#SuperstitionSat Highlights: May Day & Beltane

Hello all, welcome to another pick of our Sessions’ Highlights. It’s May Day today – a holiday that sparked our theme for yesterday’s #SuperstitionSat (30/04/22) looking at superstitions of May Day and Beltane.

The first day of May is an occasion that is celebrated the world over for various symbolical reasons. May Day might be a lucky day for love, when love rituals take place such as Wiccan couples jumping together over the fires of Beltane or old Portuguese ladies making Marafona dolls to put under newlywed beds. May Day can also be a day to celebrate the Spring giving over to Summer, with flowers and flower wreaths being hung on doors later to be burnt in the fires of St John’s Eve in mid-June as is the custom, for example, in Greece.

May Day might yet be a chance to dance around the Maypole too. This is a tall post that is decorated with ribbons which are then draped around it by revellers dancing in circles and singing songs, as is the custom, for instance, in Scandinavian countries that celebrate Midsummer. Moreover, the eve of May Day is thought to be particularly magical in places such as Germany, where it is known as Walpurgisnacht or sometimes Hexennacht – a night where it is said all the witches are out and flying about, up to no good!

Finally, May Day can also be associated with worker’s rights in some parts of the world – which is the case in my native Portugal where the day used to be seen as a gift from employers to employees, who were allowed to skip work and do as they please. I’m not entirely sure that is still the case… Regardless, we are not here today to go into much detail about all the various reasons May Day is celebrated – we are here to look at the Highlights of our Session, so I tried to get a variety of tweets to demonstrate the many ways you can have a folklore-filled day today!

In the event, our first Highlight was from our friends at Swamp Sunday, who shared a belief about the eve of May Day giving exceeding magical powers to herbs – as well as tales of a location from East Slavic folklore known as Bald Mountain where witches would gather in preparation for their Sabbath. It is not entirely clear where Bald Mountain is located, but according to Disney it’s in Slovenia in Mount Triglav. This eerie peak is said to have been the inspiration for the aptly named ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ segment of the 1940 film Fantasia – who used the homonymous musical piece by Russian composer Mussorgsky and featured all the devilish things you might see on Walpurgisnacht!

Tweet by Swamp Sunday. Photo credit in image.

Our next Highlight is about May Day itself, as celebrated in Ireland. As told by TWhatley, on this day children might go around villages asking for money. In this case, they would ask for funds to decorate the May Bush – which was usually a bush or branch of whitethorn or gorse. Decorations might include painted eggshells, ribbons, as well as seasonal flowers. Ireland has been really good at preserving their folklore and making it available to the public through their National Folklore Collection – so you might want to read more about May Bush on the Dúchas Project website.

Tweet by TWhatley. Photo credit unknown.

Our last Highlight concerned one of the love rituals we mentioned earlier that might be propitious to May Day – this one, concerning divination via… snail trail? As told by Folk Horror Revival, this strange custom involves spreading ashes from the house’s hearth and placing a snail on them. The grey powder should help to better visualise the slime pattern left by the snail as it scuttles away, I imagine. This is very important, as that pattern will supposedly show the initial letters of the name of the person who you are destined to marry. This is mentioned in another Irish archive of Folklore from the National Museum of Ireland here.

Tweet by Folk Horror Revival. Photo credit unknown.

This is all for today. I hope you enjoyed your read. There won’t be a Highlights pick next week as we are taking a little SEASONAL BREAK to have a breather and look at some bluebells, but we will publish a new Guest Blog article on the 7th to keep you busy!

We shall return proper on MAY 14th, in time to begin our #SuperstitionSat World Tour! We will be digitally going around the globe to look at superstitions from all the corners of the Earth. To find out which places we’ll be going first check out the ‘Calendar’ section on our website.

As always, whether you’re old, new or just passing through, your presence is very much appreciated and I am glad to see you stop by. Hope to see you again in two weeks. Until then, take good care of yourself and everyone around you.

– Superstition Sam 🐾