living in Cornwall in  May




There's something mystical about the word 'rites'...

To me, it suggests conceptual ritual rather than formal ceremony; an intuitive sensing of an older lore intrinsically fused to the the cycle and forces of natural order. On May Day, the sun returns to the northern hemisphere when we, along with plants and animals, gain energy and power from the strengthening warmth of the sun. A life force pulsates and throbs to break from winter's darkness into every shade of green on the Dulux colour chart. It's not followed as a set of human rules, it happens regardless and is up to individual awareness to recognise it or not.

tamar river willows stone circles spring river blossom gate

These aren't the ramblings of a bangle-jangling, pot-smoking, tie-dyed draped, hoop-earringed hippy, I simply love the beginning of summer. In Cornwall, ancient Celtic observances aren't a lingering fragment of an earlier age; Padstow still has it's 'obby oss', which is believed to be a relic of the sacred marriage between the earth and sky and Helston has Flora Day. Superficially, the town's middle-class show off as the midday dancers prance through the town to the thudding beat of a bass drum: a juxtaposition of pagan celebration performed by people who attend regular church on Sundays and return to their businesses and committees the following day. There's more to it than that: a potent brew of paganism, tradition and Spingo drawing the Cornish from across the globe to welcome spring.

May Day is rooted in the festival of Beltane and is symbolised by the maypole, a phallic pole planted deep in the earth representing potency and fertility, the winding ribbons embodying the spiral of life. The name originates from the Celtic god, Bel -the bright one, and the Gaelic word, teine, for fire: Beltane means bright fire to signify the light half of the year. Fire purifies evil ahead of the maiden's season of fertility, renewal and harmony, portrayed by the fragrant white flowers of hawthorn blossom.

Why is the 1st May so special to me? One particular May Day is branded on my memory and other parts of my anatomy for life, and without going into the obstetric detail and several doses of pethidine later, a wonderful event happened that changed me and my life for ever - Happy Birthday, Tris. xx

PS. Rough winds gave the darling buds of May... a severe shaking at the weekend. We had some friends over for the evening who were staying in Fowey. In the early hours they were stopped by a policewomen who asked where they were going and explained that the road into the village was possibly blocked by a marquee-not a runaway horse, broken down tractor, the TARDIS, fallen tree- no, a marquee! It had broken its ropes in the wind and was flying around somewhere... if you see a marquee, well, I don't really know what to suggest.!

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