Beltain marks the mid point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice and this ancient festival still remains in part with our tradition of marking the start of May with a holiday and the naming of the Hawthorn as the ‘May Tree’. I love to see the Hawthorn in full blossom – if only because it bodes well for a good harvest later in the year.
At Butser Ancient Farm near Petersfield the festival is still celebrated with a traditional bonfire in the form of a giant wicker man. A must for any lovers of the cult movie ‘The Wicker Man’. Butser’s celebration is on tonight (Saturday 5th May) and details are on the website here.
I managed to be there last year and in marked contrast to this year the drought was still in full swing resulting in spectacular colours. Sadly I can’t make the celebration this year as I’ll be setting up (in the rain I expect) for the South Downs Show at the nearby Weald and Downland Museum.
There’s plenty of other attractions on the site – here is Matt Melton and his amazing invisible saw pit. But sawing above ground would have been normal, especially where logs were sawn up in situ – it’s a lot easier to move planks then massive butts. If you have the right shape of ground or fell the tree over another log as a bench then you can also do away the trestles at either end – though you need to be careful the log doesn’t pivot on the bench with you on it – or you’ll have invented the see-saw!
My photos can’t really do justice to the spectacular site – enhanced here by the flaming head falling off and rolling down the side of the figure.