01 May 2013


You ask where I think the name of May comes from?
Its origin’s not totally clear to me.
As a traveler stands unsure which way to go,
Seeing the paths fan out in all directions,
To give different reasons: plenty itself confuses….
                                                                 Ovid, Book V: Introduction

[According to Ovid, the Muse Polyhymnia says that the month is named for the goddess Majesty (Maiesta); her sister Urania claims the month is dedicated to the Roman Senators (maiores), and another sister, Calliope, gives the honor to beautiful Maia, the mother of the god Mercury.]

 “May.  This month ranked second in the Alban calendar, third in that of Romulus, fifth in that of Numa.  In the first-named calendar it was twenty-two days in length, thirty-one in that of Romulus, thirty in that of Numa, and thirty-one again in that of Julius Caesar.  The name of this month is supposed by some to have come from Maia, the mother of the god Hermes, or Mercury.  This, however, is based solely on the similarity of the two words, and the name of May was much more probably given in honor of the Majores or Maiores, the original Roman Senate… The Saxons called this month Tri-Milchi, the improved condition of the pastures now enabling the cows to give milk three times a day.”
William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898) p. 680

Astronomy for May:

Full Flower Moon on the 25th.

Look southeast in the pre-dawn hours of the 4th, 5th, and 6th for the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower.  Peak is on the morning of the 5th.

Solar eclipse on May 9/10,  Not visible from North America (oh well), but a lot of the southern Pacific Ocean will see parts of it.

April is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Liturgical Celebrations
St. Joseph the Worker          1 May   
Finding of the Holy Cross    3 May
First Friday                           3 May
First Saturday                       4 May
Ascension                             9 May
Pentecost                              19 May
Ember Days                          22, 24, & 25 May
Most Holy Trinity                26 May
Visitation                              31 May

Novenas for May
Saint Monica ………………. continues from 25 April
Our Lady of Pompeii ………. continues from 29 April
Ascension  …………………. continues from 30 April
Mary, Queen of Apostles ………….. begins 2 May
Our Lady of Fatima ………………   begins 4 May
Saint Dymphna…………………….. begins 6 May
Saint Isidore the Farmer …………… begins 6 May
Pentecost …………………… …….. begins 10 May
Saint Rita …………………………...begins 13 May
Mary, Help of Christians ………….  begins 15 May
Most Holy Trinity …………………  begins 17 May
Saint Joan of Arc ………………….. begins 21 May
Corpus Christi …………………….. begins 24 May
Saint Erasmus …………………….. begins 24 May
Sacred Heart of Jesus ……………..  begins 29 May
Immaculate Heart of Mary ……….  .begins 30 May

May is half winter and half summer.

Weather for May:
According to the 12 Days of Christmas: Overcast, turning cold.
According to the first 12 days of January: Bright sunshine, clear skies, warming.
According to the Ember Days: Sunny with high clouds; warm

Weather Lore for May:

A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay.

A cool May gives good wine and much hay.

A cool and windy May causes the year to fruitful.

A windy May makes a fair year.

A cold May, a good year.

In the middle of May comes the tail of winter.  Quite often true.  I've known a frost to come along just after I planted my tomatoes.

A cold May is kindly, and fills the barns finely.  That is as maybe, but I'm more worried about my tomatoes!
             On the other hand
A cold May enriches no one.

Cool weather in May is known as blackberry winter or dogwood winter.

A hot May makes a fat churchyard.

A dripping May brings a good crop of hay.
A dry May always brings a good crop of wheat.

Water in May is bread all the year.

A leaking May and a warm June
Bring the harvest very soon.
Mist in May, heat in June
Make the harvest come right soon.

In some places, it is the opposite:
A dry May and a dripping June,
Bring all things in tune. [I call it hedging your bets]

If May be cold and wet, September will be warm and dry (and vice versa).

A storm in May brings ruin with it.

Thunder in May signifies scarcity of food and great hunger that year.

The more thunder in May, the less in August and September
May thunder indicates no thunder during August and September.

5/1 – Hoarfrost on May 1st indicates a good harvest.

If you go swimming on the first morning of May before the sun is up, you will not have any contagious disease during the year. [contagious, no.  Pneumonia, likely]

If you remove your flannels on the first day of May, you will not take cold [however, see May 10 below]

If it rains on Philip's and Jacob's day, a fertile year may be expected (traditional: May 1; new calendar: May 3)

5/3 – If Holy Cross day is dry, there will be no rain for six weeks.

If dry be the buck’s horn on Holyrood morn, ‘tis worth a kist of gold;
But if wet be seen ere Holyrood e’en, Bad harvest is foretold.

5/6 – An east wind on St. John’s day presages fine weather for the week.

5/8 – If it rains on the 8th of May, it foretells a wet harvest.

5/9 – As the weather is on Ascension Day, so may be the entire autumn.

5/10 – It is dangerous to take off your winter clothing until the 10th of May.

5/11, 12, 13 – St. Mamertius, St. Pancras, and St. Servatus do not pass without a frost.

5/13 – Before St. Servatus, no summer
          After St. Servatus, no frost

5/11 – 15 – The Ice Saints: St. Mamertius, St. Pancras, St. Servatus, St. Boniface, Cold Sophie.

5/17-19 – St. Dunstan brings a cold blast to blight the apples.

5/19 – Whitsun bright and clear, will bring a fertile year
                              on the other hand
           Whitsuntide rain is blessing for the wine.

5/22 – Ember Day – the weather today foretells the weather of July

5/24 – Ember Day – the weather today foretells the weather of August

5/25 – Ember Day – the weather today foretells the weather of September

Gardening for May

May brings flocks of pretty lambs
Skipping by their fleecy dams.

Plant pumpkin seeds in May
And they will run away.
Plant pumpkin seeds in June
And they will come soon.

A swarm of bees in May
Is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June
Is worth a silver spoon.

While on the day of Holy Cross
The Crowfoot gilds the flowery grass…

Cassell’s Illustrated almanac 1871 for May.
Flowers —Tender plants may now be placed out of doors, and cuttings or seedlings may be removed from the frame to the ground in fine, showery weather. Propagate heartsease and wallflowers by cuttings, and plant out your dahlias in holes eighteen inches deep. Look carefully after your creepers, training the young shoots as soon as they get long enough, and cutting off badly-placed or untidy growths. You may make layers of fuchsias in the same manner as carnations, as soon as the stems are well grown, and they will be fine plants in the autumn.

Vegetables—Hoe well between your growing crops; and if you detect the presence of slugs or other insects, strew soot or lime round about the plants. Continue the sowing of beans, cabbage, lettuce, mustard and cress, &c.

Fruit—Regulate the shoots of trained trees, and continue to remove suckers. Check the growth on vines of young wood, which will, if neglected, absorb the strength of the trees, and prevent the fruit from coming to maturity.  Cut off from strawberries all runners not required for propagation.

From the 1817 Almanac:
Sow cucumbers in the natural Ground, as also Purslane and Cabbages; sow Pease and Beans in a moist Soil for a latter Crop; plant Kidney-Beans for a second, Crop, and transplant Celery into Drills: How your Winter Crop of Carrots, Beans, Onions, &c. which will save much labour the succeeding Months.  Sow Turnips, and, if rain comes soon after, it will very much encourage the Plant.  Sow Buck-Wheat and latter Pease.  Weed young Quicksets and Ivy; fallow your Ground; look well to your sheep, if the Weather proves wet, for fear of a Rot.

Health for May

The Blood and Humours being now in Motion, we must be careful to avoid eating salt, strong or stale Meats: fat People must avoid Excess of Liquors of any Kind.

May. Limbourg frères. Grandes Heures of Jean, Duc de Berry, Fifteenth century. [unfortunately, the page, like that of april, got wet at some point]
The calendar pages of the Grandes Heures carried more religious symbolism than that of the more famous Très Riches Heures.  Each month was dedicated to a part of the Apostles Creed, with the relevant prophecy from the Old Testament and scripture from the New Testament.  May is dedicated to the article of the Creed which says “…He descended into Hell and the third day He rose from the dead…” Here we see (left to right) Saint Paul instructing the Ephesians (although the scripture “…rose again for our justification…” comes from Romans 4:25); Our Lady stands above the battlements of the New Jerusalem, holding a banner with a depiction of Our Lord descending into Hell; Gemini, the Twins, astrological symbol of May, emerges from the gate; the sun has moved into the fifth of twelve divisions in the arc of the sky; and below it, flowers are in bloom.

The Blessed Virgin Kneels before her Son, from “The Hours of Catherine of Cleves” 15th century.

April. Limbourg frères. Grandes Heures of Jean, Duc de Berry, Fifteenth century.
Depicted at the bottom of the calendar pages in the Grandes Heures is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament by the articles of the Apostles Creed.  In each, a prophet (cloaked to show the obscurity of prophecy) takes a stone out of the building representing the Old Law and offers it to an apostle, who, by raising the cloak ‘uncovers’ the prophecy with an article of faith. Here the Prophet Hosea (Osee) pulls another brick out of the edifice, from which more bricks are falling while a tower crumbles, and holds a banderole which translates to “…O death, I will be thy death, O hell, I will be thy bite…” (Hosea 13;14).   Saint Thomas presents the relevant part of the Apostle’s Creed, “…He descended into Hell and the third day He rose from the dead…”

May - Watching Sheep. Engraving based on an 11th century manuscript. William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898) p. 680