Have you ever washed your face in the early morning dew on May 1st? This is just one of the traditions surrounding this day when the Mayday dew has the supposed power to improve the complexion or even wash away freckles. I have to confess that a friend and I in our first year of high school agreed we would do this though we waited until we got to the hilly green area above the hockey pitch to pat our face with whatever dew was left! No doubt being the west of Scotland, there would be drops of rain on the grass.
|Arthur's Seat - Pixabay|
A couple of old books I have mention the tradition being carried out on Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh and one contains an extract from a letter in 1826 which outlines the custom:
“About five o'clock in the morning there is an unusual stir; a great opening of area gates and ringing of bells, and a gathering of folk of all clans arrayed in all the colours of the rainbow… in the course of half an hour the entire hill is a moving mass of all sorts and sizes. At the summit may be seen a company of bakers and other craftsmen, dressed in kilts, dancing round a Maypole.”
What a fascinating picture it conjures up, though needless to say, it won’t be a sight you'll see today!
In Scotland, Mayday Eve (30th April) is also the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane, from the Gaelic Bealltainn, when bel-fires were traditionally lit on the hill-tops. Edinburgh has revived this tradition when you might be lucky enough to obtain a ticket to watch the torchlight shenanigans, drums and magical procession around Calton Hill which goes on until an hour or so after Mayday arrives.
No doubt we've all used the expression “Never cast a clout till May is out.” Some people think it means don’t cast off too many clothes until the end of May (sensible with our British weather), while others think it means until the May blossom is out, which is another name for Hawthorn.
|Hawthorn - Pixabay|
Around the UK, various Wells have long been connected to special powers and never more so than on Mayday when they are at their most potent and magical. I love the legend about the Schiehallion, a mountain near Loch Rannoch in Tayside, which is said to contain one of the largest faerie kingdoms. Locals used to visit Schiehallion Well on Mayday with offerings for the occupants. A place I'm aiming to visit one day, as long as I don't disappear with the faeries!