I feel like I wrote about spring equinox no later than yesterday, & May is already there. For a few days, I have seen the sun follow its summer route. Yes, I know that it actually is the Earth moving, but I see the sun’s rays illuminate the rooms from a different angle than in winter & spring. I have to close the shutters at the end of the afternoon so as not to be dazzled by the sun.
Summer is here. Yes, it is. By the way, I didn’t invent it. In our calendar, summer will begin on June 21st only, it has not always been so.
Why celebrating the First of May ? How come the warm season begin in May : Floralia & Walpurgis.
- For the Romans, the festival of Floralia (April 27 – May 2) lasted 6 days in honor of the goddess Flora, goddess of fertility, vegetation & flowers. Seeds were sown on the bare land, which was covered by an abundance of colors & varieties a few weeks later. This festival aimed at secure the prosperity of crops, livestock… & humans. Hares & goats, as symbols of fertility, were also released to be hunted. What do you mean, it becomes shocking ? Children are born neither in cabbages neither in roses, I thought you knew that.
(Triumph of Flora by Tiepolo ; ca. 1743. Source : wikipédia)
- Now, if I tell you October 31, you will surely reply : Halloween ! For the Celts, the veil between the visible & the invisible worlds were at its thinnest during this night, & the worlds could communicate.
Precisely six months later, during Walpurgis Night (April 30 – May 1) & May Day (May 1), called Beltane as well, the same phenomenon would occur. With a very important difference : Samhain (renamed Halloween) honored the dead & encouraged introspection to assess the past year. Walpurgis would celebrate the spirits of water, air, fire & earth, fairies & elves, & Life, through the contact with Nature… & wild dances ! (Walpurgis Night. Source : www.welt.de)
(Source : wikipedia. Artist : Edward Robert Hughes)
- May Day is traditionally celebrated with dances around the May Pole, a wood pole covered with vivid colors ribbons, intertwined by the dancers gestures. Dances fully wake Nature up, in case it has trouble leaving its winter sleep.(Source : http://melimelodesptitsblanpain.eklablog.com)
Life/death/resurrection/life cycle is then complete.
- For the Celts, Samhain (Halloween) would mean the beginning of the cold & dark half of the year, while Walpurgis & Beltane would be the beginning of the hot & bright half of the year (even though the sun is still shy and wearing a sweater is still necessary).
The night of Halloween was also the beginning of the new year. Beltane was thus exactly half way between the past winter and the winter to come. Only a few weeks later, light would be at his apex, on the summer solstice.
What can be felt at this time of the year ?
- Human beings adapt their activities to the weather, not to the official calendar. Even in the largest cities. From this point of view, they are still tied to Nature. We often feel an inner growing strength & energy. It is the perfect time to get back in touch with Nature, if one stayed inside during the cold months, as I did. It is the perfect time to sow seeds, whether in the garden, on one’s balcony, or as projects.
- It is the time when the first crops of the year are available in grocery stores (radishes, young turnips & baby carrots, fresh herbs). Green is everywhere, supported by yellow, softened by white, & energized by pink. We often feel like lighter & greener food ; good news, fresh vegetables are perfect for that !
- Snow boots, mittens, gloves, scarves, wool hats are no longer necessary, but it is not hot enough to prevent us from spending time outside all day long. Windows can be left open day & night. The sun is not too hot, burning & violent yet.
We often feel like spending time in the outdoors : barbecues, bicycle rides, long walks… I personally love being just next to a river or a lake.
Water, symbole of life.
- As soon as the weather turns warmer and brighter, parks are invaded by lovers and families, for picnics and barbecues.
Barbecues !!! A reminder of how much fire mattered in the past for everything ? (Source : www.maz-online.de) Beltane is a festival when Fire is honored & celebrated.
- A desire for meetings & gatherings with people we love. It is THE perfect time for weddings & family gatherings (Mother’s Day is celebrated in May in many countries). Let’s think about it : what was marriage made for, at first ? Having children. What is a mother to do, beside anything else ? Taking care of her children. Everything brings us back to motherhood & thus, fertility. Beltane is the celebration of the fertility to come, of gardens, of livestock (in rural communities), and the future success of beginning projects. Yes, Aphrodite, Apollo, Pan, are in the spotlight in May… with ALL their excesses.
The beginning of the warm season can be shy & dubious or, on the contrary, thunderous & dazzling. But, from May on, & even more from May 15 on, summer is there. Days are warmer & warmer, evenings, longer & longer…
A symbole for May 1 : lily of the valley
Blooming at the end of April or at the beginning of May, depending on the weather, this flower is considered a lucky charm.
To say it simply : May is the celebration of all forms of Life.
- Fertility : it is not only organic. It is what allows to give birth – i.e. life – to something, whether it be a child or a project.
- Kokopelli is the spirit of the season. For South America peoples, it symbolized fertility, joy, celebration, long life. He was a spirit of music, a storyteller, un rain-maker, a healer, a teacher, as much as a magician and a prankster, &… a seducer. He would play the flute to announce his coming. When he left, it was believed that crops would be bountiful, & many women, pregnant. His crest, sun rays or feathers, symbolized the spirits’ world. His hunch contained seeds, plants, babies : Life. Sowing, singing & playing the flute, he brought the breath of life. He talked to the wind & to the rain, he brought warmth back after the cold months. He embodied the purity & spirituality of music, giving good luck to everyone who listened to him. He had a very simple message : don’t take life too seriously. (Source : www.arizona-dream.com)
How to celebrate the beginning of the bright season ?
What can we read ?
to learn more about trees : The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben
about the bitter-sweet joy of family life, since May & June honor marriage & parenthood : The Chilli Bean Paste Clan, by Yan Ge
about passion & its excesses, with love energy at its highest : Her Lover, by Albert Cohen
about opening one’s mind & heart to others, and meeting and unexpected love : Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson
>about the invisible world, so close to us at the moment : Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll (Source : wikisource.org)
What can we drink ?
Young tea, full of energy, vitamins & nutrients, to enjoy the season !
For lightness & freshness, green teas will be favored :
for Chinese tea amateurs, some Long Jing, gentle & sweet
for Japanese tea aficionados, a sencha, grassy & iodized
for India lovers, a first flush darjeeling, delicate & elegant
Note : These teas can be brewed at a lower than usual temperature.
What teaware & what materials ?
Put ironstone & heavy clay back into the closet, & keep light and thin materials reminding of coolness : bone china & glass.
Some perfect brewing tools : a light clay kyusu or a gaiwan.
We make or buy, if it’s not done already, a multi-pocket quilted pouch to bring teaware everywhere.
Choose tiny and flared cups or bowls, since it is no longer necessary to keep the tea warm. Hold them very lightly, with 3 fingers.
What can we do ?
Go & have tea in the outdoors !!
Hot water in an insulated bottle, a reusable filter or a gaiwan, one or several tiny cups, a piece of fabric to use as as tablecloth, et voilà ! Bonus : everything fits in a tiny bag.
We fill ourselves with solar energy before it is too hot, riding bikes, walking, downtown, in the countryside or on mountain paths, or simply by going to a park. And if some people passing by are surprised to see this improvised tea room, it can be a great way to start a conversation !