Archive for May, 2012

Have you ever visited the famous ruins of Glastonbury Abbey – or are you saving your nickels and dimes in order to do so? If so, recent news from the Abbey trustees should be of interest.

Abbey director and curator Janet Bell announced that the trustees need to raise 500,000 pounds (just over $790, 000 US dollars at the current exchange rate) for preservation work on the North Wall, the Lady Chapel, and the Abbot’s Kitchen.

Left to right: the Lady Chapel, the Nave, and the Choir. Photo copyright: Jusben, Morguefile.com

Glastonbury Abbey is the ruins of the medieval monastery that claimed to find the remains of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere in the 12th century. Also, the Abbey rests near the Tor, which some consider to have been the Isle of Avalon (including some of us that follow the modern Avalonian, Grail, and Arthurian traditions). The Tor and other nearby locations have historical and spiritual meaning for Pagans and Christians alike. The Abbey and its surrounding landscape is replete with far-reaching myth and folklore.

Aside from historical, mythical, and spiritual reasons behind the project, Philip Welch, editor of the Mid-Somerset Series, says the area needs to sustain tourism at the Abbey since other industries in the area are struggling.

A web site has been set up for the fundraising effort, Rescue Our Ruins, and visitors to the site can learn the specific reasons the funds are needed. On June 1, visitors can visit the Abbey for free in honor of the official launching of the Rescue our Ruins Appeal.

Perhaps making a donation to this fund would be a good charitable act for individual or groups of Avalonians, particularly those who have admired the awe and mystery of the Abbey in person – or who wish to in the future.

Bright blessings!

Thistle

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I sleep so sound all night, mother, that I shall never wake,

If you do not call me loud when the day begins to break:

But I must gather knots of flower, and buds and garlands gay,

For I’m to be the Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be the Queen o’ the May.

– From “The May Queen” by Alfred Lord Tennyson

A blessed Beltaine to all!

Also known as May Day (or the day after Walpurgis Night), May 1 is the day that the Flower Bride is crowned with a garland of spring flowers and takes part in the Sacred Marriage to celebrate this fertile season. Or as Guinevere sings in the musical Camelot:

It’s May! It’s May!

The month of ‘yes you may’

An illustration of a May Queen from William Hone’s “Hone’s Everyday Book” published in 1826.

And this is fitting for in the Arthurian legends the Flower Bride is Guinevere, though she is usually abducted on May 1 and must be rescued. However, in Celtic lore, there are many ladies or goddesses, such as Creiddyled and Bloudewedd, who fit this role.

Though Beltaine celebrates fertility, which of course requires both sexes, this day does seem to give a lot of attention to women. The Roman Catholic church even chose May to be Mary’s month, and many of their faithful celebrate May Day as a celebration of the mother of Jesus.

Though I’m more interested in Flower Brides of Celtic myth, a statue of Mary at the local Catholic Church, Our Lady of Lourdes, fascinates me. Different than most art that shows the demure mother with her head bowed and covered, “Our Lady of Pittsburg” by artist Linda Dabeau shows a Mary that is strong and forward looking – she looks as much like a goddess here as do many statues of Diana or Aphrodite. In fact, a good friend and I have often joked that we should go in the wee hours of Beltaine and dress the Mary statue with flower garlands. As yet, we haven’t done it – but you never know what the future holds!

A statue of Mary in southeast Kansas

Those interested in more Celtic history and British folk traditions regarding this time can check out sources such as Alexei Kondratiev’s excellent The Apple Branch and Mike Nichols’ The Witches’ Sabbats as well as web sites such as Waverly Fitzgerald’s The School of the Seasons or today’s post on The Wild Hunt blog.

But here I’d like to focus on the beauty and charm of the Beltaine season. Here are some things I’ve enjoyed over the years:

  • As a child, learning about May Day flower baskets in school and then making some to give to the neighbors.
  • The scent of honeysuckle and peonies.
  • Several years ago, being part of a group of adults leading a group of children in dancing the May pole when only one adult actually knew how to do it. It was good tangled fun and I can’t wait to try it again!
  • Waking early on a May morning to walk barefoot in the dew.
  • Just this past weekend, seeing that someone had made a garland of old fashioned roses for my great niece on her seventh birthday. Some classics never go out of style!

So what is your favorite part of the Beltaine season? Or the month of May?

Until next time, bright blessings!

Thistle

 

© 2012 PJ Graham

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