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  A Year of Orcadian Tradition

"May herds the cuithes in legions through the Sound.

 

May There are no recorded Orcadian traditions surrounding the ancient festival of Beltane, although we do know that at one time bonfires were lit at Beltane, as well as Yule, Midsummer and Hallowmas.

Gradually the bonfire festivals at Yule, Beltane and Midsummer died out, leaving only the Hallowmas bonfires (November 1). For more information on Orkney's bonfire traditions, click here.
 
  The wild weather sometimes experienced around Beltane was referred to as the "Beltane Tirls" - a fact that certainly indicates that the festival was acknowledged at one time.
 
  In Orkney, animals born around Beltane - in particular cats - were expected to be poor, sickly creatures. It was therefore said to be unlucky to set a hen "between the Beltanes" as the chicks would be "noatheen bit a lok o' June yappicks".

(The term "between the Beltanes" referred to the difference between the old Julian calendar and the later Gregorian system.)
 
  As in other parts of Britain, the tradition of washing your face in the Mayday dew was common. Youngsters would, and perhaps still do, climb to the top of notable hills to carry out this ritual. See June for more on this subject.
 
  Up until World War One, May was the month when Orcadian children had their winter boots taken from them. They would then run barefoot, regardless of the weather, until after the harvest was brought in.
 
  As is mentioned in the Wedding Traditions section, for some unknown, superstitious, reason, the month of May was always avoided for weddings.

The folklorist Ernest Marwick claimed that this was due to the month's association with the Roman festival of the dead, although I can't quite see what relevance this would have had to the people of Orkney.
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