"Perhaps its just as well that you won't be here...to be offended by the sight of our May Day celebrations." from The Wicker Man
As the bonfire smoke from the previous night's Walpurgisnacht observances begin to clear, this morning brings a new day - May Day, with it's own magical practices.
Ladies rise before dawn to wash their faces with May dew. It was believed that the dew found in the garden on the first of May contained a special magic that would bestow one who washed their countenance with it, a forever youthful and flawless complexion. The Beard sisters write in their tome, The American Girls Handy Book:
"When the writer was a wee little girl there lived next door to her home two old maiden ladies, who always kept a bottle of May-dew among their treasures. Although the ladies in question had long since passed that period when maidens are supposed to be lovely, superstitious persons might have found confirmation of a belief in the power of the dew, when they looked upon the sweet and kindly faces of these old maids. Faith in the fabled eficacy of May-dew will probably lose its last adherents when the two old ladies, very aged now, leave this world..."
In a few places still, a May pole, a phallic symbol, is erected, (stop giggling!), and adorned with flowers for the traditional dancing and weaving of ribbons. In earlier incarnations, unwed males would cut down a tree for the pole and strip it of it's branches, leaving a single, newly sprouted sprig at the top. The men would then guard the pole overnight, lest neighboring villages came to steal it. If they did, the pole would be held for ransom and the hefty price of beer would have to be "paid" before it would be returned.
Most of us lack a May pole however, one of the most delightful and appropriate ways to "celebrate" May Day is with a viewing of the 1973 film The Wicker Man - with man in the starring role, as monster. If you've never seen this film before, I won't say another word or give anything else away - just don your mask and join the procession!