In the hazy light of a May morning, the desire for ‘dewy skin’ gets a lot more literal…

For years, if you climbed the slopes of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh on the 1st of May, you would be overwhelmed with congregations of young ladies all eagerly partaking in ‘a-maying’; washing your face in the first dew of May. This tradition, washing your face in may morning dew, has only really grown out of fashion since the 1970s.

An ancient rite, it traces back to the Pagan festival of Beltane, a day representing the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer. It is a celebration of life and vitality. The Druids who performed the ancient rituals viewed dew and rain as a gift from nature, and a sacred medium for growth and beauty. As a result, the washing of one’s face in such a gift from the Ancients was believed to promise health and beauty in the forthcoming year.

The tradition grew to be very popular with the female population, particularly in Scotland and Ireland, with hundreds rising early to douse their faces in the dew and guarantee a year of flawless complexions. Some say its magical properties may even bestow eternal youth and beauty, and who are we to argue?



On May-day, in a fairy ring,
We’ve seen them round St Anthon’s spring,
Frae grass the cauler dew draps wring
To weet their een,
And water clear as crystal spring
To synd them clean
-Robert Ferguson


It is believed that Beltane, a Celtic festival,  really begins when the Hawthorn trees blossom, and is the celebration of  life and the lighter portion of the year. A time of growth and regeneration, a time when everything is surging with life. At dawn, it is suggested that climbing to the top of a hill to bathe in the rays of the rising sun, will also bestow health and vitality. This may have been undertaken alongside the bathing in the early morning dew, and could be why the tradition continued in places such as Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.

Although enduring throughout the growth of Christianity, and incorporated into a more modern tradition, the activity has recently dwindled in popularity. But perhaps we should reconsider the health giving benefits of dew; being in nature, and walking barefoot in the dew is certain to have positive mental health benefits, with some believing the dew acts as a healing energy conductor from the magnetic earth. Even the famous Bach’s Flower Remedies work on the principle that dew can capture the healing properties of a given plant. 

Perhaps today is a good day to resurrect the ancient ritual and test for ourselves.










Featured image -by Rondell Melling/Pixabay


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