The season of Beltane is upon us, joyful, beautiful and life giving. Beltane was the festival that marked the beginning of the Celtic summer, it was a time when the animals were put out to pasture and was celebrated with acts of love, lust and fertility.
Many love chases were madethrough thewoods on Beltane Eve, an act which was referred to as 'going a maying'. Here lovers would spend the night in the woods, doing what came naturally to them and these liasons were often known as 'greenwood marriages'. The Puritan writer, Phillip Stubbs was quoted as saying:
'I have heard it credibly reported by men of great gravity, credit and reutation, that of fortie three score maids going to the woods over night, there have scarcely the third part of them returned home again undefiled.'
Even when more formal marriage rites were introduced, the rules were still relaxed at Beltane. Any children resulting from these unions were often called after spirits or legendary characters of the woods such as Jackson, after Jack in the Green, a derivation of the green man. Hodson, after Hod, a woodland sprite or Robinson after Robin Goodfellow from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream or perhaps the legendary Robin Hood. Rudyard Kipling captured the essence of Beltane with these words:
Oh do not tell the priest of our art, or he would call it a sin: But we shall be out in the woods all night, a-conjuring summer in!'
May the season of Beltane bring you joy, love and hope.
From 'Mrs Darley's Pagan Whispers'