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Herbs and Rituals of May Day and Beltane

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Have you ever wondered where the flower crown comes from? It's from May Day - along with a several other flower-focused rituals. Here's where you can learn about the beautiful Beltane.

This Article was Written by Sami of Cinder Botanica

May 1st marks the midpoint between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, known as Beltane or May Day. It falls at the point on the calendar wheel where the fertile spring energy of rebirth is at its highest.

The seasonal celebrations such as Beltane mark a magical moment when the regular flow of time is broken. It is in these times that the veil between worlds grows thin and the liminal world of the spirits, elementals and the fey steps closer.

In May we also enter Taurus season, which is the embodiment of fixed earth. It is this dynamic balance of grounding down into the earth that allows a vibrant budding to occur. Seeds are sprouting and flowers are blooming; the work of summer begins as a new brood of bees swarm and find themselves falling into their timeless love affair with the Earth’s bloom.

The Festival Beltane

When humans lived more seasonally, taking cues from the natural world about how to live, the festival of Beltane marked the emergence of the soul from the deep slumber of winter. It is a celebration of fertility as the sun returns to join with the earth goddess.

Gathered together around a Maypole, people would dance to awaken and energize the earth. Following the flow of nature, couples would set out into the fields, meadows, and forests to awaken and vitalize the earth in their own intimate rituals.

Conception out in nature during the month of May was believed to be especially lucky. With these seasonal celebrations, humans pledged themselves to the earth and her cycles of birth, death and rebirth. People understood their connection to the natural world and knew that by tending to the vitality of the earth they were tending to themselves.

Spiritual Cleansing

May is a time to ground down into this outpouring flow of energy.  To attend to the physical and spiritual bodies through communion with the earth. Through turning to our plant allies to lead the way we can begin to weave ourselves back into the rhythmic cycles that sustain balance and vitality.

In ancient Europe May Day was a festival of ritual bathing. A time to clean and clear away what is not needed so that a symbolic rebirth into a fresh new season could occur.  Aromatic herbs and flowers were collected and infused into baths. Bathing in the dew gathered from the fields and flowers in the month of May was believed to imbue beauty, fertility, and health. Women would roll naked in the fields or gather the May dew by shaking it into bowls or laying cloth over plants to soak up the moisture before wringing it out into jars.

Herbs for May Day and Beltane

Sweet Woodruff was a popular choice to infuse into baths or into May Wine due to its sweet scent and aphrodisiac properties. Adding herbs and flowers such as Mints, Sages, Roses, Thyme or any other local herbs and flowers to a May bath is a beautiful way to soak up the energy of this time.

During May many plants rich in nutrients, minerals and vitamins that help rejuvenate the body and stimulate a natural clearing and detoxification are in great supply.

Cleavers, Chickweed, and Nettle are often easily accessible and growing in abundance at this time (And make a great wild pesto). Packed with nutrients and aiding in the body’s natural cleansing abilities these three herbs are a great choice for a naturally revitalizing herbal infusion to clear away any lingering sluggishness from winter.

A May Day Tonic Recipe

Simply gather a few handfuls of any or all of these tonic herbs, Cleavers, Chickweed and Nettle (be careful of Nettles stingers)

Roughly chop and add to a 1 quart mason jar

Pour almost boiling water over the top, cover and let it sit overnight.

Strain and enjoy a nutritive tea that is full of spring vitality.

May Day is Where The Flower Crown Comes From

Another well-known May day ritual is that of the flower crown. Hawthorn whose folk name is May Bush was a traditional choice all over Europe for crowning a May King and Queen. Sleeping under a Hawthorn on the eve of May day or on the full moon in May opened a portal into the realm of the fey.

Many other trees such as Cherry, Apple, Magnolia or Plum also flower during May and can be made into crowns or brought into the home. Flowers invite us to slow down and relish in the beauty of a moment. To allow ourselves to fully embrace these moments and melt into the earth around us is an act of care for ourselves and the world we inhabit.

Author Bio:

Sami with Cinder BotanicaSami is a clinician at our Community Herbal Center and uses bees, herbs, and a deep connections to the cycles of the planet in her regular herbal practice.

You can contact her to schedule an appointment by emailing clinic@berkeleyherbalcenter.org or find her on Instagram @cinder.botanica.

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