May 1st is a new quarter day in the Celtic calendar – Beltaine (say BYEL-tin-uh) – a fire festival to celebrate “the force that drives the green fuse through the flower,” to quote Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. It’s a time of brilliance and heat. It was on Betaine that St Patrick lit a fire on the Hill of Slane near Tara in defiance of the High King as a sign of the New Faith succeeding the old religion.
This holiday of trickery fits well with the Northern Hemispheric change of season at the Vernal Equinox. Spring weather is nothing if not temperamental and unpredictable. There is much weather lore connected to the vagaries of springtime. Most of us know that if “March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb” and “April showers bring May flowers.” Here are some Irish maxims: “Thunder in April (or on All Fools’ Day), floods in May.” “A cold April and a full barn.” And “When April blows its horn, ‘tis good for hay and corn.”
Here is a Welsh expression you can make your own: Cachu hwch, pronounced: Cach-ee hooch (The 'ch' sound is the same as the Scottish loch). It translates as “Pig’s poo” and means “It’s all gone wrong.” I hope you don’t have to use it often.
Lambswool was the name of a popular drink during the dark days leading up to Imbolc. It was often enjoyed during Wassailing or “Apple Howling” as it was called in orchard country.