Today is May Eve, Walpurgisnacht, Beltane Eve!
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. 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 in love, gives Himself to the Goddess.
In old England, the young people went out into the woods and fields on May Day Eve, celebrating their pleasures with each other throughout the night, and 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).
So 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 a wreath to hang on the door or to crown your Goddess images.
Like at Samhain, this is a night when the veil between the worlds is most thin. While the ancestors and beloved dead can cross through, we are more likely to encounter the living races from Other Worlds, such as the Shining Folk. So if you can, stay up all night, preferably outdoors. At least go for a walk in the night and listen for the bells that herald the approach of the Faerie Queen.
She 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 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 to come away with her to the starlit lands.
Please keep in mind that as attractive as this may sound, the lands of the Shining Folk are not the wee, quaint places depicted by Disney or the Victorians. Yes, the Faerie lands are intensely beautiful, but they are not human places and can be quite perilous for those who are not respectful or aware of the ways of the Sidhe.
This is a traditional time for giving gifts — for the Gentry, of course, but also for human loved ones. Leaving anonymous May baskets on friends’ doorsteps is a sweet old tradition. Gather flowers with special messages for friends and relatives. Make up your own explanation of the meaning of each flower and give it along with the bouquet. For friends at a distance, send pressed flowers or May Day cards or packets of flower seeds. Barbara Walker in Women’s Rituals suggests other appropriate gifts including perfume, incense, candied flower petals, herbs, sachets and artificial flowers.
The fair maid who, the first of May
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be.
Other sources suggest using the dew found under oaks or on ivy leaves. Make a special wish as you wash your face in it or as you drink from a well before sunrise.
And while all this will certainly keep you busy tonight, don’t forget that it is also the time to give honor to Hecate, whose night this is. Hecate is the Queen of the Night, Goddess of the Witches, and the ancient and mighty Triple Goddess. The last day of every month, but particularly this May Eve night, is sacred to Her.
May this most magical day and night bring you an abundance of sacred pleasures, foolish wisdom and splendid, lusty, holy celebrations!