Beltane May Bushes and May Wine
Last night, I had the honor of being crowned May Queen. As the personification of the Summer Lady, I led everyone in a merry chase through the woods. I was eventually “caught” by the gentleman who was crowned the May King. This wild hunt is a Beltane tradition. Beltane or Whitsun has many traditions associated with it, but it is a time for frolicking in the woods and merry making.
In ancient Rome, the goddess Flora was celebrated by a week’s worth of games. These games represented the renewal of life and the growing crops. It was a time of drinking and celebration. Flora was married to one of the wind gods and together they represented Spring.
This was also the time of the year when the goddess Persephone is seen dancing once more at her mother’s side after her sojourn in the Underworld.
In Britain, young people danced around the Maypole after a night in the woods where all social conventions were ignored. Bonfires were lit across the hills to help usher in the summer and banish the cold winter nights. “Jumping the fire” was a traditional pastime for young lovers. Morris dancing is also a traditional way to usher in May.
In most traditions, this is a time that represents the union of the God and Goddess and the celebration of life.
Traditionally, Beltane was not celebrated until the white flowered tree blossomed. In England, this is usually Rowan or Hawthorn. In the U.S., this is usually the Dogwood.
Hawthorn is a tree that has many folkloric stories and uses attached. This is why, one way to celebrate May is to decorate a May Bush. The Hawthorn is a thorny tree with white flowers and small red berries. To create your May Bush, gather the fallen branches of a Hawthorn tree together and bind them so that they stand up. Decorate the tree with bright flowers, painted shells and colored garlands. Do this with your family or your community. May bushes recall the power of the sun for your homes and the new crops.
It is traditional to set the May Bush outside of your home or in a window. It was also traditional to try and steal your neighbor’s May Bush! (This tradition was outlawed in Victorian England for exactly this reason). At the end of May, it was customary to dance around the May Bush in the same way that you danced around the Maypole and then burn the May Bush in the bonfire. The ashes from this fire are then sown through fields and around houses as a blessing and protection against the fey.
The Hawthorn is said to mark entrances to the Underworld and to aid in healing. If you’re working on any healing rituals during the time the May Bush is in your home, bless strips of cloth during the ritual and tie them to the May Bush.
And most importantly, while celebrating around your May Bush, drink some May Wine!
May Wine Recipe:
1 Bottle Riesling
1/2 cup dried Woodruff
3/4 cup diced strawberries
1 bottle champagne (if desired)
Combine the bottle of Riesling with the Woodruff, then let sit for an hour. (You can let it sit all night, but start with an hour to see how you like the taste of the Woodruff).
Pour into a glass pitcher. Add in the strawberries and champagne. Serve and enjoy!
Blessings of the May Queen to you and yours this beautiful Spring morning!