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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Thursday, May 01, 2008
Celebrations for May time are very old indeed, and have often centred around a female figure: in distant past a pagan goddess and for today’s Christians, Mary the Mother of Christ.

In ancient Rome the goddess Flora was the goddess of Spring: ceremonies in her honour around the empire celebrated the return of vegetation to the earth after the barren winter.

All sorts of traditions involving flowers became established in Europe, in particular the crowning of a young girl as “May Queen”, with garlands of flowers gathered specially for the occasion. “Fetching in the May” – gathering the flowers for the garland and shrine – was a joyful community event for the young. Fr Mark Elvins writes “It is plain that the May Queen has thus continued in folklore as a modified form of the ancient Roman goddess Flora. In the Middle Ages the church felt obliged to give this harmless but obviously pagan custom a Christian guise. Where pre-Christian customs had become firmly established the Church would seek to introduce a Christian context and … a special religious flavour, although the devotions were of a popular rather than a official nature.

“By the thirteenth century, Christian May ceremonies had become well established and in the fourteenth century Blessed Henry Susos, a German Dominican friar, could write of ‘fetching in May’ once for Christ and once for ‘the tender flower and rosy Maid, the Mother of God. He also mentions .. the May custom of making a little chaplet (garland) of roses to crown a statue of the Virgin Mary–the precursor to the ‘rosary’ beads, at first sculpted roses.
(from a Book of Feasts and Seasons, Joanna Bogle, Gracewing)

posted by Sinead Reekie at 1:46 pm