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the merrie month of May

May 1, 2010

May Day, and the sap is rising. The world turns greener by the moment, the hedgerows are festive with white blossom. It is the beginning of Beltane, season of growth, vigour, energy…yawn…think I’m getting too old for Beltane. Today, frankly, I feel closer to the Calleach or Crone aspect of the Goddess. If I tried to leap a Beltane fire I think I’d probably burn my knees.

an English hedgerow in all its green and white spring glory

We went to a local car boot sale today. It was eight degrees outside and raining, with a snell breeze. The poor stall-holders were going slowly numb from the feet up. By the time we got home, all I could think about was lighting a fire and falling into an armchair; and I only managed the second part of that plan, so we are still chilly. In my defense for such feeble behaviour, I plead continuing head and neck pain from that stupid concussion; plus I am still finding any social interaction and noise unnaturally wearying. However, on the positive side, I did get myself a couple of useful Kilner jars and a very pretty silver ring, set with citrines and an amethyst, for the grand price of seven quid. Being a magpie for such fripperies I came away well pleased. The boys are happy too: each bought a toy – thus relieving two of their friends’ mothers of some junk – and my husband picked up Kate Winslet for 20p! Well, a video, obviously, but he’s still pretty chuffed.

Although I am feeling a little second-hand myself today, in general May is my favourite month of the year and, like the courtiers of the Middle Ages, I do like to dress in green for May Day. It just suits the feel of the season. This year it’s a green cashmere cardigan over a lambswool poloneck, over a thermal vest. Ho hum! In the autumn and winter I love being in Scotland, but around this time of year it’s hard not to feel a little jealous of our southern neighbours!

The noblewomen of medieval France arrayed themselves and their horses in spring green to go and cavort in the greenwood on May morning. And they probably weren't even wearing thermal undies.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Wendy permalink
    May 2, 2010 9:22 am

    Great post – I feel for you with the cold weather still pressing on.
    Can you explain snell breeze? I am thinking it means *yuck yuck horrible* or it could be *schnell ach aye* or maybe just plain *nasty* or does it have a Scottish meaning??
    Well done at the car boot sale – and I’m loving the medieval look.
    Cheer up I’m sure that green will overcome ….. eventually.
    Sending you some blue clear skies and as0 balmy a day as we had here today.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      May 2, 2010 12:30 pm

      Your guesses for ‘snell’ are pretty good: it’s a Scots word meaning sharp, keen, bitter. I have sometimes thought that I should make a ‘wordlist’ page for the scraps of Scots which I occasionally use. I used to do a weekly ‘word for the day’, which were usually Scots words as it’s such a colourful and descriptive tongue. (You can find them if you search the ‘philology’ and ‘Scots language’ tags at the top right of the blog.)

      I’m glad you like the medieval look. So do I! In a previous life I did a doctorate in medieval history, and I still love the jewel bright colours of medieval art, especially Books of Hours. This picture is from arguably the most perfect example, the 15th Century ‘Tres Riches Heures’ (sorry no accents on my keyboard) of the Duc de Berry. What a feast for the eyes.

  2. May 2, 2010 9:45 pm

    There was much talk of Beltane and fire leaping here in the South West too, as you might expect in this Celtic corner of England, although rain put paid to that. But May Day hobby horses (or obby osses as they’re better known in these parts) could be seen in Padstow and Minehead. Neighbours of mine were having lunch in Dunster on May Day when the Minehead procession went past and they couldn’t quite believe the amount of alcohol being consumed. Having been in the middle of Padstow for Obby Oss Day in the past, I wasn’t at all surprised . . .

    We’re currently debating whether or not we dare venture into Combe Martin to see the Hunting of the Earl of Rone, complete with Hobby Horse, Grenadiers and Fool, during the late Spring Bank Holiday. The festivities were banned in the 19th century for licentiousness and drunken behaviour but were revived in 1974 . . . However it lasts for four days and we’re not sure that we have the stamina and are worried that even if we actually manage to get into Combe Martin, we might not get out again.

    Thank you, by the way, for that glorious illustration and all that colour!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      May 2, 2010 11:02 pm

      The Combe Martin celebrations sound fascinating, I didn’t know about them. We don’t have a tradition of ‘obby osses’ in Scotland, so far as I know: I think it’s a peculiarity of Cornwall, isn’t it? Like all thriving local traditions, it’s probably best left to the locals to enjoy without us grockles poking our noses in (by which I do not include you, of course).

  3. Wendy permalink
    May 2, 2010 11:54 pm

    This language thing is fascinating! I have had a little dabble in your tabs on the right – thanks for pointing them out to me. Footering around – I just love that one. Grockles? Will have to investigate more another time. All these traditions are interesting also. In Queensland today it is Labour Day which I think is May Day equivalent. … a public holiday.

  4. May 2, 2010 11:58 pm

    What a riot of clear rich and saturated colour! Thank you so much for it – I have saved it in my hard drive to look at for future inspiration. Here in the eastern corner of Canada (Nova Scotia to be exact) it persists in being cold and if the young lady on the lovely white palfrey had ridden out in that outfit yesterday, she would have suffered from the west wind whistling down that lovely cleavage which the lord in fron of her is ogling so eagerly!!

  5. dancingbeastie permalink
    May 3, 2010 12:07 am

    Wendy, you should really ask 60goingon16 about grockles, as that is not a Scots word: it’s used in the South-West of England to refer (rather disparagingly) to tourists and incomers. I do enjoy the richness of dialects in the British Isles. In my next life I’d quite fancy being a philologist.

    Janet, welcome! I am so glad that other people are enjoying the sumptuous Book of Hours picture as much as I do. I’ve loved it for years and yet never noticed the ogling going on – you’re quite right! In fact, I think two of the men are giving her the once over! Hah, she won’t look so fetching with a runny nose from riding out half-dressed. But now I am sounding like my mother…

    On further study of the painting, I think perhaps we are being unkind in interpreting the men’s glances as ogling. My lady is clearly pregnant (being the ideal wife) and perhaps her lord and his companion are looking back at her solicitously, to see how she’s taking the bumping around on the horse. Let us hope her mount is also the ideal, and has the approved smooth ambling pace of a lady’s palfrey.

  6. May 3, 2010 12:21 pm

    Hello and thank you for your kind words and links!
    Delighted to be included here with the weird and wonderful 🙂
    A great place you keep!
    Best May wishes to you

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      May 3, 2010 12:29 pm

      And to you, Rima. Thank you for visiting; I am honoured. I have been thinking that ‘Weird and wonderful’ sounds perhaps a little judgemental…it’s not meant to be, it is entirely positive! We all need a little of each in our lives.

  7. January 23, 2012 12:24 am

    Thank you for linking to this post, DB. The image is wonderful – so large and clear. I smiled when I read a ‘snell’ breeze. It must be derived from the German ‘schnell’ and mean the same thing – a good, brisk wind. 🙂

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      January 23, 2012 11:12 pm

      ‘Snell/ schnell’: oh, that’s fascinating! I am really intrigued by etymology and the multiple linguistic roots and influences in English and Scots, but this is one connection that I had never made. Thank you!


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