The Fair Maid Who The First Of May

Fair Maid_detail400px

The fair maid who
the first of May
goes to the field
at break of day
and bathes in the dew
of the hawthorne tree
will ever after
handsome be

This is an old English nursery rhyme about the ancient pagan custom of young lovers spending the night in the forest or fields on Beltane Eve, and then bringing in flowering hawthorne branches to decorate the doorposts. The best clue, besides the first of May, is the attribution, Mother Goose, who is none other than our dear old Mother Goddess in disguise, hiding the old ways in nursery stories. This artwork was a rough draft for the finished piece I lettered on some beautiful green handmade paper created by my friend Cyndi Chambers. I did this draft on a piece of green Ingres paper I used to love and might still have a scrap of somewhere.

Heel and Toe

It was lovely and sweet at the Baylands this morning. We got there JUST in time for the Horn Dance, which never fails to catch my heart in a squeeze of pure wonder. Sweet too were the Morris children, none probably older than ten or so, and their dances were very serious and very well done. The grownups on the other hand were as foolish as could be. And the sun answered our entreaties and came peeking over the top of the distant eastern hill before climbing behind the clouds again. Raindrops began just as the dancing finished. Now for a nap.

Post-nap (three hours!): a bit of altar arranging, above. The calligraphy is another old piece inspired by May Day, strips of canvas hanging from a twig with the verse:

Heel and Toe!
Jolly Rumble O!
We were up
Long before the day-o
To welcome in the summer
To welcome in the May-o
For summer is a-comin’ in
And winter’s gone away-o!

And I sing this all day long, and usually for days afterward.

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