In many countries, the first day of May, May Day, is celebrated to welcome spring. Children in Great Britain and the United States sometimes participate by dancing around a maypole.

Dancing around a maypole can be traced to ancient Rome. Romans used to do this at a festival in the spring to honor their goddess of flowers, Flora. They danced around the pine tree, which they held sacred. When Romans conquered England, the pine tree became the maypole.

On May Day in England, the pole was set on the village green and adorned with ribbons and flowers. Villagers would pick a May Queen and crown her with a wreath of flowers. Then the villagers would dance around the maypole, holding the ends of ribbons that hung down from the top the pole. As they danced, they would weave the ribbons around the maypole.

At one time, some English believed that the villagers worshipped the maypole, so they banned it by law. Later it reappeared and children in England still sing and dance around the maypole.

*smirks slightly* it's funny what time does to tradition. today may day celebrations are happy and cheerful and all just "look! it's spring! celebrate!" when there is a celebration, mothers love to watch their children dance around a maypole, twirling ribbons (and sometimes getting tangled in them). they encourage their children to make may baskets and leave them on neighbor's doorsteps. all nice and happy and innocent. a happy family time.

how time changes things. may day is the degeneration of Beltane, really, and the may pole is a DIRECT part of a standard beltane ritual. a pagan holiday celebrating *fertility* and rebirth and the union of the goddess and the horned god. it's in no way a 'dirty' holiday for us, or something to hide--paganism is fairly open about sex. but it's quite apparently a ... deeper thing than it's usually treated as.

and the may baskets that are left? these were long ago actually posies of certain flowers and mostly herbs that were left as a fertility blessing, not the "good luck"/"good wishes" token they're seen as today.

it's amazing how things become distorted and desensitized over the centuries.

but if most people knew what was behind it, suddenly that happy little pole wouldn't seem *quite* so innocent anymore.


for the record, a traditional maypole is wrapped with white and red ribbon, instead of the multicolored tangle so common now. and it's actually properly WOVEN in an intricate in and out pattern, instead of just twisted around. the maypole dancers form *two* rings, one inside and the other outside, each set with one color of ribbon, and they weave in and out of each other.

How to make an altar-sized Maypole

(Craft project for Beltane)

Materials:

Directions:

Either drill hole into the flat wood base to insert pole or simply glue it to the bottom securely. Glue four equal lengths of ribbon to top, and seal knob on pole with glue, on top of the ribbons. Glue or place decorative items around base.

Ritual use:

During ritual, the maypole can be wound. Simply weave the ribbons in and out of each other in as pleasing a pattern as possible, fastening with sticky-tac or other less permanent adhesive (so that this apparatus can be used again next year in ritual). The symbolism of the maypole is that of the male phallic symbol (the pole itself) being enveloped by the female vaginal symbol (the ribbons). Also, the winding, when done in a traditional form by dancers around a full-sized maypole, sometimes symbolize male-female mating with the red and white ribbons themselves. (It depends on your preferred method of using symbols.) In the end, you have a consummated lovemaking symbolized, for a perfect mood-enhancer during the fertile months of summer ahead. It emphasizes the bounty of nature, and the pleasure of the "dance" that makes it possible.

Pagan craft projects

May"pole` (?), n.

A tall pole erected in an open place and wreathed with flowers, about which the rustic May-day sports were had.

 

© Webster 1913.

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