Tuesday, May 01, 2007 May Day The British Celts had a calendar that included the four solar checkpoints and four more holidays midway between them. While festivities took more the form of seasons than of days, this would guarantee a holiday about every six weeks. May Day was known as Beltane. Its significance is now one of speculation, but several traditions survive. The more commonly remembered one is that of dancing around the Maypole. A Green Man and a May Queen were elected to preside over the ceremonies, and a Maypole was erected in honor of the Green Man. The pole was decorated with ribbons, and the people danced around it, weaving the ribbons down the length of the pole. Flowers appeared prominently in the festivities, gathered in the wild on the night before. Rumors abounded regarding what the young adults had done that night as they sought their flowers in the darkeness together. A less remembered part of the festivities involved fire. Large bonfires were lit, each made of nine magical woods, and the cattle were driven between them to purify them. Some say that all the livestock was driven between the fires, which must have been a major enterprise. It didn't stop there, though. Reputedly, men crossed the fires for luck, mothers-to-be crossed for easy childbirth, and young ladies crossed to increase their chances of finding a husband. After the fires grew cold, the ashes were spread on the fields for fertilizer. In these anecdotes we find a suggestion that the Celts practiced firewalking, a healing ritual that has regained some popularity today.