The first of May came in colder weather than I would have preferred. The tradition of a bonfire on Beltane is not something I do just for myself, but I decided the cold rainy weather was perfect justification for a fire in the fire place. Last year I had planned to try out my new fire pit and got rain as well. The fireplace is convenient and weatherproof so I decided why fight Mother Nature. It was nice to spend most of the morning in the front of the fire with the cats, keeping warm and dry, sipping coffee and planning the garden. Beltane was a major festival in ancient Ireland, although the first written accounts come from medieval texts like the Sanas Cormaic and Tochmarc Emire, It was held on May first and marked the beginning of summer. The texts say that, to protect cattle from disease, the druids would make two fires “with great incantations” and drive the cattle between them. The bonfire smoke was considered protective of people as well as livestock. I also take the ashes from my Beltane fire and ritually spread them in my garden as a blessing and as a nutrient. The soil here is terrible construction fill and the ash is another way to add enrichment.
holiday with both ancient roots and a completely modern aspect. As a person fond of traditional festivities I celebrate it as Beltane, as the Gaelic first day of summer was known.
One practice I love is the creation of May baskets. The old custom was to secretly leave the baskets of flowers and treats on someone’s porch or doorstep early in the morning. My introduction to May baskets came when I lived in Annapolis, Maryland. On the morning of May first the doorways of homes and businesses are adorned with beautiful baskets full of flowers. What started as a Garden Club beautification project over fifty years ago has evolved into an elaborate tradition in which residents and business not only decorate but compete for prize ribbons. An early morning walk around the historic district to view all the baskets and a coffee at a dockside coffee shop to listen to everyone comparing notes is a memory I will always cherish. I continue the basket making for the enjoyment it gives and this year I will be happy to include things flowering in my yard and garden that have not flowered before, including the lilac bush at the corner of the house, which now has so many blooms I actually smelled it when I walked out the front door.
Something else which is blooming is my sweet woodruff. Woodruff is known in German as Waldmeister or Master of the Woods. It grows in shady areas in thick mats, a spreading ground cover that blooms around the beginning of May. So happily I made Maiwein. Maiwein or May wine in English, is made with a white wine, usually a Reisling, which is flavored by steeping dried woodruff in it for a day or two. For the celebration on the day, this is transformed into the Maibowle, which uses the Maiwein as a base for a light punch. The woodruff is strained from the wine and the wine is poured into a large glass pitcher or punch bowl. Then a bottle of sekt, a dry German sparkling wine is poured in slowly, and chopped strawberries are added. It is garnished with sprays of woodruff blossoms and is both delicious and lovely to behold.
Another custom I am fond of is the Beltane fire. I had purchased one of those metal fire pits and hoped to initiate it with a Beltane fire but it began raining Thursday evening and continued on through the night and throughout the day. Aside from the difficulty of getting a fire going in the pouring rain it does not make for a very celebratory event to be cold and soaking wet. Nonetheless, since was damp and cold, it made perfect sense to have a fireplace fire. So I built a fire of the traditional nine woods, although not all my nine matched the older selections. I finished my Beltane celebration in front of the fire, sipping my Maibowle punch, enjoying my flower filled basket and relaxing with my cats. All in all, a very satisfying experience.
de.wikipedia.org: 23:28, 24. Mai 2004 . . Jopi (Diskussion) . . 600 x 800 (163.912 Byte) (waldmeister “Public Domain” “selbst fotografiert”) from the German Wikipedia.–