Seasonal Celebrations Home
Next Holiday: Beltane May 1, 2018
May Day ushers in the fifth month of the modern calendar
year, the month of May. This month is named in honor of the Goddess Maia,
originally a Greek mountain nymph, later identified as the most beautiful of
the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades. By Zeus, she is also the mother of Hermes, God
of magic. Maia’s parents were Atlas and Pleione, a sea nymph.
The old Celtic name for May Day is Beltane (in its most
popular Anglicized form), which is derived from the Irish Gaelic Bealtaine or
the Scottish Gaelic Bealtuinn, meaning “Bel-fire”, the fire of the Celtic God
of Light (Bel, Beli, or Belinus). He, in turn, may be traced to the Middle
Eastern God Baal.
Other names for May Day include: Cetsamhain (opposite
Samhain), Walpurgisnacht (inGermany),
and Roodmas (the medieval
church’s name). This last came from church fathers
who were hoping to shift the common people’s allegiance from the Maypole (Pagan
lingam—symbol of life) to the Holy Rood (the cross—Roman instrument of death).
Incidentally, there is no historical justification for
calling May 1 ‘Lady Day’. For hundreds of years, that title has been proper to
the vernal equinox (approximately March 21), another holiday sacred to the
Great Goddess. The nontraditional use of ‘Lady Day’ for May 1 is quite recent
(since the early 1970s), and seems to be confined toAmerica, where it has gained
widespread acceptance among certain segments of the Craft population. This
rather startling departure from tradition would seem to indicate an unfamiliarity
with European calendar customs, as well as a lax attitude toward scholarship
among too many Pagans. A simple glance at a dictionary (Webster’s 3rd or
O.E.D.), encyclopedia (Benet’s), or standard mythology reference (Jobe’s
Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore & Symbols) would confirm the correct date
for Lady Day as the vernal equinox.
For the rest of Mike Nichols' article on Beltane click here.
Next Holiday Southern Hemisphere: Samhain
May 1, 2018
For an article on Samhain by Mike Nichols click here.
2018 Wiccan/Pagan Calendar