May Day Celebrations
‘Cast not a clout, till May is out.’
I am never sure if the May referred to in this rhyme refers to is the month of May or the hawthorn blossom, which is called May.
The month of May is rich in the country customs with May Day being celebrated as a spring festival since ancient times. The air is full of birdsong, swallows have returned to nest; bluebells, primroses and wood anemones carpet the woodland floor. I am told that when you can put your foot on nine daisies at the same time spring has come!
In days gone by, at least when the weather was warm enough, young lads and lassies made their way to the woods eager to participate in the rites of the renewal of life; returning in the morning with clothes in disarray and leaves in their hair.
May Day Dancing
Dancing around the maypole is a spring ritual usually performed on May Day when youngsters holding ribbons dance around a pole garnished with flowers and greenery. The maypole was seen as a phallic symbol and frowned upon by the Puritans, who strove to supress May Day activities.
Still, many villagers around the country enjoy the music, dancing and merry-making of May Day which often includes crowning the May Queen and garlanding her with flowers.
The Green Man
Who is this strange green figure, associated with May Day, surrounded by foliage, often with leaves spilling from his mouth? Ancient folk Law relates the Green Man to nature and May Day celebrations. He is portrayed with acorns and hawthorn leaves; symbols of fertility.
Today, The Green Man is commonly associated with the name of pubs but images of The Green Man can also be found on religious buildings.
Rebirth and Resurrection
As you enter many of Britain’s cathedrals and churches, look upwards and more than likely you will spot the Green Man gazing down at you. Maybe he has a place there as a symbol of rebirth and resurrection, linking ancient pagan symbols associated with spring with the Christian faith?
Closely related figures are Jack in the Green and Green George, who appear much later in British folklore. The common theme associated with these figures seems to be that of death and rebirth, and ‘Green’ that means life.
www.jackinthegreen.org has lots of Green Man gifts. They are ethically sourced and many are handmade. Every ethical gift bought from Jack In The Green ethical gift shop funds tree planting with Ancient and Sacred Trees celebrating, planting and protecting trees in the Tropics and the UK.