Hallowe'en and Samhain are over. It's time for the arrival of the Blue Hag. Usually, we have to wait another month or so to really feel Her presence in the Grove; but this year, She arrived almost immediately after the candle burned down in the Jack o' Lantern.
The Blue Hag is, not surprisingly, a Winter fairy, since Her face is blue and wrinkled tightly from the cold. She appears as an old woman or crone, in a veiled brown cloak, leaning on Her staff of holly, topped with a skull. She rules; during the dark time of the year after the Summer has ended (Samhain/Hallowe'en) and until the Summer begins once again (Beltane/May Day). She is usually accompanied by a crow; who is a link to the underworld, a messenger of death, an eater of carrion and a sign of changes to come. The Blue Hag's name in Gaelic (Scottish); is Cailleach Bheur, meaning the "blue veiled one". The Blue Hag pounds down the old vegetation into the earth with Her staff, and when that job is done, She brings in the cold, frost and snow.
When May and Summer approaches, She thrusts Her staff under the holly tree (which is why no grass can grow under it) and shrinks down into a cold gray stone; to once again await the season of cold that She presides over. In this way, She reminds me of the White Witch of Narnia, who Herself presided over that land (but only as long as Winter could remain) and turned Herself and Her Imp into stone when the thaw heralding Spring approached.
I quite feel Her in the Grove with our recent snowfall. The ground under our holly tree refuses to allow anything to grow other than ivy and periwinkle. We have instead created wee paths of bricks from a 100+ year old chimney that had been disassembled from the twin house next door to us. We have also added garden statues and little deities to the mix. Hopefully, the Blue Hag approves ... as it looks to be a long Winter!
Bibliography: Guide to the Fairy Ring by Anna Franklin, Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, MN USA 2002, ; Mysterious Britain and Ireland: Mysteries, Legends & The Paranormal, The Caillech Bheur by Ian; mysteriousbritain.co.uk/folklore/the-caillech-bheur/, 2008, 2019; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Penquin Books, Middlesex, England, 1959 (original copyright 1950).
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan, 2022
Just what is a maypole? The maypole is simply a wooden pole raised in the month of May, in a common town area. The pole is usually crowned with flowers and has long ribbons attached for each participant to hold onto and weave around the pole as they dance. It is part of May Day or Beltane; a joyous celebration welcoming the return of Summer's warm weather and all the vegetation and security it brings.
Maypoles were very common in medieval Europe and the custom has happily survived, in some parts of the world, to this day. Of course, as with all ancient customs, the actual origin of the maypole is convoluted and the symbolism debated. There were foreshadowings of the maypole in Roman times, and they were heavily present throughout Germanic Europe and England. As to origin, there is so much history and documented occurrence of the maypole that it would be impossible to pinpoint, with any surety, an actual start date for the practice. I think, in the mists of time, from sacred groves and tree worship, must have come the idea to bring a tree into the "center of things". For the maypole, originally a tree, was prepared by stripping the branches and bark, and then carried into the town center by the townsfolk. He was decorated, danced around and witnessed merry-making (of all sorts!). Many maypoles were left up year round as they were an important symbol of community coming together. As to further symbolism ... oh there is plenty. From the sacredness of tree worship to the perceived baseness of phallic representation; it's all a merry mix! Since summer is a time for warm weather, when blossoms and flowers abound, and crops are planted ... it is natural to think of celebrating love and beauty and of growth and fertility. Couples went "a-maying" and the dancers, in weaving ribbons around the maypole, probably hinted at romantic unions in the making ...
But this was meant to be just a mere moment for maypoles! I've made a small one for the garden fairies to dance around. By day and by night, thus far, my camera has caught only cats ...
Bibliography: Wikipedia, Maypole, last edit Apr 2021; Witta, An Irish Pagan Tradition, Edain McCoy, Llewellyn Publications, 1993
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan, 2021
Every year I wait for the beauty of the delicate pink and white blossoms on our apple trees. How to describe the scent? I wish I could bottle it. It is so pure, light and innocent. Then the arrival of the happy honeybees, busily buzzing and trying to make sure each flower on the tree receives a visit. Too soon, a Spring breeze shakes all those lovely blossoms down to the ground to create a carpet of white.
I tried to do a little research on the apple blossom and didn't find too much. Well, not much in comparison to the copious amount of history, folklore and symbolism of the apple blossom's fantastic successor - the bountiful, hardy and very useful apple! But I have made a couple of observations which I believe is where most of folklore is derived; coupled with a few tidbits of history and symbolism.
Firstly, the apple blossom forms a gently rounded five pointed star. This pattern, a natural pentagram, is greatly utilized by Mother Nature in a number of her creations. The apple blossom is part of the Rose family (Rosaceae) and the rose is associated with the Goddess Venus, sexual mystery and as thus can represent itself in another Goddess; the innocent Mary - soon to be mother. The culmination of the apple blossom is the apple; associated with eternal life, knowledge, motherhood and therefore Eve. Secondly, the blossoms arrive in the merry, merry month of May, with the apples all ready to eat, prepare and store away in the magical month of October. This coincides with the Celtic Wheel of the Year, showing May (Beltane) as the month of fertility (apple blossoms) and October (Samhain) as the month of final harvest (apples).
The apple tree has made its way from Rome, to the British Isles and finally, throughout North America where it has been adopted by two American States - Michigan and Arkansas - as their State Flower. This beautiful blossom certainly deserves that honour ... and more!
The Life and Times of the Apple, Charles Micucci, Orchard Books, USA, 1992; Rosaceae, Wikipedia, 2020; World of Aromatherapy, Jeanne Rose, Frog, Ltd., California, 1996
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2020
When you mention "May Day" to many folks, they automatically think of "International Workers' Day". It saddens me that this beautiful day has been overshadowed by a cause that just happens to fall on the same date .. and is of a much more modern origin. Obviously, the world is large and many special days share the same date on the calendar ... but for goodness sake - did they have to borrow the name as well?
I'd like to help to dispel this misunderstanding with a little introduction to the ancient celebration of May Day or Beltane, long celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere and other parts of the world as well:
So there you have it! Absolutely nothing to do with workers' rights, strikes, labour or similar uprisings.
Thank you for reading!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2019
This lovely refined image above is subtly carrying on the tradition of the likely much more sensual predecessor of "Maying"; with a sweet lady in front continuing the search for her fellow; while a courting couple trails behind ...
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018 / edited 2021
What a beautiful painting of Queen Victoria. So unlike the photos of her of which most of us are acquainted! But an artist has the option to highlight, or even exaggerate, the beauty he or she sees in a subject ... and downplay any perceived flaws, making, in some ways, a much more "true" representation of a person. A photograph only captures a fraction of a second of a person's life ... but a painting, created over several days, weeks or months, can capture the divinity inherent in all nature.
This painting is called "the secret picture". It was commissioned by Queen Victoria and presented to her husband, Prince Albert, as a surprise for his 24th birthday - for his eyes only.
It was an unusual painting of Royalty at the time, both for its lack of focus on exuberant costume and finery, and also for its sensuality.
The glass heart-shaped locket the Queen is wearing is thought to be the pendant containing a lock of Prince Albert's hair, and which the Queen wore day and night before their marriage. Since this picture was meant for her husband's eyes only - it would certainly have signalled her utter devotion to him. Prince Albert so loved this painting that it was hung in his Writing Room in Windsor.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017 / edited 2020
Bibliography: Royal Collection Trust, UK
What is it about the playful, romantic magic that the month of May holds?
So many have paid homage to its charms in song. Here are just a few:
"While strolling through the park one day, In the merry, merry month of May, I was taken by surprise, By a pair of roguish eyes..." - Ed Haley
"We roamed the fields and river sides, When we are young and gay, We chased the bees and plucked the flowers, In the merry month of May" - Stephen Collins Foster
Meadow Sweet Grove claims and owns no rights to this video.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017
There's great magic on the 1st of May or May Day. The ancient Celtic people divided the year into two seasons - Winter and Summer. May 1st was the dividing point and signaled the change from the end of the dark and dead winter weather to the beginning of the warm summer and growing season. There was great joy and excitement that the warmer weather was officially here to stay for a whole season. No wonder they had a celebration!
To share in some of this magic, you need to wake up early enough to collect some of the dew on the morn of May 1st ... and gently smooth it across your face. I can attest to the truth that this beauty treatment is particularly refreshing!
No hawthorn tree? No worries. An alternate verse allows you to use dew drops from any tree, bush or even the grass.
Happy May Day!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017 / edited 2020
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