Hugh J. Curran Hugh_J_Curran at umit.maine.edu
Wed May 2 17:23:25 EDT 2018

May Day celebrates the 1st few days of May with spring festivals which include singing and dancing. The festival days can be traced to Celtic times where it has always been referred to as Beltaine (fire of Bel).  Since the early 1900s May Day also
marks International Worker's Day. One place that is particularly associated with Bealtaine is the Uisneach Fire Festival which draws on ancient traditions to celebrate the first couple of days of May as one of the four major Celtic Fire festival
days.  This was a very important time for ancestors and marked the first day of summer. Legend has it that the festival of Bealtaine was associated with the Hill of Uisneach, "Cnoc Uisneach" in Irish, in Co. Westmeath, and like most ancient Irish
festivals, it was celebrated with massive bonfires. The Book of Invasions, "Lebor Gebála Érenn" in Old Irish, tells us that that the first Bealtaine fire ever lit in Ireland was kindled at Uisneach. At 600 feet high, the hill is not tall, yet
twenty counties can be seen from the summit on a clear day. Mythologically, it was regarded as the center point, or 'navel' of Ireland, symbolized by the presence of a great stone called the Ail na Mirean, or Stone of Divisions.
This limestone boulder is about 20 feet in height and is estimated to weigh thirty tons. Sometimes known as the Cat Stone due to a vague resemblance to a pouncing cat it is also said that the Danann Goddess Eriu, who gave er name to Ireland, is
buried beneath it. The Stone of Divisions sits on the southwest side of the Hill in a circular enclosure, where it was considered the borders of Ireland's five provinces, Leinster, Munster, Connacht, Ulster, and Mide met. The four provinces had as
their center, ancient Mide, as a spiritual and mythological center located between Meath and Westmeath. This site also contains the remains of circular enclosures including barrows, cairns and a holy well with two ancient roads leading in. All of
these were within a one-mile area.
Here are three poems to celebrate the first days of May:
Song of Bealtaine
(Dia ceadamhan la buidh bealtaine)
(translated from Finn/Oisin legends)
May day, delightful the time,
wonderful the iridescent colors
 as blackbirds sing without cease
to a world come alive with 
cuckoos & wood frogs who echo
 their lays in an endless refrain
of delight & harmony;
welcome is the nobility
of this new year as
spring swallows winter
& birds skim
along meadow canopies;
wild stags & soft does
seek solace in swift flowing streams;
heathery hillsides of purple  
spread out their long hair
& the fair flowers of bog 
& heath inquisitively poke out 
from the undergrowth;
willows weep 
in an efflorescence
of tidings to greet
 the planets & stars circling 
back on their course,
 exerting their powers
so willingly that all the seas 
are lulled into a yearning 
for flowering meadows 
 to cover the vast ocean of earth.

MAY DAY by Tess Taylor
They go, the early flags, the gory maples—
so too the daffodils & Lenten roses.
Other petals swirl & nights warm.

Buds thicken and cast shadows:
in a thunderstorm
I almost forget the ice that was.

Narcissi suckle watery paths;
meadows heap up emerald masses.
How green & I want to delight

except this undertow—it pulls so fast
passing before I recognize it—
like souls in Dante who can’t see the present,

white lilacs curdle in pre-summer heat,
already halfway down the street.

In Perpetual Spring  by Amy Gerstler 
Gardens are also good places
to sulk. You pass beds of
spiky voodoo lilies   
and trip over the roots   
of a sweet gum tree,   
in search of medieval   
plants whose leaves,   
when they drop off   
turn into birds
if they fall on land,
and colored carp if they   
plop into water.

Suddenly the archetypal   
human desire for peace   
with every other species   
wells up in you. The lion   
and the lamb cuddling up. 
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,   
queen of the weeds, revives   
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt   
there is a leaf to cure it.	

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