May Day and Beltane

Hi dear Readers,

May Day celebrations in France 1 May 2012

Today is May 1 which has different associations. May Day is International Workers’ Day which is a celebration of the international labour movement comprising marches by working people and their labour unions throughout most of the world.

International Workers’ Day is the commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, which occurred after an unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they dispersed a public assembly during a general strike for the eight-hour workday. In response, the Chicago police fired on the workers killing dozens of demonstrators and several of their own officers. In 1889, the first congress of the Second International meeting in Paris for the centennial of the French Revolution and the Exposition Universelle following a proposal by Raymond Lavigne, called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago protests. May Day was formally recognized as an annual event at the International’s second congress in 1891.

Wheel of the Year

May 1 also marks the Gaelic festival known as Beltane in the Northern Hemisphere which is celebrated as a spring festival of optimism and fertility where fires are lit to purify their cattle to bring good luck. In the Pagan Wheel of the Year Beltane is one of the 8 festivals or Sabbats celebrated and is considered as the cross-quarter day, marking the mid-point of the Sun’s progress between the spring equinox and the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Maypole Dancing in the UK

There are also the traditional rituals of maypole dancing and the ritual union of the May Lord and May Lady.


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  1. Thank you, Anne. This is so very interesting! I had no idea there was so much associated with May 1st, especially issues to do with workers’ rights, etc. And once again, your knowledge of the ritualistic nuances of our past cultures is astonishing!

    • Thanks so much for your positive feedback re my post Kerrie. I really appredicate it. My association with May Day goes back to my early childhood when Dad used to take us kids to May Day and we would be put on a truck with other kids of teachers who were marching with the Teachers Federation or the Communist Party. When we were older we marched with Dad. In the eighties I bought this wonderful book called ‘Fruits of the Moon Tree The Medicine Wheel & Transpersonal Psychology’ by Alan Bleakeley at a Jung Society talk given by Deike’s partner Ean Begg on his book The Cult of the Black Virgin. The author Alan Bleakley is a senior lecturer in psychology at the Cornwell College as well as a poet and in this book he pleads for the recovery of the lost knowledge of European shamanism. My early childhood experiences of celebrating May Day and Alan’s book gave me the inspiration to write this post.
      Love Anne x


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