Thursday, May 01, 2014

First Day Of May


When I was a child the month of May was a period of special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. At home our mother encouraged us to make a May Altar. I loved this. A deep window sill or table would be cleared and various holy statues, pictures and a crucifix would be placed and among this would be arranged wild flowers in vases and jam jars. We picked primroses, celandine, kingcups, daisies, dog violets anemones and bluebells. Most of these flowers soon wilted but they were easily replaced. I remember once bringing in May blossom but this was strongly discouraged as it was considered 'unlucky'.

I wouldn't have picked dandelions myself because they had a bad reputation and were supposed to make you pee the bed and bringing such a noxious weed to Our Lady's Altar would have shown a serious lack of respect. But daisies were a different matter. Those little Shippam's paste jars were just the right size for posies of violets or daisies. I remember being affronted when one of my aunts mocked us for having daisies on our May Altar. She called them weeds! I was shamed not to know this.

Shippam's Paste Jars

Having the May Altar in our house always made me feel extra holy and I said more prayers in May than I would in any other month. I was always sorry to see it cleared away when May was over but I think that Matty was relieved to be rid of the jars of wilting flowers.

Crataegus, hawthorn, may blossom

When I asked her why May blossom was unlucky and she said it was because it shed its petals so quickly that it made a big mess. I knew she was palming me off. Maybe she did not want to tell me the truth, which was, that hawthorn in the home was associated with death, or worse still, 'unregulated love.' And of course, for a good Catholic, the thought of death might be acceptable but unregulated love? Unthinkable.


5 comments:

Mage said...

Yup, even for this Episcopalian, the love didn't make it. :)

Veronica Prior said...

When I went to a catholic school, we used to have a procession to an outdoor grotto containing a statue of Mary. Flowers and song were a big part of the celebration. We also used to leave little bouquets of wild flowers at our friends' houses.

Nelly said...

I'd like to make a May Altar again. Maybe to the Goddess of Love!

Grannymar said...

Years ago, Fairview Park in Dublin(local to several schools), was dressed in colourful abundance with daffodils and tulips during April. On 1st May there was not one bloom visible - they were all picked by children to bring to school for their May alters!

Nelly said...

At least the children had something to confess, other than 'I was cheeky to my Mammy', 'I forgot to say my prayers', and 'I told a lie.' These sins always headed my list.