The History Anorak

The History Anorak

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

May Day

Maypole in Castle Gardens
Beltane Blessings

May 1 is a Pagan festival known as Beltane - which means good fire. Traditionally it was the first day of Summer and a reason to celebrate the end of the long winter days.  Many of the celebrations involved bonfires, including one ritual where cattle were driven between two fires to purify them before being moved to their summer grazing.

Near the centre of Leicester, just behind De Montfort University you'll find an area called Castle Gardens which has a clearing that contains a Maypole. 

Green man on
Leicester Maypole
Dancing round the Maypole was supposed to promote fertility. Think about what shape it is! Legend says they date back to Celtic times and survived until the fun-killing Puritans turned up and banned them.

They were revived, apparently, by the polymath John Ruskin, who introduced one at Whitelands College in 1881 and created a series of dances and a May Pageant to go with it. That's quite a thing for a man whose marriage was annulled because he allegedly couldn't face having sex with his wife.   He did, however, own an extensive collection of erotic art by the artist JMW Turner. Makes you think doesn't it?

Another face you'll find associated with May Day is the Green Man. There's one on the base of the Leicester Maypole. He represents a spirit of summer. Green like the new shoots. A spirit of the woods and fields. Usually he has leaves over his face. A true green man has shoots growing from his mouth. The leafy ones are technically known as foliate heads.

For a blatantly Pagan symbol they don't half turn up in churches a lot. Why don't you pop along to your local one and see if you can find any?

Monday, 2 April 2018

The Repair Shop

I've always been jealous of craftspeople. I can just about knit and purl enough to make a scarf and I occasionally get the watercolours out and have a go at painting, but nothing I produce could ever be described as skillful. That's why I love the BBC 2 programme The Repair Shop.

A team of artists and craftspeople - ceramics experts, carpenters, furniture makers, metalworkers, seamstresses, and others - take in precious heirlooms that are today past their best, and restore them.

Every one works a tiny miracle on someone's prized possession. They've done clocks, teddy bears, musical instruments, chairs, allsorts.

If you've not seen it you should switch on at 6.30pm on weekdays, or find it on the iplayer. You'll be well rewarded.