Happy May Day… In flowers and instinct our European Pagan customs yet live…

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Morris dancers on May Day

Morris Dancers on May Day, Bridge of Sighs, Oxford Photo Credit: http://www.nollywoodone.com/latest-additions/12085-may-day-april-showers-turn-to-may-flowers-and-best-of-all-the-sun-will-stick-around-for-the-bank-holiday-weekend.html

 Today is a day we celebrate life, fertility, and the coming blessings of warmer and brighter weather… a holiday of leisure and rejoicing! Our celebrations at this time of year are deep and instinctual, a part of our very nature. These are more than just customs, they come from the time of our beginnings, and are a part of us that links us to our ancestors of the past, and in turn, link us to our loved ones, our tribe, or descendants, in the future.

Sometimes it is in very small things that our essential nature has survived, and these should not be discounted lightly. A Greenman sculpture peeking out from the top of a church, a dance, and even a small flower poking up out of the earth despite wind and rain, are messages from our Ancestors, our Gods, and from Nature. They tell us who we are.

A  snowdrop flower rises from the forest floor...

A snowdrop flower rises from the forest floor…

All over Europe our ancestors once gathered flowers at this time of year,  celebrating these symbols of life, and of its endurance, and hope, and the symbolism did not escape them.   There is even evidence of flowers being left in the graves of Neanderthals. Our Ancestors knew winter would come, and  they knew also that it would end, and that life would be reborn, and right now, despite everything, and all the circumstances which might seem to dampen our spiritual awakening, for any sentient being, that is what is happening.

May Day is not something we think about, but something we just do, just as dolphins leap and dance in the sea, we were meant to dance over glowing fires on Walpurgisnacht, and even jump into a newly warm river, whose waters once, at dawn, were no doubt thought to have magical properties on this very holy day.

Oxford undergraduates jumping into the river Cherwell on May Day morn.

Oxford undergraduates jumping into the river Cherwell on May Day morn. Photo: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2137794/May-Day-revellers-thwarted-bid-make-traditional-jump-Oxford-bridge-security-guards-man-barricades.html

A truly gifted Pagan craftswoman named Frau Willams inspired me to make this post. She  shared a lovely picture in one of our groups and talked about beautiful Pagan May Day customs she grew up with, and how she enjoys these European traditions today. As a child she danced around the Maypole, a wonderful ancient Pagan tradition almost completely lost in more urbanized areas. She also still makes brilliant cornucopias of flowers and leaves them at the houses of her neighbors.  Irish actress, Maureen O’Hara remembers a similar custom too.

“When I was a child we would make May Baskets, fill them with goodies – candy, popcorn, etc. and put them on the porch of our friends – ring the bell and run. It got to be a competition over who could be the most creative in basket design; just lots of fun for the whole family.”

This year, Frau Williams’ arrangements  had lilacs, narcissus, astilbe, lamb’s ear and lily of the valley in them. 

One of Frau Williams' amazing May Day cornucopias.. wild, beautiful, and inspiring...

One of Frau Williams’ amazing May Day cornucopias.. wild, beautiful, and inspiring…

Today in a society in which we have seemingly lost almost everything that has any depth, and have been reduced to worker drones who carry out the will of faceless Zionist corporations and watch a metal box in order to be programmed, this represents true hope. This is more than an incredibly lovely flower cornucopia, it is the important part of what makes us alive, an expression of our Nordic generosity of spirit, our creativity, and good cheer. It creates a bond between the members of our tribe. In her great wisdom, Frau Williams has not forgotten what is important.

Frau Williams, on May Day 2014, wreathed in flowers. She is a symbol of the survival of our Pagan spirit.

Frau Williams, on May Day 2014, wreathed in flowers. She is a symbol of the survival of our Pagan spirit.

This simple act of not neglecting our traditions, of remembering to act like human beings, is what makes us human. Most people do not manage it. We are often too foolish to have the right priorities, and to know what matters. Today, I learned from Frau Williams that not acting like a slave in one’s everyday life is one of the first and best ways to stop being one.  She told me how when she was bringing her neighbor a May day bouquet,  the neighbor was already filled with  holiday good cheer and  said “Happy May Day” before she even saw it. Frau Williams  said “All these little customs and personal expressions and sharing knowledge and experiences…. that all makes us free. The magic is that each time we do it it and share that with others, the more it grows” and she is right, this is magic, and it is real, and can spread. We must refuse the programming and make things different. We can yet be all that we were meant to be… and more.
wonderful May Day flower basket

May Day Flower Cornucopia!
Photo: Christine Laennec via Frau Williams

Often Germanic nations on the Continent have preserved more ancient customs than the United Kingdom, but May Day at Oxford is different. To this day, on Walpurgisnacht, people gather at night for bonfires on the Commons and play drums, dancing, and leaping over the fire. At the colleges of the university itself almost everyone stays up all night, and attends glamorous balls lasting until dawn, when there are champagne and strawberry garden parties. The same feelings of awe at the splendor of Nature that inspired us in the past, and that made The Brocken to this day a mystical place, live on in our hearts, in the deepest part of our beings. We don’t always know why we celebrate, but we do know there is reason to.

 From a time before our human remembrance, singing has been associated with this day, and  still, as a remembrance of the far distant past,  as the Sun rises, from the top of Magdalen tower at dawn, choirs sing to greet the Sun. Morris dancers appear, and solemnly, but festively, perform their dances, whose meaning is not often spoken of, but whose importance is still keenly felt.  Beautiful Latin songs drift down to those below from the high towers, as though they were from heavenly singers who cannot be seen.  Supposedly, these carols were meant to curb the excesses of the Pagans who traditionally had fertility celebrations at this time,  but I feel certain the singers originally were Pagan too, and soon, they will be again.  There is a better view from the King’s Deer Park , but this video captures the singing… happy May Day, … and may joy and freedom,  be ours.



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