on private expenses and war materials (horses) and thus help in the war effort.

But the Senate did not at first renew the privileges at war’s end. In 195 Tribunes Marcus Fundanius and Lucius Valerius finally called for the repeal of this lex Oppia, but they were opposed by the brothers Marcus and Publius Junius Brutus.

Supporters for repealing the lex Oppia, and those who supported its remaining in effect, gathered daily on the Capitoline to argue over the matter. Soon women began to join in the disputes, their numbers increasing daily, even so much as women from the countryside entered into the City to advocate for their rights. The natural place for them to first congregate would have been at the grove of Carmentis. This may be what Ovid indicates by linking the protest to the Carmentalia.

Consul Marcius Porcius Cato spoke out against repealing the lex Oppia. The women then resolved to “refuse to renew their ungrateful husbands’ stock” until their privileges were restored, Ovid referring to the women resorting to abortion as their means of protest.

In a later period the Temple of the Bona Dea would become associated with the use of abortive herbs, and Carmentis associated with the use of the same herbs in birthing. In actuality both Carmentis and the Bona Dea were associated with birthing or prevention of pregnancy, and the difference between the Capitoline and Aventine temples may have been one of class distinction. Eventually the matrons of Rome regained their rights and, according to Ovid, the second Carmentalia was then begun in thanks to the Goddess for Her support. Ovid’s story is the least likely and most fanciful to account for the two Carmentaliae of January.

The notion that there may have earlier been two groves dedicated to Carmentis prior to the known grove beneath the Capitoline is a reasonable speculation, but still would not account for the two festivals. We are left then with the information provided by the Fasti Praeneste, although the inscription is mutilated and uncertain. This source may indicate that while the Carmentalia held on 11 January was dedicated to Carmentis, that of 15 January was intended to honor Janus as guardian of the Porta Carmentalis.

Different aspects of Carmentis related to Janus, and thus it is possible that a festival for Him would include Carmentis in similar fashion as festivals for Ops and Consus. The fact remains that we don’t know today why the month of January has two separate festivals for Carmentis.

Ritual for the Festival of Carmenta

  • Color: Red
  • Element: Earth
  • Offerings: Give gifts to pregnant women in need.
  • Daily Meal: Eggs.
  • Altar: Upon a red cloth place seven red candles and the figure of a pregnant woman. If possible, a woman who is with child should be present and honored on this day.

Carmentalia Invocation

All things grow in the dark place
Safe within the womb of the Mother,
Safe within the dream of the Mother.

The Earth lies now asleep
Full with big belly,
Each seed pregnant with hopes
Waiting for the return of the Sun.

So we are each of us,
Pregnant with hopes and dreams,
Big-bellied in our minds,
Waiting to for the moment
To begin our sacred labor.

This is the time of waiting,
Feeling the child within come to fruition,
Feeling it grow and change,
Feeling the faint motions
That signify the oncoming flood of life.

Call: May Life burst forth in a flood of joy!
Response: May Life come forth through the gate of eternity!

Call: We hail the Mother beneath our feet!
Response: We hail the Mother within our souls!

Call: We hail the Mothers from whence we descended!
Response: We hail the Mothers that are yet to bring forth!

Call: We hail the growth of possibility!
Response: We hail all that it yet to come!

Call: We hail the growth of the future!
Response: We wait for the birthing-time with open arms!

Chant:

Mother I feel you under my feet
Mother I hear your heart beat

Sources:

The great and supreme powers of ancient Egypt were the Gods and Goddesses of nature. The coming of the annual flood, the blossoming of the lotus, the rising of the brightest star in the sky, the disappearance of the moon, the eclipsing of the sun, the cutting of the wheat – all were occasions in which the Divine manifested on earth.

The religious life of the ancient Egyptians was marked by the celebration of the following kinds of sacred events:

  • Festivals dedicated to a particular god or goddess which honored them through the public remembrance of their mythic lives.
  • Festivals which honored the dead, bringing together a sense of the tribal community and the ancestral history and marking the cycles of time.
  • Festivals which initiated the agrarian work cycles of preparing, sowing, and harvesting, as well as lying fallow.

In all probablity these seasonal festivals were determined by astronomical markers, such as the equinoxes, the solstices, and the rise of particular stars and constellations.

These were sacred events to which the Great Gods and Goddesses provided their blessings, for they were the manifestations of the cosmic cycle of nature. The will of the Gods was made known through the great pattern laid out in the sky by celestial phenomena.

There earliest festivals were those celebrating the mysteries of the Goddess in her appearance as the day and night sky, as both sun and moon. Most of the original ancient Egyptian feast days were celebrated at the new or the full moon. The ancient hieroglyph for “month” was the image of the moon itself. Apparently, the original festival calendar was lunar.

Of course, many Egyptian feast days are moveable feasts; that is, they are lunar festivals timed to phases of the moon. Thus, their occurrence might slip around from one year to the next. Other Egyptian festival dates were set by the motion of the stars, the planets, and the actions of the sun.

In any true sense it would be impossible for us to know the actual recurring dates of many of the festivals. We can, however approximate the ancient dates, which is what most Egyptologists do.

During the season of Inundation more major public festival occurred than at any other time of the year, most of them related to fertility rites and abundance rituals. The feasts tended to occupy the general public during this time because the land was so flooded that little real work could be done.

By comparison, the Sowing season had fewer festivals. Once the waters receded and work in the fields began, the Sowing season was the busiest time of year. The growing season was quickly followed by the Harvest season. But during the final months of the year, when the harvest had ended and the land was dry, the festivals began again, mostly in anticipation of the coming Inundation.

The festival calendar, as it appears to us now, spans three thousand years of Egyptian history and probably was being recorded, observed, and manipulated many thousands of years before that. In those three millennia a great many political and religious changes affected the designated feast days. Some feasts fell out of favor, others were renamed, a few were entirely forgotten.

From: Feasts of Light

July 2nd, is the Feast of Expectant Mothers. A festival from ancient Rome, in which pregnant women gathered at temples throughout the city to receive blessings and honor goddesses associated with birth and fertility.

Honor the life force that allows the human species to continue and the women who manifest it. If you know someone who is pregnant, visit her today—take her out to dinner, go shopping, or do something else festive. Otherwise you could donate some of your time and resources to an organization that caters to pregnant women.

Here is a blessing you can say privately or write in a card if you know someone who would appreciate it:

Blessed be the life-bearers
Who bring new souls into the world.
Blessed be the babies
Who are our hope for the future.
Blessed be the mothers and fathers
Who raise them to be good people.
Blessed be the pregnant women
For they are precious beyond price.

By Elizabeth Barrette

The May full moon is also known as the Flower Moon, Milk Moon, Corn Planting Moon, and Corn Moon. The energies around this moon are ones of health, romance, love and wisdom. We are encouraged to begin to take action on the things we’ve recently been planning.

Once April’s rains and winds have subsided, the sun begins to warm up the earth and we’re able to get the gardens planted. Thus May is the month we begin to sow our crops. Get out in the garden under a Flower Moon and put your hands into the soil. May’s Moon brings us energy of love, wisdom and health. Spring is a time of fertility, and May is a fiery month indeed — full of lust and passion! It’s called the month of the Hare’s Moon — and we all know what hares are busy doing in the spring.

Correspondences:

  • Colors: Red, orange, yellow
  • Gemstones: Ruby, garnet, amber, Apache tear
  • Trees: Hawthorn, rowan
  • Gods: Kali, Priapus, Cernunnos, Flora
  • Herbs: Cinnamon, members of the mint family
  • Element: Fire

Gems and oils to boost the energy of the Hare’s Moon

  • Gemstones: Malachite, Jade, Emerald, Peridot or any other green-hued stones.

These gems help enhance the energy of the heart chakra, which governs our compassion, generosity, love and harmony. If you need a boost in any of these areas, simply slip a green stone into your pocket, or put on a piece of green-gemmed jewelry.

  • Essential Oils: Eucalyptus, Thyme, Sandalwood, Pine, Melissa, Bergamont.

These oils will help you connect with your unconscious mind and set the intention of love, wisdom and compassion

Celebrating The May Full Moon

The May full moon is a time when we begin to really notice more light in our lives. The days are longer, the grass is green and the flowers are starting to bloom. The energy at this time is playful and light, energetic and buoyant. If you want to really celebrate this moon and the energy it brings, you can do fun things like:

  • host a pot-luck with a spring theme
  • visit your local elementary school and volunteer during art class
  • light a green candle and meditate on your thankfulness for the feeling of renewal and rejuvenation.

Other ideas:

Another great way to connect with the Hare’s Moon is to bless some seeds, seedlings or garden plants, and then plant them. Doing this involves intentionally adding positive energy to these plants, and then nurturing their growth and health. This is a powerful symbolic exercise that will help you focus your energy on intentionally giving “good vibes” to your environment. Doing this will make you feel empowered, positive and loving.

This is also a good time to work on magic related to careers and jobs. Thinking about switching to a new position, or perhaps trying a new field altogether? Want to take a class or get your degree? Take the seeds you’ve planted last month, and allow them to bloom and grow in your favor. Do some fire divination this month to help guide you on your way.

source: PaganWiccan

For the purpose of your magical escapades, the theme is definitely blossoming and liveliness. Use as many flower parts as possible in spells and rituals, and go outside frequently to get closer to nature. Energies emphasized by this month include creativity, inventiveness, fertility, health, and metaphysically “spring cleaning” any area of your life or sacred space.

Bring me my drum and bring me my cymbal,
Bring forth the sustrum, bring forth the timbal.
Dance now for Hathor, celebrate beauty,
dance in Her honor, sing for our lady.

May gets its name from the Roman goddess Maia, who embodies the earth’s renewal during spring. Next to New Year’s Eve, May Day was among the most popular holidays in the old world, marking the time when the sun’s warmth and nature’s fertility began appearing in the land. Later, well over one hundred nations chose to celebrate Labor Day on May 1, giving everyone a much-needed rest from winter’s tasks.

The Greek goddess Maia, the most important of the Seven Sisters (the Pleiades) and said to be the mother of Hermes, gave the name to this month. Some form of this goddess’s name was known to people from Ireland to as far away as India. The Romans called her Maius, goddess of Summer and honored her at the Ambarvalia, a family festival for purification and protection of farm land.

In the Celtic cultures, May was called Mai or Maj, a month of sexual freedom. Green was worn during this month to honor the Earth Mother. May 1 was the Celtic festival of Beltane, a festival celebrating fertility of all things. Cattle were drivien through the Beltane bonfires for purification and fertility. In Wales, Creiddylad was connected with this festival and often called the May Queen. The maypole and its dance is a remnant of these old festivities.

The Sheila Na Gig is still seen carved in the decorations of many Irish churches. This goddess figure is a grotesque, often emaciated, woman shown squatting and holding wide her private parts. Many Irish still know her as the protector of the poor and hang old clothes on hawthorn bushes on May 4th. This is believed to avert poverty. It is possible that the Australian term “Sheila,” used as a name for any woman, refers to this ancient deity and her carvings.

Bona Dea, the Roman Good Goddess, had her festival on the night between may 2nd and 3rd. No men were allowed to attend.

The Roman festival of Lemuria was to placate and remember the Lemures, or the wandering spirits of the dead. Each family performed its own private ceremonies, which ended with taking gifts to the graves. For those who had died and had no graves, the head of the household walked barefoot through the house, casting nine black beans behind him.

The Greeks had a special festival for the god Pan during May. Pan was a wild looking deity, half man, half goat. As a token of his frequent sexual adventures, he was shown with an erect penis. Pan invented the syrinx, or pan-pipes, made out of reeds. Originally, he was not an oppressor of women, but their loving companion.

May 19-28 was the solemn Greek festival called Kallyntaria and Plynteria. This was devoted to the cleaning and freshening of sacred statures and temples. The statues, small enough to be moved, were taken to a nearby river or lake and washed until clean. This was serious business with no singing or merry-making.

At the end of the month was a Roman celebration honoring the Underworld Queen Prosperina and her consort Pluto. Proserpina ruled over the resting place of the shades (souls), but her kingdom was connected with more than death. Pluto was also known as the deity of hidden wealth.

In Finland, May 1 was celebrated as Rowan Witch Day, a time of honoring the goddess Rauni, who was associated with the mountain ash or rowan. Twigs and branches of the rowan were, and still are, used as protection against evil in this part of the world. Some sources list Rauni as a god.

The Slavonic-Russian cultures had a similar, but longer, festival celebrating merriment, rivers, and well-being. This occured between May 25 and June 25. Originally it honored the goddess Lada, who later was changed to the god Lado.

Mugwort was a sacred herb in China and Europe. As part of the celebration on May 5, the Chinese made dolls out of the leaves. They hung these dolls above gates and doors to repel negative influences and entities.

In Tibet, an old Nature festival for the beginning of Summer and the rain deities became a celebration of Buddha’s death and his attainment of Buddha-hood. The attainment festival occurred on May 8, while celebration of Buddha’s death was on May 15. Deceased relatives were prayed for at this time.

The Incas held Aymoray Quilla or Hatun Cazqui, which was the Great Cultivation.

From: Moon Magick

Here’s how they celebrate Beltane in Edinburgh!
Enjoy!

First organized in the 1980’s, the Beltane Fire Festival has become a popular festival in Edinburgh. Here we have photos of the Beltane Fire Society celebrating Spring and the coming of summer. This lively procession celebrates the ending of winter and is a revival of the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane which is the Gaelic name for the month of May. More about Beltane can be found here: Beltane

Images found at Zimbio

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