Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and green world all together,
Star-eyed strawberry breasted
Throstle above Her nested
Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within,
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.
— Gerard Manly Hopkins, The May Magnificant, 1888
Tonight is one of the most magical nights of the year. In Germany, Walpurgisnacht begins at sunrise today and ends at sunrise on the first day of May (May Day). According to Waverly FitzGerald’s School of the Seasons, birch boughs are placed on all doors and windows to protect the home from evil spirits and sorcery. Traditional bonfires and torches of rosemary and juniper are lit. And according to legend, Witches can be seen riding across the sky on our broomsticks on this enchanted night.
(Unfortunately, in much of the United States, we are suffering from serious drought conditions and extremely high fire danger, so you might be better confining your bonfire to a candle or two, placed in the cauldron, indoors).
May Eve honors the marriage of the God and Goddess. Among the Celtic and Teutonic peoples, He is the Green Man, the embodiment of the vitality of plant life, and the Horned God, who embodies the vitality of the animal Kingdom. At Beltane, the young God is in the fullness of His manhood, and gives Himself to the Goddess in love.
In old England, the young people went out into the woods and fields on this very night, May Day Eve, celebrating their pleasures with each other throughout the night, returning in the morning, laden with flowers and green branches. Not only were these trysts tolerated, they were blessed, for they were rites of sympathetic magick that ensured fertility in the growing season.
Children born from the Maying were often called Jack, Jackson, Hodson or Robinson since they were the children of the Jack in the Green, Hod (a woodland sprite) or Robin Goodfellow (or Robin Hood, another form of the Green Man).
Like at Samhain, this is a time when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. It is ideal for divination, scrying, and meditative magic. Instead of the focus being on the ancestors and our beloved dead, as at Samhain, May Eve celebrates the creative life force. It is time when you may find a magical bridge between the mortal and immortal worlds.
The Faerie Queen rides out tonight on Her snow-white horse, looking for mortals to lure away to Faerieland for seven years. Folklore says that if you sit beneath a tree (particularly an elder tree, or rowan, or hawthorn) on this night, you will see Her or hear the tinkling of Her horse’s bells as She rides by. If you hide your face, She will pass you by but if you look upon Her, She may choose you.
Tonight, bring the May into your life by bringing home green branches, flowers and branches of flowering trees. Transform your house into a garden bower. Make wreaths to hang on the door or to crown your Goddess images. If you can, stay up all night, preferably outdoors. At least go for a walk in the night, under the nearly Full Moon, and listen for the bells that herald the approach of the Faerie Queen.
May this most magical day and night bring you revelries of sacred pleasures, foolish wisdom and splendid, lusty, holy celebrations!