Dancing the Sun Up and Hedge Morris Dancing isn’t a common practice, it’s true. And when my 4.30 am alarm call woke me up, it felt unlikely to become one. Yet, an hour later, there I was in front of Bothwell Castle, by the great River Clyde, quite literally dancing the sun into the morning sky on this Bealltainn (Beltane) morning.

It was exhilarating!

Why would I, a guid Scots lassie, be morris dancing on the morning of Bealltainn (Beltane?)

Usually associated with the English folk scene, morris dancing was once popular with the Scottish court, although there are only a few morris sides active in Scotland today. 

But that isn’t why I felt compelled to rise an hour before sunrise, don some questionable fashion and grab my mini maypole.

Hedge morris dancing’ is morris that is renegade and solitary, or undertaken in an informal group. It’s for those of us who don’t have, or can’t be with a group of morris siblings but still feel the call to dance and celebrate the passing of the year.’ So says artist Lucy Wright, whose project it is.

There is something deeply inclusive about hedge morris’s acknowledgement of solitary folk practitioners across the globe who wish for a deep connection with the land, our ancestors and the wider practice of turning into the seasons. That definitely feels renegade in these times.

I’ve written elsewhere about Carl Jung’s encounter with Ochiway Biano [Mountain Lake.] This sentiment has stayed with me since I first read the story;

“After all,” he said, “we are the sons of the Father Sun, and with our religion we daily help our father to go across the sky. We do this not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. If we were to cease practising our religion, in ten years, the sun would no longer rise. Then it would be night for ever.”

What if the darkness that so benights our world is partly through the disengagement of folk practices like this?

Too woo woo for you? Let’s reframe that …

What if we could effect change through our resurrection and reinvention of folk practices? For, although hedge morris as a movement is new, dancing the sun up each morning is as old as time.

What if, by reengaging with these offerings that leave no trace, we are shifting attitudes and raising awareness about how deeply entangled we are with the very fabric of existence? What if that knowledge causes someone, somewhere to change their behaviours?

There is plenty of evidence—certainly here in Scotland—to suggest that Bealltainn has been observed as an important marker in the year’s progress for centuries. Without a community fire festival atop my local hill, then perhaps hedge morris is the best option for observing this traditional celebration?

I imagine that meteorologists and physicists might question my supposition, but my reality is that I did dance the sun up this Mayday morning!

The dancing was solitary, but I met a resplendent urban fox as soon as I left my building and the dawn chorus was magnificent, as you’d expect at this peak time of year.

Once the sun was surely up and in the sky, Martin played some tunes and I sang greatly out of tune, “oh, the summertime’s a comin and the trees are sweetly bloomin.”

Some final words from Am Beannachadg Bealltain, The Beltane Blessing, quoted in Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica;

BLESS, O Threefold true and bountiful*,
Myself, my spouse, and my children,
My tender children and their beloved mother at their head.
On the fragrant plain, on the gay mountain sheiling,
On the fragrant plain, on the gay mountain sheiling.

Everything within my dwelling or in my possession,
All kine and crops, all flocks and corn,
From Hallow Eve to Beltane Eve,
With goodly progress and gentle blessing,
From sea to sea, and every river mouth,
From wave to wave, and base of waterfall.

Accepting our Beltane blessing from us.

(*substitute for whichever force you feel guided by!)

May it be so for me, may it be so for you, may it be so for all of us.