May Morning in Oxford
From the beginning, I arranged our whole trip around being in Oxford for May Day. I knew I wanted to do something special for the holy day, and this was the best option because it not only had Morris men and other traditional British customs, but it featured music led by one of my favorite musicians, Andy Letcher (frontman for Telling the Bees, and also author of the excellent book Shroom), who I got to meet and speak with briefly at the end.
May Morning is a big deal in Oxford, especially the 6am hymn singing from the top of Magdalen Tower, attended by huge crowds, mostly seeming to be comprised of college kids still drunk from the night before (it is rather surreal to have hundreds of them shouting “woooooo!” at the Latin singing as if they were at a sporting event). We were not anticipating the numbers that showed up and had to fight our way through the crowd to get to the place where the music was being played. But it was well worth it, for this:
(These clips were put together by someone else – if you look closely, you can see me dancing around 1:54, and then from about 3:50 there are some shots of the back of our heads as we clap along – my mom has short white hair, mine is long brown and we’re both wearing ivy crowns.)
The band of pipes, flutes, horns, drums, fiddles, concertinas and more played for almost two hours on the steps of this beautiful neo-classical building, and I danced my ass off the whole time.
As befitting May Day, there were even some naked breasts, as one woman dancing in only a sarong lost control of it briefly. People were decked out in green, crowned with vegetation, and very enthusiastic. It was awesome.
At one point, people began to turn around to look at something, and Andy said “It’s behind you!” in a creepy voice, and I caught a glimpse of a Jack-in-the-green walking by (no time for a photo, unfortunately). It was actually a bit unnerving – so inhuman, just walking foliage. I think it was joining the Morris dancers, who we caught up with later:
Here’s a brief video I took of them departing the square, with their amazing bull effigy leading the way:
This May Day was especially sacred for me, marking the five year anniversary of my wedding to my spirit-Husband, as well as a couple other significant anniversaries with my spirits (May Day traditionally being when I’ve done most of my important rituals for Them, due to it being the day everything started with Them back in 1991, even though I had no clue as to the significance of the date at that point). I can’t imagine a better way to have celebrated it.