May 1st is the feast of Bealtaine, or May Day, an ancient seasonal festival signally the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere, a time of fires and fertility rites. It is the day of the May Queen, the mythical figure who presages the arrival of summer and an important element in my novel The Treachery of Beautiful Things.
Folklore suggests that after the most beautiful girl in the village had been picked to be Queen of the May, she was dressed in white, a garland of white flowers placed her head, she was paraded through the village, taken to the forest and sacrificed to the trees.
Jenny, in the Treachery of Beautiful Things is forced to take on the mantel of May Queen, but makes herself stronger than a tradition, so matter how old it might be.
I’m now the type of person who can’t look at pictures of a May Pole without a little shudder, even if it is made by Sylvanian Families (true story – I was toy shopping and had to leave before I made a little scene with hysterical giggles.)
Research into the folklore which underpins our traditions is a great way of adding richness to stories, to developing a depth of meaning. That meaning might not be apparent to many, it might upset some, but the sense of the old lurking behind new words, in between the leaves and blossoms of the May Tree, makes stories resonate for the reader.
~~~May Day Competition Time~~~
For a chance to win a copy of The Treachery of Beautiful Things in hardback, please leave a comment below telling me about your favorite bit of folklore or fairytale. The competition will run for a week, until the 8th of May when I’ll pick the winner.
The paperback edition of The Treachery of Beautiful Things is now available for pre-order and will be out on the 1st August (Lughnasadh, another Celtic fire festival, this time for Harvest. Let’s hope that’s a sign.) Check your local bookshop or Indiebound, Powells, Book Depository, Amazon.co.uk, or Amazon.com