Archive for the ‘Mary (mother of Jesus)’ Tag

4 Seasons – Spring 4 – May Day and Maypole   Leave a comment

I thought to look into another tradition that is well known in Europe.   May Day and the background of it.   It has both Christian and Pagan background.

The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora, the Roman Goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane. Many pagan celebrations were abandoned or Christianized during the process of conversion in Europe.  In this form, May Day may be best known for its tradition of dancing the Maypole and crowning of the Queen of the May.  The day was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures.  In the Roman Catholic tradition, May is observed as Mary’s month, and in these circles May Day is usually a celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

A maypole is a tall wooden pole erected as a part of various European folk festivals, particularly on May Day.  There were 2 types of dances preformed with the Maypole.

Circle Dance
Dancers perform circle dances around a tall pole which is decorated with garlands, painted stripes, flowers, flags and other emblems. The circular dance is regarded as the most common and ancient Normand is thought by some to have Germanic pagan fertility symbolism, although there is a lack of evidence to support this. The circular dance is traditionally performed in the spring around the festival of May Day, but in Sweden it is during the midsummer festivities.

 Ribbon Dance
Dancers gather in a circle, each holding a coloured ribbon attached to a much smaller pole. As the dance commences the ribbons are intertwined and plaited either on to the pole itself or into a web around the pole. The dancers may then retrace their steps exactly in order to unravel the ribbons. This style of maypole dancing originates in the 18th century, and is derived from traditional and ‘art’ dance forms popular in Italy and France. These were exported to the London stage and reached a large audience, becoming part of the popular performance repertoire. Adopted at a large teacher training institution, the ribbon maypole dance then spread across much of England, and is now regarded as the most ‘traditional’ of May Day’s traditional characteristics.

in Norse paganism, which is the best attested form of Germanic paganism, cosmological views held that the universe was a world tree, known as Yggdrasil.

were a remnant of the Germanic reverence for sacred trees, as there is evidence for various sacred trees and wooden pillars that were venerated by the pagans across much of Germanic Europe, including Thor’s Oak and the Irminsul.  

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