Celebrating Beltane with Stories

We launched our book on Earth Day (April 22nd) over two events at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. I volunteered to do another event, reprising my role as Talking Tree at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for Wild Reekie (a Meetup group of more than 1000 members who all share a passion for nature and being outdoors WEB). It was a busy weekend and we’re only just catching up.

We’ve got a number of events lined up, so please do check out the events page. Meantime, it’s Beltane, May Day, the First of May, a time to celebrate the burgeoning of Spring and we’ve got some story suggestions for you.

One of the appendices we included in our book, Dancing with Trees, is a guide to telling local eco-tales with the seasons (I’ve put the guide up here WEB). You’ll see that the three suggested for Beltane are:

  • Stolen by Fairies (England)
  • The Elf and the Slop Bucket (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales)
  • One Tree Hill (England)

‘Stolen by Fairies’ and ‘One Tree Hill’ both include references to primroses, the wild ones, not the brightly-coloured primulas you’d find in your local nursery. Primroses are associated with this time of year and we were believed in some places to be the favoured flowers of the fairies (the subject of Stolen by Fairies). With fairies being the local earth spirits, it’s not surprising to find a May Day ritual involving primroses at the heart of the abundance of the farm in One Tree Hill. (Kindly remember that wild primroses in natural areas should not be picked.) The Elf and the Slop Bucket celebrates this time of year as one of renewal, through the invention of compost.
There are many versions of these three stories out there.

Of course, we love the versions we’ve told in our book, but if our book has not yet made it onto your shelf, here are other sources for versions of these tales:

Stolen by Fairies

Original Source: Katharine M. Briggs, ‘The Stanhope Fairies’, in: A Dictionary of British Folktales, Part B Folk Legends. (Routledge, London and New York, 1970) p.357
Also Appears in: Sybil Marshall, English Folktales – ‘The Weardale Fairies’ (Phoenix Giant, 1981,1996) pp. 42-48.

 

The Elf and the Slop Bucket

Original Source: Variant, Sir Godfrey McCulloch, in Sir George Douglas, Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales, 1898. (1977 Edition from EP Publishing limited, East Ardsley, Wakefied, West Yorkshire) pp.112-113.
Also Appears in: Variant, ‘Sir Godfrey McCulloch’, in Katharine M. Briggs, A Dictionary of British Folktales, Part B Folk Legends, (Routledge, London and New York, 1970) pp.354-355.
Elizabeth Shepperd-Jones, Welsh Legendary Tales, (Thomas Nelson, Edinburgh, 1959) pp.156-158.
Amabel Williams-Ellis, Fairy Tales from the British Isles, (Frederick Warne, New York, 1960) pp.76-81.
Margaret Read MacDonald, Peace Tales, World Folk Tales to Talk About, (Linnet Books, 1992)pp.63-68.
Ruth Ratcliff, Scottish Folktales, (Frederick Muller Limited, London, 1976)

One Tree Hill

Original Source: Ruth Tongue, Forgotten Tales of the English Counties, (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970.)
Also Appears in: Katharine M. Briggs, A Dictionary of British Folktales, Part A Folk Narratives, (Routledge, London and New York, 1970) pp.439-441
Margaret Read Macdonald, ‘Three Green Ladies’, Earth Care: World Folktales to Talk About, (Linnet Books, North Haven Connecticut, 1999) pp. 1-7.
Eric Maddern, ‘The Green Ladies of One Tree Hill’, in editors Helen East, Eric Maddern and Alan Marks’ Spirit of the Forest: Tree Tales from Around the World. (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, London, 2002) pp. 22-25.

(excerpted from Dancing with Trees: Eco-tales from the British Isles, Source Notes.  History Press, 2017)

One thought on “Celebrating Beltane with Stories

  1. We have a Newfoundland puppy we got just a few weeks back, and her name happens to be Primrose. This is a timely bit of trivia. 🙂

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