Thursday 15 May 2008

The Ides of May

May 15 is the Ides of May. According to Pagan Days, an online calendar of festivals and traditional events, on this day the Vestal Virgins of Ancient Rome performed a rite to ensure the supply of water for the coming year.

With many cities in Europe suffering their worst drought for decades and with the hottest months of the summer still to come, perhaps it is a ceremony worth reviving.

At least we will not be facing water shortages and hosepipe bans in the UK, after a year of heavy rainfall, but it is still worth remembering that water is a precious commodity. Rain is forecast for today and tomorrow, so this might be an auspicious time to get a water butt for your garden if you do not have one already.

According to folklore, rain in May is lucky and important to ensure crops grow and produce a full harvest. An old saying goes: Mist in May, heat in June; Make the Harvest come right soon; or Water in May; Bread all year.

Part of the ceremony performed by the Vestal Virgins to ensure Ancient Rome's water supply involved throwing 24 manikins into the River Tiber. These were small effigies made of straw and it is thought they may have replaced an earlier offering of human sacrifice.

If the weather improves over the next few days, perhaps a pleasant modern equivalent of this old tradition could involve a trip to a nearby stream for a game of Poohsticks, as played by Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends. The original Poohsticks Bridge is in Ashdown Forest, in East Sussex, but the game can be played anywhere there is a bridge over fast-flowing water. Use small twigs and leaves for the game, but not anything that will harm the stream or the wildlife in it.

For more information visit:

No comments: