‘It was many ages before the earth was shaped that the Mist-World was made; and midmost within it lies the well that is called Hvergelmir, from which spring the rivers called Svöl, Gunnthrá, Fjörm, Fimbulthul, Slídr and Hríd, Sylgr and Ylgr, Víd, Leiptr; Gjöll is hard by Hel-gates.’ The beguiling of Gylfi.
The Maytide has come and with it some improvement in the weather, lifting our spirits from the doldrums of a wet spring. This time period in reality, doth extend beyond the one day. Existing as it does as a tidal flow of change, of growth and of influence.
Our calendar follows the progression of four tides of the year. Lambtide or Candlemas is as our starting point, the tide of Lustration or sowing. This is followed by Maytide or Roodmas, as the tide of Activation or growth. Lammastide is the tide of Consolidation or reaping, finally the Hallowtide is the tide of Recession or death. We say finally but mark you that the cycle begins again.
There is more to the Maytide than the fanciful stories of woodland orgies or even genuine yet private coupling. True it is a time of union and fertility, when we and our ancestors become aware of the great wonders of nature. The need to of all our creatures, wild and domestic, civilised and barbaric, to pair.
From the agrarian perspective we recognise that the need to pollinate and indeed to mate, is linked directly to the production of our food supply. The associated procreation and raising of children, is linked historically to the need for a labour force to work the land, as it is to our observing a natural inclination.
Underlying this is a harnessing of the new fresh and vibrant energy, hinted at within the symbolism found within the festivals of this time. Before May Day falls the Feast of Saint George, it is followed by Roodmas and Witsuntide. All are to some degree celebrations of the start of summer here in England, marked by the budding of the oak and the flowering of Hawthorne.
‘Bred in a stubborn land,
This hedge of hawthorn grabs frozen soil,
With clenched clawed roots.
Its trunks - thick, twisted, gnarled hide-
Rough as an elephant’s skin.
Its twigs, stubby as shorn corn,
Thorns interlock like rutting stag’s antlers.
Nature’s barbed wire fence, uprooted
By neither wind nor storm.
Its softened face wears small whit flowers
In green hair- harbinger of spring lambs,
Summer sun.’ The Hawthorn by June Walker
That weekend of the Feast of Saint George, our patron saint of foreign birth, was a weekend of patriotism, loyalty to the monarchy and a precursor to the Maytide. That same weekend in 2018 saw obviously the anniversary of the birth and death of William Shakespeare, the birthday of her Majesty the Queen and the birth of a royal prince. An exceptionally regal conjunction without doubt.
Yet what is this dragon story? Is it a vain copy of the story of Saint Michael? Are there indeed shared elements? The traditional Christian perspective is that the story is allegorical, representing the victory of the pilgrim over the beast within. Hardly fitting when Maytide is for some, a celebration of our natural desire.
Perhaps from an esoteric perspective we can suggest an alternative interpretation? That the bountiful energy now so apparent in the land, is the dragon awakened? The pilgrim does not slay the dragon but seeks instead to master the dynamic energy of the Maytide.
My visit to Derby’s own celebrations of the Feast, which included a parade and other impressive activities, was held on Saturday the 21st of April. The Hearth of the Turning Wheel held its first ever lunchtime moot on the Sunday after. This was also in Derby at a Bookcafe on the old Cornmarket. As usual an invitation only event and not publicly advertised, we still numbered some half dozen. This included a couple from Nottingham and a cat called Yoda.
The daytime moot was an experiment that shall be repeated, it will take time to gauge interest and we in the HTW will review the need later in the year. Our main moot held on the 26th of April as usual at the Exter Arms was better attended. At both moots those present could enjoy good company and fine food.
Our Maytide observance as a Hearth took place on the 1st of May and as is our tradition, we elected a Queen of the May. This year a guest and member of the Outer Court, who serve in office for the usual twelve month. This is naturally an important element of our meeting, which unusually this year had a more heathen theme, having been written by the Defender of the Hearth.
Yet amongst this, the mead and the cake we also enjoyed music. A solo song from one member and the demonstration of the kettle drum by a guest. Maytide is indeed a time to celebrate.
‘Lady spin your circle bright,
Weave your web of dark and light,
Earth, air, fire and water,
Bind us as one.
Mother in the coming night,
Gather in your ancient might,
Sage, warrior, Horn’ed Hunter,
Guide us to you.
Blow winds, winds blow,
Rain will come and pain will go,
Flash of lightning to guide the lost ones,
Through the coming storm,
Master lead your hunt tonight,
Bathed in your Lady’s silver light,
Earth, air, fire and water,
Ride in your train.’ Anonymous.
So with the improving weather and the awakening of the Dragon however perceived. May you never thirst, may you never hunger and may the Queen of the May herself, govern with wisdom, justice and love.