May Sunday Traditions

The Torch Light Procession

Today is Bealtaine, or May Day – which marks the beginning of summer. Historically, it was the day for moving animals to summer pastures and for the lighting of bonfires. A Torch Light Procession was part of May Sunday Festivals in the past, most probably a link to this Celtic celebration of light and fire.

In recent years, we would be preparing to make lanterns with the Scouts and other families in our community this afternoon. At twilight, with lanterns in hand, we would process up through Glenbower to the Metal Bridge. Passing through two bonfires for luck, we would tie a rag on the rag tree – making a wish for the year to come. Last year, storyteller Noelle O’Regan captivated us with Irish myths and tales.

This year has been different for everyone, and this afternoon is very quiet at Greywood. In the absence of our usual workshop, we’d like to share some online tutorials for lantern making with you.

Instead of gathering together, you might like to place your lanterns in the front window of your home, or hang them from a tree in your garden.

Here are two tutorials for how to make your own lantern:


The Rag Tree

Hawthorn Trees, Holy Wells and ties of good will

At the end of the Torch Light Procession, people were invited to add their well wishes to the Rag Tree. This is an old Irish Tradition, where a tree (usually a Hawthorn, Ash or Whitehorn) near a Holy Well is adored with ribbons or pieces of cloth. Each one is tied with the belief if someone has a problem, or is unwell, the wish will come true as the rag wethers away.

Glenbower wood is home to Fannin’s Well, nestled in a clearing accessed by a path near the Metal Bridge.

On your next walk in the wood, you might tuck a wee rag in your pocket and make a wish for the year ahead when you cross the Metal Bridge.