Bealtaine Greetings From Belleek

Lá Bealtaine

To begin, a riddle:

I washed my face in water
that had neither rained nor run
And I dried it on a towel
that was neither woven nor spun

See if you know the answer, mull it over, and I will reveal the meaning at the end.

Now on with the article –

Today, of course is May Day or Lá Bealtaine in Irish (pron: Law Baal-Tina).

I was feeling like a bit of an eejit because for the second time in recent years, I have got ahead of myself and gathered the Bealtaine flowers a day early. I woke up on Sunday morning, the 29th, thinking it was the 30th and went about happily celebrating Bealtaine oblivious to my error. Oops!

Wooden bridge at the side of Lough Erne, Donegal, Ireland

Not that it really mattered though. I got to spend some indulgent time in my favourite patch of woodland. It’s about a ten minute walk from my house and this is where I like to sit. 
Lough Erne at Cliff, Co. Donegal, Ireland

Right here to be exact – My happy place!

I like to sit on this little grassy block of concrete and look out over the Erne. Just relaxing and listening to the sounds. The air was reasonably still so the scent of young wild garlic was sweet and pleasantly pungent. The bluebells are coming into bloom and appeared vivid in the greenery along with the primroses and violets. Just natural and giving me a feeling that all is well in my world. I call it a “landscape hug”.

There was a bumble bee  buzzing and whizzing about which just made me feel happy. In fact the sounds and sights were so pleasant I took this quick video on my phone.

Woodland bank with primroses and violets

I love when the banks change from a mossy brown colour to bloom with primroses and violets.

garden at sunset. Table for two set with a vase of wildflowers. I skipped home from the woods with a bunch of wildflowers. Okay, I made the skipping part up – there are passing cars and I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I am the local crazy lady or anything.

Garden at sunset in Co. Fermanagh, Ireland.

At the time I thought the Bealtaine sunset was just beautiful, now I know it was a beautiful sunset the day before the Bealtaine sunset.

Posy of wildflowers in a Belleek Jug

And I really get a lot of pleasure from wildflowers. I look forward to this every year as I have done since childhood.

Wildflowers in jug with sunset behind

Aren’t they pretty.

Yellow Mayflowers at threshold of Gilmartin's Craft Shop, Belleek

So, in the evening I laid my mayflowers on the thresholds.  This is an ancient Irish tradition that survives to this day, certainly around Belleek anyway.  It survives from the folk belief the the veil between worlds is thin around Mayday eve and morning – It’s a bit like Halloween in that respect.

The colour of the flowers is symbolic because it is said that the fairies don’t like the colour yellow and won’t cross a doorstep containing it. Yellow is also a protective, cleansing colour – the colour of the sun. We lay the flowers as a charm to protect our homes and businesses and bring prosperity and good luck for the next 12 months.

With the veil being thin at this time, people also believed that healing and magical herbs were more potent when gathered on May Day morning. The dew in particular, is believed to hold special qualities.

And of course “dew” is the answer to the first two lines of the riddle I mentioned at the top.

I washed my face in water
that had neither rained nor run

It’s dew of course!

Can you guess the answer to the second part?

And I dried it on a towel
that was neither woven nor spun

The answer is, of course, “air” since May Day dew is so precious you wouldn’t wipe it off with a cloth.

I got the riddle from one of my favourite books ‘ The Year in Ireland: Irish Calendar Customs‘ by Kevin Danaher.

In the section on May Day he explains that to wash your face in the May morning dew would not only bestow beauty, but would also grant immunity from sunburn, freckles, chapping and wrinkles during the coming year. It is easy telling that this is not a practice I have tried since I have my fair share of freckles, redden in the slightest hint of sun and definitely have one or two crows feet about my eyes. “Signs of a life well lived” says I.

Bealtain Fire - Chiminea lit up at night

This is the Bealtaine Fire that I lit in the Chiminea to toast and welcome the Summer. It ended up being a pre-Bealtaine Fire on account of it only being the 29th. But what matter, the celebration of the changing seasons is what’s important. That time of reflection and feeling gratitude for the abundance and beauty in nature as it comes into its own at this time of year.

Happy Bealtaine to you and I wish you a wonderful summer.

4 thoughts on “Bealtaine Greetings From Belleek

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *