Friday, May 1, 2015

Beltane Fairy Trees

May 1st is traditionally celebrated in many cultures for a variety of reasons. I'm partial to the celebration of Beltane which comes halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice and marks the arrival of summer for many ancient and modern pagan cultures.

Beltane is 6 months away from Halloween and is believed to be a time when the wall between worlds gets thin (like Halloween) and spirits and fairies walk in our world. While Halloween honors death, Beltane honors life. Beltane is celebrated with flowers and bonfires and the maypole. At Beltane, the May Bush was decorated with flowers and ribbons and before the nineteenth century paraded through town. It's a very joyous holiday.

Ballyshannon's Rag Tree, Donegal, Ireland
One tradition that you can still find in places in Ireland and Scotland is the decorating of the fairy tree. Although not specifically associated with Beltane, special trees or bushes such as Hawthorn have become associated with fairies. Hawthorn trees can live a very long time. It was believed that these trees shouldn't be disturbed as they would upset the fairies or wee folk. Above all else, don't upset the fairies. Roads were built to avoid these trees and bushes and farmers plowed around them. While people today don't necessarily believe in fairies, they still wouldn't think of touching those trees- just in case.

In certain rural areas, you can still find fairy trees tied with ribbons. The ribbons represent wishes being sent to the fairies. Often they are wishes of healing or the taking away of troubles. It is hoped that the ribbons will be taken by the fairies and your trouble will go with it. If you visit these places keep your eyes open for these ancient protected trees.

Doonhill, Aberfoyle, Scotland
St. Brigid's Well, Kildare, Ireland
Fairy Tree in Connemara, Ireland
Consider decorating a tree in your yard to celebrate life and honor the fairies. Happy Beltane!

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