Folk customs and usages for the month of May


The intoxicatingly beautiful month of May is here. We used to call it May, but as part of the national revival, Josef Jungmann called it "May" in 1805. Everything is already blooming, in Latin totus floreo. This is a great song by Arany Zoltán, by the way, it is on Youtube. In May, it is obvious to ritually have fun with the wells, build a lighthouse and rejoice in it somewhere outside, nicely in the woods in the clearing at the full moon.

  1. May / May construction

On the first of May, or even in its entire course, it was, and in some areas of the republic, still the custom of producing a kind of tree idol, richly decorated, with a wreath at the top.

The Czech maypole is a branch devoid of branches from the highest possible coniferous tree, in which a green top is left, in some regions a blacksmith anchors a green birch to the top. Under the green top hangs a huge wreath of twigs decorated with ribbons, scarves and delicacies. 

The custom of building Maya probably comes from ancient pagans - for example, from the Slavs, who at this time worshiped the power of the goddess Lady, a representative of fertility, spring, marriage and new life. Little information has been preserved about Old Slavic rituals, because history is written by the victors, but after all, some order appears here and there. For example, the legend of the Benedictine monastery on Lysá hora states: the monastery was built in the 16th century; before that, however, there was a sacred place there until the 12th century for the idols of the three deities - Lady, Body and Lel'y, to whom their followers were said to have brought gifts on the first of May. The legend was confirmed by archaeologists who found a cult place on the mountain dating back to the 9th century.

The Slavs usually practiced their cult in the open air. The sacred places were natural objects such as groves, trees, mountains, springs and rocks, all inhabited by some demon or deity. A historically documented grove is, for example, Svatobor near Sušice. Etymologically, the word "grove" is related to protection and defense, and its Proto-Slavic meaning expresses "ritualized precinct" or "place of residence of dead ancestors," literally "place of residence of souls." Slavic respect for groves existed, for example, in the 19th century in northern Russia, where there were pine groves near the villages, which no one was allowed to touch.

The construction of mayons was not only widespread in our country, but also, for example, among the Slavs living in Russia and Germany. This is how Jan Mirotický described the custom in 1579:

"At the same time, the young men bring whole spruce or pine trees into the village, which they trim from the mine, the upper branches with mirrors, glasses, wreaths and plates of gold garland with glittering ornaments and weave the tree into the ground, leaving it standing all summer."

Under the May, the whole village used to meet, play music, dance, and after the conversion of the inhabitants to Christianity, folk plays with the theme of scenes from the Bible were presented. The youngsters also competed in the May climbing and won trophies tied to a wreath at the top. May usually stood in the village square until Pentecost Monday, sometimes until summer.

In addition to the large May in the village square, a number of small "lights" were built in front of the windows and on the roofs of individual houses, mostly as a sign of honesty of the girls who inhabited them. They were built by brothers, friends or suitors of girls. Bad was the girl, who instead of May appeared in front of the house a straw loom bumped on a wooden stick, because it was a sign that she was no longer a virgin.

For example, many young men secretly put May under their windows under the windows at night, so that the girl's father would not catch him, who, for example, had already chosen another groom for his daughter. However, the following was also sung in the Klatovy region:

“Goodbye, my pleasure! I will set up May under the windows: so that false people may know that I have come to you. "

In some areas, May attributed the power to protect the village from the elements. In the Písek region, for example, the chase farmers ordered the May to be built before each storm, which was said to be guaranteed protection against hail.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the construction of May was so popular that the lords had to forbid their construction so that it would not be damaged in the woods due to felling, under fine or torture.


Pentecost / Whitsuntide

Pentecost was originally a pagan holiday in our territory, when wells, the purity of virgins and the strength of young people were worshiped. With the advent of Christianity, a new religion was grafted onto them, as the chronicler Kosmas says, the so-called Pentecost, but more about them in the next issue. These are moving holidays, Pentecost Sunday is celebrated 50 days after God's Passover, and this year it is not published until June 4. 

Cosmas also praises Prince Břetislav II in his chronicle. for driving him out of the country "and all the sorcerers, and the diviners, and the magicians, he also felled and burnt groves and trees", which pagans were worshiped at the expense of the Christian faith and humility. Record from the chronicle of 1092:

"Also the superstitious customs which the villagers, still half-pagans, maintained by offering gifts, killing victims and offering them to evil spirits by the wells, as well as the funerals held in the woods and in the fields, and the games which they held in pagan rites. crossroads and crossroads as for the rest of souls, and finally the wicked pastimes they playfully wrought on their dead, calling empty shadows and having masks on their faces, these abominations and other ungodly fabrications were looted by the good prince so that they would no longer appear in God's people in the future. . " 

Cleaning wells

An old pagan custom which, as a magician, Christians sought to eradicate. It is about honoring the life-giving power of water and at the same time girl's purity. The task fell on virgin girls. They cleaned the well of branches and dirt and left it decorated with flowers. In doing so, they performed incantations to the water to keep it clean and beneficial, and to always have enough of it. In some parts of the republic, this custom has survived to this day. Girls are usually accompanied by music, bachelors and other citizens. The whole procession sings and dances. As a remnant of ancient cult sacrifices, crumbs made of sacred pastries, for example of the type of Judas in the shape of spirals or flatbreads, are thrown into the well. 

Royal rides

This ancient custom was previously very widespread in almost the entire territory of our country. The origin of this custom is not entirely clear, perhaps it stems from the ceremonial tour of fields and land on horseback or from the traditional spring driving of cattle to pasture with horses. Or it could be a competition of young men for the wildest ride. The young men adorned themselves with peeled birch bark, which served as armor, a wooden sword, a plume of ferns and flowers. The royal rides, especially in Moravia, became social entertainment in the form of folk theater, where the joke and improvisational skills of the developer matter. 

A custom very similar to today's Slovak Ride of the Kings was maintained in Bohemia until the end of the 19th century. These were caroling parades with the king, in which they were still racing in fast horseback riding. In particular, wealthy peasants relied on their horse and rider to win. The announced races took place in western Bohemia - in Chuděnín and in Nýrsko.

So whoever has a horse can organize races, whoever has a taste can go to honor a forest well. In my opinion, alcohol is not very suitable for these activities. These events are most often attended by permanently enthusiastic children, who certainly do not need any stimulants. Some adults may not, but in my opinion there is nothing wrong with tuning in to nature and its cycles using natural substances. For example, bald eagles were in our territory before Prohibition and Christianity. In today's society, there is still a prohibition that something is wrong, because one will almost certainly hallucinate, jump out of a window or kill. Unsubstantiated opinion. According to the results of research and the experience of users, a small (!!!) amount can, on the contrary, lead to balance and understanding of the universe, love of living beings and oneself.

It is sad for me that they are forbidden, but I understand that with senseless prohibitions it is then easier to control the masses. In addition, bald eagles expand consciousness, which is not very useful to leaders. And it's not as lucrative as alcohol.

If they lock me up and rot in a dungeon, then with the blissful feeling that I was able to convey this message. Live long and prosper 🙂

May construction (Source:
May construction (Source: