- a collection of essays on Neodruidic Studies
- a journal of Post-Reconstructionist Neopaganism

Saturday, April 26, 2014

On MUSIC for your MAYDAY

Abingdon Morris, 1910

You're a Pagan who celebrates Beltaine using any of the traditional Mayday customs: maypoles, ribboned garlands and crowns of flowers, maypole dancing, etc...

You are involved in the production of group or public rituals,

You are involved with the selection or performance of the music for the occasion,

You simply care at-all about such things, regardless, 


IMHO... you should feel obliged to know at least the following three tunes, 
and to learn their words, distribute the lyrics, and teach them to the others.

1.) Padstow May-Song

2.) Staines Morris

3.) Hal an Tow

Three odd old songs.    
Three odd old, 
now increasingly magical, songs...

As a matter of fact, it's good to drill your group in learning to sing them during the weeks leading up to the event. This does not mean enforcing a strict perfectionist's regimen; no, but it does mean working hard enough to successfully engender a sense of familiarity and eventual personal association of this music with that celebration.

WHY? - They are "core" components in an old, if not ancient, tradition and it is through our hands the tradition will continue, or not, particularly in your local community. This same dynamic of association is what powers the near-narcotic effect that Yuletide's seasonal music has on us. Wouldnt it be nice to live our lives in a continual series of somethings, from one season to another, each as powerful as Yuletide's, that stretched throughout the whole year? 

Yes?  Well, that's exactly what some of us have in mind...


Unite and unite and let us all unite, 
  For summer is a comin' today, 
  And whither we are going we all will unite, 
  In the merry morning of May... 

With the merry ring, adieu the merry spring, 
For summer is a comin' today, 
How happy is the little bird that merrily doth sing 
In the merry morning of May... 

The young men of Padstow they might if they would, 
For summer is a comin' today, 
They might have built a ship and gilded her with gold 
In the merry morning of May... 

The young women of Padstow might if they would, 
For summer is a comin' today, 
They might've made a garland with the white rose and the red, 
In the merry morning of May...


O! -Where is King George?
O, where is he O?
He's out in his long-boat all on the salt-sea O.

Up flies the kite... 
Down falls the lark O,
Aunt Ursula Birdhood, she had an old ewe ("yowe")
And she died in her own Park -O.... 

Where are the young men that here now should dance, 
For summer is a comin' today, 
Some they are in England and some they are in France 
In the merry morning of May...

With the merry ring, adieu the merry spring, 
For summer is a comin' today, 
How happy is the little bird that merrily doth sing 
In the merry morning of May... 

( CHORUS: Unite and unite... )


Musically, this is the most challenging piece. YouTube is rapidly altering the tunes also, so watch out. Have your best singers learn it (only) from the "Morris On" album track and then train the others: 
see http://mainlynorfolk.info/martin.carthy/songs/stainesmorris.html  

- Come ye young men, come along... 
With your music, dance and song 
Bring your lasses in your hands 
For tis that which love commands...  -- chorus:

Then to the Maypole haste away, for 'tis now a holiday... 

- Tis the choice time of the year 
And the violets now appear 
Now the rose receives its birth 
And the pretty primrose decks the earth -- (chorus)

- And when you well reckoned have 
What kisses you your sweetheart gave 
Take them all again, and more 
It will never make them poor -- (chorus) 

- When you thus have spent your time 
And the day be past its prime 
To your beds repair at night 
And dream there of your day's delight -- (chorus) 


Take no scorn to wear the horn 
It was a crest when you were born 
Your father's father wore it 
And your father wore it too... chorus: 

Hal an tow, - jolly rumble oh, 
We were up - long before the day oh 
To welcome in the summer... 
To welcome in the may oh... 
For summer is a-comin' in 
And winter's gone away oh

Robin Hood and Little John 
Have both gone to the fair oh 
And we will to the merry greenwood 
To hunt the buck and hare oh... [chorus]

What happened to the spani-ards 
That made so great a boast oh 
They shall eat the feathered goose 
And we shall eat the roast oh... [chorus] 

( Then, use this modern / pagan-ish verse to finish, )

Our Lords and Ladies bless you now  
With all their grace and power oh  
And send their peace upon us too 
And bring peace by day and night oh... [chorus]



If you're not already aware of such things: 

Beware of referring to these
(actually mainly "English" or "British")
May-Day customs as  "Celtic".

Persons identifying with the Celtic heritages of the last 1000 years of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany's history harbor much animosity toward anything related to things "English" or "British" or of "the Crown". This includes the Bretons' rejection of "the crown" of France as well. 

There is much reason for their ancestors to have harbored such resentment yet it remains a matter of debate whether it should inhibit their inclusion in our concerns since most of Britain, including England, was thoroughly "Celtic" by modern archeological standards even before the Celtic languages and customs ever even reached Ireland. (Yes, historically, Ireland was the "last" part of Western Europe  to become "Celtic"!)

A "Romano-Celtic" celebration ?

Even to the matter of having the same date, the English Mayday bears too much similarity to the Roman Floralia to be ignored. The Floralia,  a celebration of the spirit of the blossoming May, was undoubtedly celebrated by the Romans while occupying England 1800 years ago and likely wove its way into the resulting Romano-Celtic hybrid cultures left everywhere the romans settled.

BTW:  "
The RAIN in SPAIN does NOT rhyme with BELTAINE !"

If your local Celtic Recon-quisitors have not gotten to you yet, 
here's another warning...

Like most of us,  IF you're too-cool to say "SAM-HAYNE", then you'd better reconsider the way you've been pronouncing Beltaine. The correct pronunciation of our beloved B-word is actually nothing like you'd imagine; it's actually something like "BALL-chin-ah".

Go ahead, just see how popular you remain trying to enforce that one...

Seriously, myself? I've ended up so self conscious about it that I'm increasingly saying screw it and using the term "MAYTIDE" instead.

-Earrach of Pittsburgh, (c) 2006, 2014

Long live the Tradition!

PS, The spelling of Beltaine used here is based on the guidelines for appropriate spellings of Celtic terms in popular settings suggested by James MacKillop in the OXFORD DICTIONARY of CELTIC MYTHOLOGY, pp xxii-xxiii