Medieval Beltane Music
All Wiccan holidays are based on the seasons. That means that witches in the northern hemisphere celebrate the opposite season holidays as those in the southern hemisphere.
As European and American Wiccans prepare to celebrate Samhain, the last and final holiday in the Wiccan calender (the new year beginning on November 1st), let’s turn our thoughts to spring — and our southern neighbors — with this look at Beltane and Beltane music.
Medieval Beltane Music
It’s almost Beltane, also known as May Day, a day known for its flowers, picnics, and of course, the May Pole Dance.
Like many festivals, music is an essential part of worship, even though many, perhaps, do not process Beltane celebrations as a form of religious worship. Yet through the ages and into today, songs celebrating spring, the Beltane festival, and/or the coming of summer all bring us closer to nature and Beltane’s celebration of new life. Here are a few of my favorite period songs for celebrating this ancient festival:
“Sumer Is Icumen in”: a medieval four part round originally written in the 13th century in Middle English (see Middle English and modern lyrics athttp://www.pteratunes.org.uk/Music/Music/Lyrics/summerisicumenin.html), “Sumer Is Icumen In” is one of the oldest known songs celebrating the coming of summer (beginning May 1st in Celtic and Germanic cultures). Beautiful in both Middle and Modern English, this classic was one of the first medieval songs I ever learned to sing and remains a perennial favorite among re-enactors and neo-pagans alike. Don’t want to sing it or play it on the recorder? Two of the best recordings of it is by St. George’s Canzona from their album “Medieval Songs and Dances,” and, for a pop arrangement of this classic, check out the version by Jaiya from her album “Beltane: Songs for the Spring Time,” both available on itunes.
“Now is the Month of Maying”: written by Elizabethan Englishman Thomas Morley in the late 16th century, it remains one of the best known songs about Beltane. The King’s Singers have a lovely rendition of it on their album “Madrigal History Tour” that is true to its original madrigal/troubadour origins. For a very modern take on this classic, consider “The Month of Maying” by Jaiya, also from “Beltane: Songs for the Spring Time.”
“Tempus Adest Floridum” (the time is near for flowering): originally written in the 13thcentury, “Tempus Adest Floridum’s” tune became popularized in the 19th century when the Christmas Carol “Good King Wenceslas ” provided new lyrics to the then 600 year old tune. Find four verses in the original Latin at http://www.cyberhymnal.org/non/la/tempusade.htm and full translation at http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/f/l/flowcaro.htm. Enjoy a classical recording of the song on Jeremy Summerly’s album, “Let Voices Resound: Songs from Piae Cantiones,” available on Amazon.com.
For more information on Beltane and medieval/Renaissance music, please consult:http://www.pteratunes.org.uk/Music/Music/Composers.html,http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/festivals/may/beltane.html,http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/beltanemayday/p/Beltane_History.htm,http://londongirl.hubpages.com/hub/Bringing-in-the-May—the-history-and-culture-of-the-traditional-English-May-Day.