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illustration Bringing in the May

Beginnings of Maytime rituals

May has been a time of festivity in Britain for many hundreds of years, with customs celebrating the passing of winter, growth in the fields and abundant new life.

The beginnings of Maytime rituals can be traced back many centuries. The festival Floralia was celebrated in early May by the Romans, who believed Flora, the goddess of spring, spread flowers across the land with her warm breath. The month of May itself is thought to be named after the Greek nymph, Maia.

The Celtic fire festival of Beltane was celebrated between the end of April and beginning of May and heralded the changing of the season from spring into summer. One in a series of ancient fertility festivals, Beltane welcomed a return of life and fruitfulness to the earth after the cold and barren winter. Traditionally, animals would be moved to summer pastures at this time of year. It was believed that cattle herded between the Beltane fires would produce more milk, be protected from disease and the harmful powers of witchcraft.

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