May (the month)


May (the month)
   Oddly, though the literary associations of this month are with blossoming love, and its customs are all joyous, several widespread superstitions count it unlucky. *Cats born in May are useless and should be drowned at birth; 'May-babies, like May kittens, are said to be weakly and unlikely to thrive' (Folk-Lore 68 (1957), 413; cf. N&Q 1s:7 (1853) 152); the *broom brings death; boys born in May are particularly cruel to animals (N&Q 12s:4 (1918) 133, 172, 257-8).
   Most often mentioned is the idea that May marriages will prove unhappy. The belief is undoubtedly ancient, as Ovid mentions it (Fasti: V v. ii. 487-90); its first known airing in English, in Poor Robin's Almanack for 1675, treats it as already proverbial. Yet, however well-known, it does not seem to have been translated into action; George Monger's research (Folklore 105 (1994), 104-8) presents figures showing that despite fluctuations at different periods May has never been the least popular month for weddings, and sometimes was one of the most favoured. See also *May Day, *May Dew.
   ■ Opie and Tatem, 1989: 240-6; Lean, 1902-1904; N&Q 1s:3 (1851)20; 1s:7 (1853) 152.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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