by Nan DeGrove
“I do not know how one can live without some small place of enchantment to turn to.”
— Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
May is a month rich in lore and myth. It is named for Maia, an ancient Roman goddess of springtime and new life, and a Greek goddess of the same name, who was called “midwife” or “foster mother.” She was also known as the most beautiful of the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, stars in the constellation Taurus,
which rise with the Sun in May. May Day, the first of May, was celebrated with May Queens and Maypoles in Britain up through the 19th century, vestiges of ancient fertility rites. Pagan and Christian myths weave together like maypole ribbons, and as Christianity supplanted the older cults, May became the month sacred to the Virgin Mary. In medieval times, and still today, monasteries and convents have “Mary Gardens,” where healing herbs and flowers are grown. Special devotions, offerings, and crownings of Mary icons were, and still are, observed in Catholic communities.
All religion originally came from the Moon and stars, with their transcendent mystery, and the Earth with her life-sustaining bounty amidst endless cycles of birth and death. Gardens naturally lend themselves to epiphany — spontaneous vision or encounter with divine inspiration. They also offer
benediction — blessing for the troubled heart and mind.
Gardeners naturally create little altars and shrines: stones, seashells, and statues of patron deities mingle with roses, herbs, trees, and birds. May, when the garden comes to life, is a natural time to consecrate it with an altar or special corner for contemplation. A personal talisman, a crystal or circle of pebbles can instantly create a temenos — a sacred space.
May is the fairy month, when nature spirits are most active in fostering the new life of seeds and plants. These elementals, or devas, exist in an energy field that can be felt by a receptive gardener, and occasionally glimpsed at special times, like dusk or a full-moon eve. They are attracted to ornaments, trinkets, bells, or chimes placed around the garden. Children spontaneously create little fairy huts, and tea parties, and it has long been a tradition to leave offerings of gratitude for the fey. In these times of environmental peril and poison, the elemental spirits especially need our help lest they withdraw from our world like the elves of Avalon.