09 May 2011

2 May - Saint Helen's Day

In northern England and Scotland, this day is dedicated to Saint Helen, the finder of the True Cross - and I must say, that came as a surprise to me.  Saint Helena is my patron and her festival day is in August.  But that's okay.  I don't mind celebrating my saint more than once.

As it is, there are two other days in the calendar which commemorate her heroic virtue - The Triumph of the Holy Cross in September, and tomorrow's feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross.  More of that anon.

The May Day custom of placing green branches over the doorways and windows continues today with the gathering of rowan branches.  Rowan, also called Witch-wood or Witch-Bane, was considered efficacious in protection against witches and evil in general.  Twigs from the branches (sometimes formed into crosses) were placed over the entryways to the household's buildings, as well as carried in one's pocket, as a protection against evil spirits.  Two pieces of rowan wood, formed into a cross and tied with red thread, would protect the bearer from ghosts and witches if worn between the outer garment and its lining.

Be that as it may, rowans are lovely trees with beautiful red-orange berries much favored by birds, especially the waxwings.  In North America, the trees are also known as Dogberry or Mountain Ash.  They do best in cold climates [of which the Smallest State can claim its share] and grow very quickly, with no need for extraordinary care, except, possibly from deer.  Bambi and his gang enjoy the leaves, to the detriment of the young tree. 

If you are planting trees in your yard this year, consider the rowan.  If nothing else, it is a delight to the eye and provides protection and food for the birds.