In the Wheel of the Year, May 1 is fairly important.

To some, it is Beltane, when the bonfires should be lit on hilltops to drive away the remnants of Winter, to welcome Summer and to recharge the hearth-fires.

To others, it is Walpurgis Night, a time to have one rollicking party around a bonfire — dancing, drinking, laughing, doing the other inevitable stuff what happens when you combine drink, dancing, mixed company and a bloody huge fire.

In Finnland and Sweden, they do the same — only more partying — and they call their fire-festivals Vappu and Valborg.

May 1 is also a fertility festival, involving picnics, (ahem) Maypoles and the dancing around same (winkwinknudge), general dancing, placing of roses by maidens, choosing and crowning a May Queen, Morris dancing, and for the Catholics out there, the acknowledgement of Mary as the Queen of Heaven and the Mother of God — usually involving adorning an image of Mary with flowers.

Since most of the homelands of our ancestors celebrate May 1 with fire, flowers, fire, dancing, fire, drinking, fire, badly-camouflaged fertility rites — and fire — of course the stodgy, Puritan United States has …

… Loyalty Day.


Public Law 85-529, found in Title 36, Chapter 1, paragraph 115, penned by the Congress of the United States on July 18, 1958; and signed into law by President Eisenhower who then issued the first proclamation designating May 1, 1959 as the first Loyalty Day*.

Every sitting President since that day — following the mandate of Public law 85-529 — has, on each year, proclaimed May 1 to be Loyalty Day.

Personally, I think Loyalty Day should follow in the footsteps of our ancestors and involve fire. A Big Fire. A Big Fire in front of various State and Federal Capitals, and involving the ceremonial burning of effigies. Dancing and flowers mandatory; drinking and partying encouraged; and fertility rites optional.

To my mind I’m thinking that watching papier maiche versions of themselves burned at the stake every year would go a nice way towards reminding various political critters of where their loyalties better damn-well stay.

But that’s just me.


*We read history books, Gentle Readers, we do not eat them.

Well bugger.

21 thoughts on “Beltane”

  1. So…I'm wondering what happened when G.W.B. signed the proclamation for Loyalty day. Must have done it 8 times, by my read.

    Anyway, that is an interesting piece of news. The Loyalty Day idea probably came from someone who was afraid that the Communists were having too much fun on May Day.

  2. Personally I think the reason they managed to make May 1 a holiday in Sweden (noone would show up in the demonstrations if they had to take a vacation day to do it, so it was the only way to get decent size demonstrations), was that most people are so hungover after Valborg night that they really liked the idea of having a day off after.

  3. The celebrations(bonfires and fireworks are traditional), a celebration of spring in Sweden take place on april 30, may 1 is a day of protests and political rallys. It started in 1890 as a workers rights day, with demonstrations of left-wing political parties, and workers unions.

  4. Never mind the "burning in front of" … it should be "the burning of" at least until the people we elected decide to get their heads screwed on straight and represent "we the people" not the "we the not-entitled yet"

  5. Now, now. Burning an effigy is hardly being environmentally conscious. However, wood and natural fiber rope being renewable resources, hanging said effigies would be a nicely sustainable way to put the fear of We The People into them.

  6. Look up the Fallas in Valencia- they do the burning effigies up proud! Like burning man X 100, with political caricatures

  7. Actually, according to Wikipedia, May 1 was originally called "Americanization Day", "intended to counterbalance the celebration of Labour Day on May Day (May 1), an internationally celebrated holiday for the commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in 1886."

    I'm wondering why I never heard of Loyalty Day until today.

  8. I was watching some Wiccans celebrating with a May pole when a brother officer commented, "That just makes me want to take off all my clothes, put on a pair of horns, and dance around." Seeing me doubled over laughing, he added, "Sorry to put that image in your head." You rock, LawDog!

  9. The Wetback Halfrican signing a pledge of loyalty to America has so much irony, it could be forged into eight or nine divisions of tanks.

  10. I've never been able to be in Europe for Beltane/ May Day, but the Summer Solstice in Innsbruck is enough to stir the old blood and then some. There was barely a veneer of anything from after, oh, say 5 AD, aside from the fireworks and the laser lights on the top of the mountain (to dance with the bonfires, apparently).

    And my students tend to be nonplussed to hear that German-American workers (in Chicago) originated/ instigated May Day as a festival for labor. I admit I was surprised too when I first read about it.


  11. I like it. I can just hear the howls from the State House in Hartford. Remember Connecticut is the state that made it illegal to idle your car for more than three minutes so if nothing else it should make the environmental lobby's heads explode.

    These days we're making Massachusetts look sane.

  12. I think Jonathan Coulton gets the spirit of Beltane with his song "First of May". Look it up on Youtube or elsewhere. NSFW, but hilarious.

  13. Beltane, this is the time when sweet desire weds wild delight. The Maiden of Spring and the Lord of the Waxing Year meet in the greening fields and rejoice together under the warm sun. The shaft of life is twined in a spiral web and all of nature is renewed. We meet in the time of flowering, to dance the dance of life.
    Blessed be
    Le Conteur

  14. Let the bonfires in Washington be comprised of these damnable bills, consisting of 2000 pages of blathering legalese, those yahoos keep passing into ever more burdensome laws.

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