The Edit

Illamasqua May Queen: The story behind the collection

The time is almost upon us, when we hark back to beauty’s folklore with the Illamasqua May Queen collection. With deep roots in Paganism & British folk traditions, we’re delving into the annual May Day celebrations to tell you the inspiration behind the May Queen collection…

Historically, the May Day festival followed a one-hundred year pagan tradition of celebrating the Vernal Equinox with a Fire Festival called Beltane. The pagan Beltane celebration (translating as ‘bright fire’) marked the beginning of summer and the community came together for the most important ritual of the festival, the lighting of the Beltane bonfire.

One of the only pagan origins that survived and is still part of today’s celebrations is the Beltane bonfire, which is a purifying and healing ritual. Members of the community would walk around and jump over the fires, whilst local farmers lead their cattle through the fires to cleanse and protect them ready for being put out to pasture.

Pagan legend holds that couples slept together under the stars in the woods & meadows. They coupled freely, embracing the sexuality of life, celebrating fertility and the magic of the earth.

Girls would wake up early to capture the May morning dew to wash their face at sunrise so that they may marry the man of their desires. At first light, the boys would join them in the forest and together they brought in the May — small trees, branches and flowers with which to decorate the village green, streets and houses.

Over the centuries, many pagan festivals and celebrations lost their religious character and origins when Europe became Christianised and have since became popular secular celebrations. Despite this, and despite the celebrations often being ignored by the mass media, May Day is still a recognised holiday in the UK, celebrated by a bank holiday and the celebrations have maintained the traditions of unity and solidarity.

 
spring make-up
spring make-up
Modern May Day festivals tend to take place in villages across the UK and are best known for the crowning of the May Queen, signifying the inception of summer and the lighting the bonfire. Village folk dance around the May pole in celebration of fertility and the promise of a bountiful harvest, a concept carried from the pagan roots of the Beltane celebration. Illamasqua’s Founder, Julian Kynaston, has a personal historical tie with the May Queen celebrations, as his grandmother was crowned as a May Queen.

Beckoning the start of the new season, on May 1st, a May Queen is crowned and chosen to lead the May Day parade alongside the ‘Green Man’. The May Queen, in her white gown and floral crown stands for purity, strength and grace. She embodies hope and prosperity as she leads the parade to celebrate the first spring planting and the onset of summer. In a cyclical nature, the May Queen will return the following year to crown the new May Queen, re-join the procession and the celebrations begin again.

The time is almost upon us, when we hark back to beauty’s folklore with the Illamasqua May Queen collection. With deep roots in Paganism & British folk traditions, we’re delving into the annual May Day celebrations to tell you the inspiration behind the May Queen collection…

In celebration of unity and solidarity, capture the start of the coming summer, reincarnate your look and become your own #MayQueen with #illamasqua. The May Queen Collection launches on May 4th online and in-store. Follow us on instagram, twitter or facebook for updates & sneak peeks of the collection.
Be the first to shop the NEW May Queen collection, sign up here: illamasqua.com/blog/may-queen



Nadine Bourne

Nadine Bourne

Writer and expert