Sunday, 2 May 2021

May Festivals!

It's May 2nd - just one day late for this post!  

Yesterday, I posted about the Beltane festival being on the 1st May but there are/were lots of other festivals associated with May 1st. As such, I'm spacing them out, though I've also been making posts to Facebook groups with similar information.

Here are a few that are thought to be associated with ancient Celtic Festivals, the traditions of them passed down in various forms across the millennia in Western Europe, Scandinavia, India and perhaps even the Americas since the basis was, in some cases, to do with the equinoxes and other astronomical events.

May 1st Padstow, Cornwall

A very ancient festival had been taking place on May 1st in the town of Padstow (Cornwall, England), till the Covid 19 pandemic struck in 2020, when it had to be cancelled. And regrettably, the festival has had to be cancelled for yet another time, this year of 2021.

Till 2019, the festival began at midnight heralding in the first of May. People gathered outside a local pub to sing the special ‘Night’ song. One can only imagine it was pretty merry and folks were not ready to go to bed just yet.

However, in the morning when local folks were all up and about, the town would be bedecked in greenery and flowers laid at the foot of the central maypole.

Two ’obby ‘osses ( The ‘Old’ and the ‘Blue ribbon’) would then appear from different directions of the town wearing a very-creative stylised head of a horse and curtained body costume. The two ‘obby ‘oss parades wended their way around the streets, flanked by their masked ‘acolytes’ named the ‘Teasers’. The Teasers wore a black frame like cloak, their job being to snare young maidens under the cloaks- presumably for a snatched kiss?

After a fun day around the town, singing the ‘Day’ song the culmination was a meet-up around the Maypole in the evening. The poor ‘osses then listened to the ‘song of death’ and went away to their respective stables till being resurrected the following year.

The origins of this ancient pagan ritual have been lost in the midst of time.

More about the ’obby ‘oss festival here:

The video above was the 2017 festival but sadly, it's easy to see why tthe festival had to be cancelled in both 2020 and 2021, the crowds being so tightly packed around the Maypole in Padstow. I truly hope it can be restarted as soon as possible. 

May 1st Maypole Dancing

Maypole dancing has been a feature for centuries (probably millennia)  in many countries, in Europe, in India and perhaps even in the Americas.

I think the kids at this school are having a lot of fun! 

A tall straight trunk was hewn from the forest and erected in a prominent place accessible to the locals. Ribbons were attached to the top, ready for dancers to weave their complex dance patterns beneath. It’s believed that the dances were associated with ancient spring fertility rites, the most ancient of the ceremonies danced around a live tree. Some of these maypoles were left in situ for the next years an only replaced in the village when it became necessary.

It’s also thought by some experts on Ancient Rome that there may have been a similar festival there. It may have originated as part of the Floralia festival which was celebrated on the 28th April. The tree trunk was stripped of its branches and bedecked with ivy and clinging vines. Another school of thought has it that the stripped poles were hung with violets in honour of Attis and Cybele.

During the Puritan era hundreds of village maypoles were torn down throughout England and Wales. However, the attempt to wipe away the ancient pagan tree worship was in vain since the tradition resurfaced again when it was safe to do so. I’m sure that although the shared bonfire of the early Celtic tradition on May Day might have been abandoned for a while, the sneaking off of couples into the woods or the haystacks for a night of lovemaking probably continued in secret!

[Now, I wonder why that reminds me of a scene in The Beltane Choice?]

This image from a festival in the Basque country
 shows howcomplex the dancing can be. 
Both images from Wikimedia Commons. 

Till the next addition to May Festivals, Stay safe and happy reading! 

SlĂ inte! 

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