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May Day 2017

Yes, that wet stuff falling from the sky is snow on May 1st.

Happy May Day!  We’ve been having snow flurries, which makes it a little difficult to get into the spirit of the season.  I suppose I could go on about the history of labor unions and all the benefits we take for granted because of the work that they did back in 1886 and beyond.  But you all have Wikipedia for that.

In Wicca this is also Beltane and a celebration to bless the animals and the fields with fertility.   Wicca tends to work with a male/female balance honoring the fact that union is how we all came about.  In this day and age that makes much of our ritual look particularly heterosexist and decidedly gender binary.

The thing is that many of the Gods in the Pagan pantheons are rather gender queer.  There is room in Paganism to express and celebrate fertility in many other ways.  But working in a tradition, and a Wiccan tradition in particular means honoring and holding to rites and ritual formats that, when they were written, probably do have an intentional hetero-cis bias.

Like snow on May Day, the reality is often a lot more complicated than the theory.  In Minnesota a May snow, or at least a frost is not at all unusual.  Our “late frost” date is May 15th.   But in Wicca, and through much of Paganism this is a festival about flowers and early fruits.

Food and Flowers. We tend to snack while we make our May wreaths.

Traditionally, this festival is not a calendar based festival, but one that honors the actual season in the area.  It is a time when the fields are ready for planting – not the same date every year at all.  It is marked by the white blossomed trees (usually rowan) coming into bloom (also not a calendar dependent event.)  In Minnesota this year we are having a remarkably early spring.  The ground has been thawed for some time.  In microclimate areas some of the fruit trees have started blooming.  Historically that just doesn’t happen until mid May and even that is early.

So snow is unexpected this year and seems out of place.  Our weather reporters carry on about “below average” temperatures.  Technically that is true, but if you graph 100 years of spring temperatures and do the statistics you get at least a 15 degree standard deviation.  That means that “normal” is plus or minus 15 degrees.  To really be “below average”, remarkably warm or cold, we’d need to be outside of that 30 degree swing and we are not.  At least not today.

Happy May Day!

I have actually put some things into the garden already.   Cold hearty crops like radishes and peas.  I did sprinkle some spinach and lettuce seeds and I’m trying my hand at carrots again.  Tomatoes and basil are still a month out.  The weather is supposed to get warmer from here out so I’m hoping to get back into the dirt later in the week.  That will be a celebration in itself!   In the meantime, I’ll just take things as they come and enjoy the cool while it lasts.

 

 

Previous Posts on May Day or Beltane:

Fertility     Spring     May     Beltaine (even I don’t spell it consistently)

 

Spring

Spring means being pestered by the fairies!

Spring means being pestered by the fairies!

One of my dear readers actually said she was looking forward to hearing about my Beltane celebrations.  See what happens when you comment?  It’s been a whirlwind of a week since I last posted.  The weather has almost been as crazy as the schedule!  Here’s the recap with editorial commentary about the season.

finding woodruff peeking out from under the snow

finding woodruff peeking out from under the snow

When we celebrate Beltane in my Wiccan tradition we make a may wine for the chalice.  Traditionally this starts with a Rhine wine but I’ve found I like a lighter voignier.  We infuse this with strawberries and woodruff.

Woodruff blooms in England at this time of year but it’s always at least up in my yard.  I maintain that woodruff is one of those smart herbs, something you can predict planting weather by watching.  This year as I went out in the May 1st snow to gather my herbs it was barely peeking out of the ground.

a ball team I could cheer for!

a ball team I could cheer for!

Too early!

contortunists

contortionists

After a snowy morning we spent the evening at Circus Juventas.

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German hoops

German hoops

How can you not think of spring with butterflies coming out of their silk cocoons and bright colors rolling across the floor?

butterflies springing forth

butterflies springing forth

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These kids were spectacular and it was definitely a great way to spend an evening.

A mood altering cacophony of colors and lights.

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941712_466430953438690_1617446858_nThursday was Pagan Coming Out Day.  Because it isn’t safe for everyone with alternative religious practices to tell their families, or their employers, or sometimes even their children, this day serves to encourage those who can to “come out”.  By identifying publicly as Pagans we demystify the religion.  When it stops being a scary myth and becomes about someone you know it’s easier for people to begin to accept the idea that we’re out there for real.

Cara had t-shirts made with the logo on the shoulder.

Cara had t-shirts made with the logo on the shoulder.

The great thing about making this an event is that it’s provided a support for people choosing to stick their tows in the water.  It’s also become resource center for Human Resources departments asking questions about how to deal with employees claiming unfamiliar religious holidays.  We had dinner out with one of the organizers at a local family friendly pub.

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snowblossoms

snowblossoms

It snowed yet again on Friday.  Most of what I got was gone by the afternoon, but just east of here there was as much as 12″ on the ground.

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May wine on the altar

May wine on the altar

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The coven celebrated the holiday on Saturday with flower crowns and may wine.  One of our devoted coven members got up at dawn for fishing opener.  We had fresh trout for feast, caught standing in 6″ of snow left over from the day before.

May crowns hanging from antler plaques

May crowns hanging from antler plaques

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Aztec Dancers

Aztec Dancers

Sunday was the Heart of the Beast May Day Celebration. (I talked about this last week.)  It was a beautiful sunny day in the park.  Eventually coats came off as we welcomed the sun.

Here comes the sun!

Here comes the sun!

I have it on good authority that the weather has truly turned and spring has arrived.  We will have rain rather than snow and warm sunshine to light our digging in the dirt.  I’m looking forward to spending some time outside!

 "King of the May"

“King of the May”

May

April 27, 2013  70 degrees and snow.

April 27, 2013 70 degrees and snow.

It’s almost May.  My Facebook is filled with photos of my Pagan friends in flower crowns.  Many of them celebrated Beltane (the May Day festival – see last year’s post) over the weekend.   Somehow I’m still a month behind.  I’m about ready for dyed eggs and daylight savings time.  I suspect our crazy weather has something to do with that.

Seasonal celebrations are always a conundrum in this climate.  It’s not THAT unusual to still have bits of snow on the ground (in the shade) at this time of year.   Usually though we’ve at least had a week’s worth of HINTS that spring is coming.  The latest ice out date (before this year) on the Twin Cities lakes was April 28 in 1965.  This year it has just been cold and snowy.

Those aren't white caps, it's ice on the lake.

Those aren’t white caps, it’s ice on the lake.

Then suddenly we finally have had almost a week of warm weather.  Unseasonably warm.  Almost like we skipped spring altogether and moved straight into summer.  A few weeks back you got a post with last year’s daffodils, up in late March early April.  This year I’m grateful to see buds on the Hyacinths this morning.

Beltane is a celebration of the blooming flowers, the burgeoning spring.  Those flower crowns are supposed to be made of wildflowers plucked at dawn in the morning dew.   Our last frost is usually somewhere between May 1-10.  In spite of our summery weekend, this year promises at least one more of those “iffy” nights.  So we greet the May, which in Minnesota is the month of planting.

April 29, 2013  Hyacinth buds

April 29, 2013 Hyacinth buds

The rule of thumb I grew up with “Tomatoes don’t go into the ground until Memorial Day weekend.”  The most optimistic of us will plant a few things early “just in case”.  We might get lucky and then we’ll have a bounty.  I don’t have anything, even peas, in the ground yet.  We had a foot of snow on the ground a week ago.  The yard is muddy and there are puddles of standing water because the earth underneath isn’t warm enough yet to take on that much moisture.

The way that we can be sure it’s May is that this coming weekend is the May Day Parade.  The extravaganza is put on every year by the neighborhood around Powderhorn Park and In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater.  There is usually some kind of geo-political theme (in honor of the political associations with May Day).  Often it’s something like what’s happening with our water, or genocide in Africa, or global warming.  These are far reaching themes and ultimately are eco-centric.

The Pagan elements of the day are also honored.  The parade marches into the park and ends with a performance where all seems lost.  Then the crowd is roused into calling forth the sun.  The sun rises on an island in the middle of the lake and is ferried across in a canoe flotilla where it is welcomed and celebrated.  Usually the flotilla is led by the family of ducks who make there home on the lake.  Often the sun pops out from behind a cloud at the same moment the sun is raised on the island.  It’s truly a magical celebration of spring.

photo from the HOBT.org website "Tree of Life"

photo from the HOBT.org website “Tree of Life”

Month behind or not, I’m ready to welcome spring.  I’m almost eager to wait for Orion’s bus outside in the mornings.  I’m itchy to dig in the dirt, even if all I manage is outdoor pots.  I’m ready to see the flowers in bloom.  Welcome the Sun!

Beltaine

Happy Beltaine everyone!  Tis May Day with all the flowers, politics and smoldering of what may become summer romances.  This coming weekend is the big May Day Parade ( http://hobt.org ) with picnics in the park and all kinds of festivities.

The celebration probably comes to us from old town festivals celebrating the first planting.  Either it’s the party to get everyone together before they go out into the fields.  That makes it the night before the first plowing of the earth (a metaphor for other Beltaine activities.)  Or it could be the celebration after getting the seeds in.  The ritual of “making rain” so the seeds will grow.

The political overtones of International Workers Day, have roots all over the world.  Apparently “spring fever” can be a motivation for protesting unfair labor practices.  We have our 8 hour work week (how many of us actually have that mythical 8 hour work week anymore?) because of those protests.

I feel a little about Beltaine  the way I feel about New Years Eve.  It’s a great party, but it’s kind of depressing to go home alone.  I’m not looking for a “hook-up” and I’m not really ready to open my life up to share it with anyone.  (My daughter seems to be here more since she moved out than she was before she left.)  I am really enjoying the small freedoms of being in charge again.  Orion is still with me, of course, but he’s pretty accommodating as long as I get him on the bus in the morning and am here when he comes back in the afternoons.

It’s just that the birds are singing love songs and the trees are having tree sex (and interfering with my breathing but that’s another story.)  I’m a little melancholy about not having achieved a childhood fantasy about sitting on the porch swing with my husband.  (No picture of a porch swing because I don’t even have a porch!)

The good thing is there is too much to do and no time to sit around bemoaning my lack of a love life.  The season is upon us and somehow I’ll  just have to figure it all out.  The grass will get mowed, the strawberries will get weeded, the tomatoes will get planted. It’s time to dance around the fires.  I may even make it to the parade.

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