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May 2008 Calendar






Memorial Day, Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling Contest



Tomato Release Day


Ambarvalia, Kallynteria


St Joan


Stellamaris, Feast of the Queen of Heaven, Flowers of May

May is named after Maia, a goddess of growth (not the same Maia who is the mother of Hermes).

Then came fair May, the fairest maid on ground,
Decked all with dainties of her season’s pride,
And throwing flowers out of her lap around:
Upon two brother’s shoulders she did ride,
The twins of Leda [Gemini]; which on either side
Supported her like to their sovereign Queen.
Lord ! how all creatures laughed, when her they spied,
And leapt and danced as if they had ravished been!
And Cupid himself about her fluttered all in green.
— Spenser, The Faerie Queene, VII. Vii. 34

“I giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May”
— Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d'Arthur

“Hard is the heart that loveth not in May”
— Chaucer

Yet it is an unlucky month for marriages:

Marry in May
And you’ll rue the day

Who weds in May
Throws all away

According to Anderson and Zinsser in A History of Their Own, it was believed during the Middle Ages that “A man could not marry in May, the woman’s month, because then he would fall prey to lust and give her power over him.” It's also unlucky to buy or use any new broom or brush during this month, which seems like yet another allusion to the power of female sexuality.

Sweep with a broom that is cut in May
You’ll sweep the head of the house away.

Ovid said the ban on marriages was due to the Lemuria, the festival of ghosts (see May 9), which occurred during this month:

Hac quoque de cauasa, si te proverbial tangunt,
Mense malas Maio nubere vulgus air.

And for this cause, if you for proverbs stay,
The people have it, Bad girls wed in May.

—Ovid, Fasti 5. 489-90

Mist in May and heat in June
Make harvest right soon

Cold May and windie,
Barne filleth up finelie

A swarm [of bees setting out to establish a new colony] in May
Is worth a load of hay
A swarm in June
Is worth a silver spoon
A swarm in July
Is not worth a fly

Button to chin, till May be in
Cast not a clout, till May be out

The Spanish have a similar proverb:
Hasta Mayo no te quites el sayo (Do not take off your cloak before May)
A variant says Hasta pasado Mayo (till May is over).

A hot May makes a fat churchyard.

He that would live for aye
Must eat sage in May

William Coles in Adam in Eden written in 1657 (quoted by Kightly) recommends eating the Sage with Butter, Parsley and some Salt. He also recommends Sage-ale for “teeming” women. But he advised you to wash your Sage for fear that Toads have relieved themselves on it and thus left behind some venom.

Anderson, Bonnie S and Judith P Zinsser, A History of Their Own, Volume 1, Harper and Row 1988
Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens,
Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Kightly, Charles,
The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames & Hudson 1987

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