It is not every day that a woman is crowned May Queen. It was May Day, and I was in Avebury Stone Circle. One minute I was standing in a circle at the very polite invitation of a Wiccan high priestess and the next the high priest transformed himself into the Green Man looking for a bride. Then she was me and we were jumping around a cauldron of fire.
Floral crown still on my head, I spent a pleasant afternoon walking around what was now my domain. Along the avenue to Silbury hill and in and around the town of Avebury, I was not the only woman wearing flowers in her hair (much to the bemusement of the tourists). Funny, that. We are a very odd bunch. Tourists flock to ancient sites at festival times in increasing numbers, desperately seeking something. Then having found it, they feel and look vaguely uncomfortable.
In contrast, the pagan groups we saw over the weekend were gracious, confident, and consummate performers. It was impressive to see such independence of mind on display. On the Saturday, a Druid group held their Beltane ceremony. On the Sunday, it was the turn of the Wiccans; and on the Bank Holiday Monday, the National Trust held its own version: cream teas, maypole dancing, Green Man face painting and May Queen crowning of a young girl. Since my own fresh flower crown was wilting and I didn’t want to cramp the young Queen’s style, I headed with my husband – the real one that is – for Wayland’s Smithy and the White Horse.
Although few of the pagan festivals can be traced back to the real dim and distant pre-Christian past (and even the Green Man is somewhat elusive) a lack of historical authenticity need not detract from the power of such ritual display. It has certainly not hindered their popularity. Maybe some people are just getting on and doing what they feel like doing, instead of behaving according to an unspoken set of institutional rules and expectations as Nina Lyon points out in “Uprooted”. Maybe the Green Man resurgence is well under way…
Read more on the Green Man in Issue 0
The Green Potent by Soma Ghosh