May-Day Superstitions

The marsh marigold is considered of great use in divination, and is called “the shrub of Beltaine.” Garlands are made of it for the cattle and the door-posts to keep off the fairy power.

Milk also is poured on the threshold, though none would be given away; nor fire, nor salt—these three things being sacred.

There are many superstitions concerning May-time.

It is not safe to go on the water the first Monday in May.

Hares found on May morning are supposed to be witches, and should be stoned.

If the fire goes out on May morning it is considered very unlucky, and it cannot be re-kindled except by a lighted sod brought from the priest's house. And the ashes of this blessed turf are afterwards sprinkled on the floor and the threshold of the house.

Neither fire, nor water, nor milk, nor salt should be given away for love or money, and if a wayfarer is given a cup of milk, he must drink it in the house, and salt must be mixed with it.

Salt and water as a drink is at all times considered a potent charm against evil, if properly prepared by a fairy doctor and the magic words said over it.

One day in May a young girl lay down to rest at noontide on a fairy rath and fell asleep—a thing of great danger, for the fairies are strong in power during the May month, and are particularly on the watch for a mortal bride to carry away to the fairy mansions, for they love the sight of human beauty.

So they spirited away the young sleeping girl, and only left a shadowy resemblance of her lying on the rath.

Evening came on, and as the young girl had not returned, her mother sent out messengers in all directions to look for her.

At last she was found on the fairy rath, lying quite unconscious, like one dead.

They carried her home and laid her on her bed, but she neither spoke nor moved.

So three days passed over.

Then they thought it right to send for the fairy doctor.

At once he said that she was fairy struck, and he gave them a salve made of herbs to anoint her hands and her brow every morning at sunrise, and every night when the moon rose; and salt was sprinkled on the threshold and round her bed where she lay sleeping.

This was done for six days and six nights, and then the girl rose up suddenly and asked for food.

They gave her to eat, but asked no questions, only watched her that she should not quit the house.

And then she fixed her eyes on them steadily and said—

“Why did you bring me back? I was so happy. I was in a beautiful palace where lovely ladies and young princes were dancing to the sweetest music; and they made me dance with them, and threw a mantle over me of rich gold: and now it is all gone, and you have brought me back, and I shall never, never see the beautiful palace more.”

Then the mother wept and said—

“Oh, child, stay with me, for I have no other daughter, and if the fairies take you from me I shall die.”

When the girl heard this, she fell on her mother's neck and kissed her, and promised that she would never again go near the fairy rath while she lived, for the fairy doctor told her that if ever she lay down there again and slept, she would never return alive to her home any more.