Ephemera: The month of May 2016: Here’s a brief overview of the month ahead, highlighting some astronomical events, and some special days to celebrate and/or think about.
1 May: Beltane: The traditional May Day festival held approximately half way between the spring equinox and summer solstice. For Druids it was the height of Spring and the beginning of Summer, and a celebration of fertility. In previous years in the UK many household fires would be doused and ceremoniously re-lit on Beltane. Special bonfires were kindled on this day. Rituals would be performed to protect people and cattle. Yellow flowers, such as primrose, rowan, hawthorn and gorse would be used to decorate houses, and would be especially placed at doorways and over windows. Even today, in the UK some villages celebrate with fairs, morris-dancers etc, and I remember at school (not that many years ago) seeing the May Pole in use. The traditional name and those used in Ireland Isle of Man, and Scotland etc translate as ‘bright day’ or ‘shining fire’ etc, whereas in Welsh it’s called Calan Mai (unglamorously, it just means ‘the first of May’).
4 May: Star Wars Day, so ‘May the Fourth be with you!’
‘May, more than any other month of the year, wants us to feel most alive.’
Fennel Hudson, A Meaningful Life – Fennel’s Journal – No. 1
5 May: Eta Aquarids meteor show peak today. Probably not visible from UK.
5 May: Ascension Day. This is one of my favourite days. Jesus, the God-Man ascends to Heaven. See Luke 24:50-53 and Mark 16:19 in the Book. Also, many years ago in England church members would ‘beat the bounds’, and children would literally beat the parish boundary markers with sticks as they walked around the parish’s perimeter, and some still do that today.
6 May: New moon in Aries, but below the horizon from UK aspect that evening/night.
8 May: Apparently, it’s ‘no socks day’.
‘Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date’.
9 May: Mercury transits the sun, and starts at 11.12 UTC, finishing at 18.42 UTC, moving slowly in an East to West direction across the Sun’s surface. Don’t look directly at the Sun, but use the projection method to view the transit.
15 May: Pentecost (see Acts 2 in the Book), is the commemoration of the outpouring of God’s Spirit. And, in Gloucestershire, England it’s known as ‘Bread and cheese day’, as there is a very old traditional ‘game’ that villagers play of throwing bread and cheese!
‘Hard is the heart that loved naught in May’.
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Romance of the Rose
16 May: Feastday of Brendan the Navigator, born in Ireland (AD 484-577). Though a real person, there are some fantastical, fictional stories about his endeavours: such as finding an unknown island and celebrating it with a church service on it for him and several dozen fellow-monks, only to find that it was actually the back of a whale, that had started to submerge! It is also said he sailed to the Promised Land, which some have identified as North America, but….who knows?
21 May: Full moon in Scorpio, but low on the horizon when viewed in the small hours of the new day, and at the end of the day, from UK aspect. To ancient and latter-day Celts this moon is known as the Bright Moon. It was known as the Hare Moon in medieval England, or the Milk Moon. Technically, this is a ‘blue moon’ (which is nothing to do with its colour, but) because it is the third or fourth full moon to fall within one of the Earth’s seasons. Blue moons occur about every 31 months.
22 May (and for rest of the month): Mars is at its best for 11 years, and will be closest to the Earth in its orbit. Look approximately due South at midnight for the red planet.
28 May: Apparently, it’s National Burger Day in the USA.
‘Among the changing months, May stands confest; The sweetest, and in fairest colors dressed’.
30 May: Feastday of Walstan the Generous, born in Norfolk, England (born AD 975). Walstan, it is said took the vow of poverty seriously, left home at the age of thirteen, immediately met two beggars, and gave away what little he had taken with him. People, and animals, were cured by his prayers, and miracles occurred. On this day in AD1016 he heard a voice from Heaven, saying, ‘O holy Walstan, that which thou has asked is granted. Come from thy labour and rest’. With that he passed on, a dove was seen flying upwards at his death, and, later, his body was enshrined at Bawburgh Church, which became a place of pilgrimage.