May

In Ireland, HAZEL, a powerful symbol of fertility, was included in the "summer" brought into the house on May morning (O Suilleabhain) MARSH MARIGOLDS were used at the May Day festivities, and still are in Ireland and the Isle of Man. The Manx name for it is Lus y Voaldyn, the herb of Beltane (Paton), the May flower par excellence. They were hung on door posts in Shropshire, stalk upwards, it seems (Baker. 1980), perhaps on the analogy of the horseshoe, but it was unlucky to bring them indoors before the first of May, but it was alright to put bunches of them outside in the window sill (Vickery. 1985). Children in County Antrim used to gather marsh marigolds (which they called Mayflowers), and push one of them through the letter box of every house in the village, so that the flower could protect the house from evil. The children were rewarded, of course. J C Foster reported that GREATER CELANDINE was the Mayflower in parts of Ulster, almost certainly an error. Greater Celandine would not be in flower at the beginning of May.

In Europe, LILIES-OF-THE-VALLEY are the emblems of May Day, muguet de mai in French, Maiblume or Maiglöckchen in German. They are a customary May Day gift in Paris, large quantities of them being sold for the purpose (Hole. 1976). They are, too, traditionally worn by participants in the Helston Furry Dance (Vickery. 1995), usually held on 8 May.

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