Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Celebrating May Day – & Summer’s Eve In “The Gathering Of The Lost”

Happy May Day, dear Supernatural Undergrounders – and happy first of summer to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere. I hope some of you will be bringing in the may. :)

US cover
In The Gathering Of The Lost, the second novel in my The Wall of Night series, the equivalent festival is called "Summer’s Eve” and is “always held on the first new moon of summer.”

Reflecting on May Day today got me thinking about influences on our writing, especially where the author is trying to create a world that feels “real” and resonates with the reader (yes, even when writing “Fantasy”). May Day, with its traditions of mumming (acting out folk stories), crowning the May Queen and (in England, anyway) dancing around a Maypole is an easy celebration to draw on.

But when I lived in Sweden, the festival of Valborgsmassafton, (also celebrated in Germany as Walpurgis Night), seemed almost as important as the May Day that followed. The nights are definitely shortening by 30 April, and Valborgsmassafton is celebrated by lighting bonfires in the long clear evenings, then dancing and partying through the night and into May Day itself. The overlaps to the Celtic festival of Beltane also seem clear.

Arguably, bonfires are a traditional celebration in many circumstances, but I am sure it is not accident that one way in which “Summer’s Eve” is celebrated in my story is by lighting “fires for Imuln”:

UK/AU/NZ cover

‘ “What exactly is the festival about?” he asked Malisande one fine evening when she was down at the inn again, helping Manan sort and bag herbs. The girl looked up in surprise.
“Don't you celebrate Summer's Eve on the River? The festival honors Imuln in her aspect of Maiden and is always held on the first new moon of summer. Those coming of age keep their sacred vigils and lovers make binding vows to each other.” She smiled. “That is the serious side, at any rate. But we also celebrate the beginning of the really fine weather by lighting bonfires, and use up the last of winter's stores baking special cakes and breads. The fires are lit on the actual Eve, but the next day there is dancing and feasting through into the night.” ’
~ from "The Gathering Of The Lost"
 So whether bringing in the may, dancing, feasting, lighting a bonfire, or keeping a "vigil" of your own, I hope you are enjoying some sort of 1st of May festivity. 

And if you have your own special celebration of the first of summer with family or friends, please feel welcome to share it here. :)


Bonnie Gill said...

Sorry this is late.. Happy May Day.
I love learning about different cultures and celebrations.
Great post.

Helen Lowe said...

Hi Bonnie--now I am the late one for my reply (is 'have been writing' a fair excuse?), but glad you enjoyed the post. :)