May, the fifth month of the year, is popularly regarded as an unfortunate month especially when it comes to starting new important activities such as getting married, moving or starting a business.
May: Unfortunate month to start new projects
This belief has its origin in the need of peasants to contribute to agricultural work during this month which was the most convenient for planting and other important work in the field.
According to popular culture getting married in May brings bad luck and there is a proverb that goes: “Get married in May and you will curse that day.”
It is even believed that children and cats born this month are sickly and will not be able to hunt mice. In some rural areas, the distrust of cats born in May is still strong and there is a belief that they should never be raised, since “May kittens call bad luck and they will surely turn into dirty cats”.
The origin of this belief is found in Celtic peoples and has persisted in regions that once had a profound Celtic influence, such as Gaul, Finland, Ireland and Scotland.
Beltane, a Celtic celebration with connotations of death
May 1st, also known as Beltane in Celtic culture, was a sacred day dedicated to Bile, the god of death.
As Charles Squire recounts in his work Celtic Myth and Legend, Poetry and Romance, “If something strange happened, it was surely the first of May”. In Celtic culture this month was associated with death and tragedy.
Squire presents a list of misfortunes that occurred this month, such as the death of baby Pryderi, fights to the death between royal blood opponents and the abduction of Guinevere, Arthur’s queen and wife, while she was celebrating the May festivities in the woods.
Beltane was an important holiday for the Celts and it was believed that at this time of year, the spirits of the dead joined the world of the living. The celebration was marked by the burning of bonfires and the performance of rituals to honor the gods and ensure the fertility of crops. Despite its connotation of death, Beltane also symbolized renewal and rebirth.
Beltane Fire Dance
May, the month of Beltane, is also considered disastrous for weddings. According to the Daily News of April 3, 1929, “April, the month of weddings, hurry to the altar before May comes.” In addition, Walter Scott wrote in his Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft that “only bad women married in May”.
In Celtic culture, Beltane was marked by the burning of bonfires and the Dance of Fire, in which people jumped over the fire to purify themselves and ward off bad luck. Despite this, it was believed that getting married in May would bring misfortune to the couple.
The superstition about cats born in May was also present on the Beltane holiday. Although cats were seen as sacred animals in Celtic culture, it was believed that those born in May were carriers of bad luck and should not be raised.
The Awakening of the Earth
Despite negative beliefs about May, this time is also recognized by the Druids as the awakening of the Earth with the arrival of spring. However, the magical-superstitious legacy of the month still prevails, as on the dreadful night of Walpurgis, on the eve of May where witches are said to have flown on magic brooms with their cats to welcome the rising sun in May.
Because of this evil association with witches, cats were burned alive in bonfires lit in honor of the sun. This custom of offering sacrifices was practiced on the summer solstice but in some areas of Europe, it was also practiced in May. In France, this cruel tradition was banned by Louis XIV.
Christian beliefs about the month of May
Marian devotion in May is a Christian custom that dates back to the 13th century, when the feast of the Coronation of the Virgin was instituted on May 31. Since then, the month of May has been dedicated to the Virgin Mary and it is common to hold processions, rosaries and other Marian devotions during this month.
In addition, in some areas of Spain, Portugal and Latin America, the celebrations of the “Cruz de Mayo” (Cross of May) are held which include the decoration of crosses with flowers and the holding of processions and dances. Also common is the tradition of the “May tree” which consists of raising a tree decorated with ribbons and flowers in honor of spring and the rebirth of nature.
In general, both religious and pagan expressions can be found in the month of May, reflecting the fusion of different traditions and beliefs throughout history.
The night of April 30th
In some regions, on the night of April 30, the “Night of Walpurgis” or “Night of the Witches” is celebrated as a holiday of Germanic origin that has become popular in several European countries, including Germany, Sweden and Finland.
During this night, activities such as building bonfires, dressing up in witch masks and costumes and performing rituals to ward off evil spirits are carried out.
The holiday is considered a way to celebrate the arrival of spring and to ward off evil spirits that may have accumulated during the winter…