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May Day/Beltane

"It's May! It's May! The Lusty month of May!...
Those dreary vows that ev'ryone takes,
Ev'ryone breaks.
Ev'ryone makes divine mistakes!
The lusty month of May!
(Lerner and Lowe:)


Cup of Wonder
May I make my fond excuses for the lateness of the hour,
but we accept your invitation, and we bring you Beltane's flower.
For the May Day is the great day, sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did lay will heed the song that calls them back.
Pass the word and pass the lady, pass the plate to all who hunger.
Pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the cup of crimson wonder.
Ask the green man where he comes from, ask the cup that fills with red.
Ask the old grey standing stones that show the sun its way to bed.
Question all as to their ways, and learn the secrets that they hold.
Walk the lines of nature's palm crossed with silver and with gold.
Pass the cup and pass the lady, pass the plate to all who hunger.
Pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the cup of crimson wonder.
Join in black December's sadness, lie in August's welcome corn.
Stir the cup that's ever-filling with the blood of all that's born.
But the May Day is the great day, sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did lay will heed this song that calls them back.
Pass the word and pass the lady, pass the plate to all who hunger.
Pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the cup of crimson wonder.

Although it is slowly regaining popularity as a spring holiday in the United States, May Day has been celebrated in Europe since the Middle Ages. It is usually celebrated on May 1 or May 5th. May Day is a offshoot of two earlier Spring festivals: the Roman Floralia and the Celtic fire festival of Beltaine. Beltane was a pastoral holiday, marking the beginning of the season when the cattle could be driven to open grazing. The name comes from the sun god, Bel(Belenos), and the Celtic word for fire, tinne.
Bonfires were lighted at Beltane to mark the the beginning of summer. It was considered lucky for young folks to jump over the flames or for cattle to be driven between the bonfires as a protection from disease. Floralia The Roman flower festival of Floralia, was instituted in Rome in 283 B.C., and was celebrated from April 28 through May 3 in honor of Flora, goddess of flowers and vegetation. This Roman Spring festival was probably introduced to Great Britain during Roman occupation.
The May Queen was said to be the earthly representation of the Roman goddess Flora, The May Queen was selected by the townspeople as the most beautiful among the young women, and she took her place in a throne of flowers to preside over the activities of the day.
The May Queen's consort, the May King, or the Lord of the May was known in parts of England and Lowland Scotland as 'Robin Hood'; or 'Robin' or 'Robin Goodfellow. He may also have a connection to the Roman god of woods and wildlife- Faunus as a sort of counterpart to Flora. The May King in later years and provinces gave way to the Green Man, Green George, or Jack-in-the-Green. He represented the vegetation,the forest and the crops, and was played by a man covered entirely in branches, as if he were a living tree. "In England, he takes the form of a man encased in a high wickerwork cage which completely covers him, and is in its turn entirely smothered in green branches, leaves, and flowers. Only his eyes are visible, looking through a hole cut in the cage to enable him to see, and his feet below the level of the wickerwork." He is the embodyment of Summer itself.
Other May Day Characters The Hobby Horse (or Oss) appears at various times of the year, especially Halloween, Christmas, and May Day; and usually in connection with the Morris Dancers. It seems to be a creature of luck and fertility, and may be a remnant of the Celtic sun-god to whom the horse was sacred. "It is probable that men disguised as horses played an important part in pagan rituals, particularly those of the horse-worshipping Anglo-Saxons." The Hobby Horse takes part in a parade with the other May Day characters, at the end of which he 'dies,' but is later resurrected to join in the feasting. Padstow and Minehead lay claim to the two most famous Hobby Horses in England. The Padstow 'Obby Oss' "wears a hoop-shaped frame, about six feet around, and covered with a black tarpaulin, which completely hides his human form. In front of the hoop is a small, wooden horse's head, with snapper jaws, but the horseman's own head is hidden by a ferocious-looking mask, surmounted by a tall, conical cap." He dances through the streets, chasing the girls, and sometimes corners one of them against a wall and covers her with his huge skirt. This is supposed to bring her a husband, or a baby within the year if she is already married. Sometimes the Hobby Horse has a container of water that squirts Women around the town as well. The Morris Dancers were seen at May day dressed in white shirts and knee-breeches, flower-decked hats, and adorned with bells, bright ribbons, and handkerchiefs. The costume of the dancers seems to suggest magical over-tones; the bells and ribbons to scare fairies away, or in pre-Christian times, to communicate with the fairies. There are several different versions of the May-Day Morris dance; at Winster near Matlock, a 16 man team was divided into 'men's' and 'women's' sides, and accompanied by a whole range of extra characters more often associated with mumming plays: a 'King,' a male 'Queen,' a 'Fool,' a Hobby Horse, and a black-faced 'Witch'. In other counties -- Yorkshire, Northumberland, and Durham -- the morris dance proper gave way to the quite different sword dance. A May-custom, necessarily confined to small, tightly-knit villages, was the May Birching. These 'May Birchers' used to go on their secret rounds at dawn on May Day, affixing branches of trees on the doors of their neighbors' houses. "A flowering branch of hawthorn was always a compliment, but any other thorn denoted that someone in the house was an object of scorn." Rowan, or wicker, was a sign of affection. Briar, holly, plum, and alder, stood for liar, folly, glum, and scowler, respectively. "This distribution of 'birches' represented the honest opinions of the villagers, and when it was uncomplimentary, it was intended to serve as a warning to the erring or the foolish." Isle of Man, This ceremony marked the beginning of Spring up until the late 18th century. In this custom, the Queen of the May, played by a young woman, is approached by the Queen of Winter, played by a man dressed in women's clothes; who challenges the right of the May Queen to rule. The companies of the two engage in a mock battle, and if the May Queen is defeated, she is held for ransom and rescued by her people. The followers of the Queen of Winter then depart to hold their celebration in some dark, secluded place. Furry Day has been called through the centuries, variously, Flora, Faddy, or Furry Day, and seems to be a vaguely remembered form of the original Roman Floralia. The word 'furry' is probably derived from the Cornish feur, or fer, a fair, rejoicing, or 'holy-day,' and 'Faddy' from an old English word, fade, meaning to go, and especially to go forward in a dance." Furry Day at some point became mingled with the May Day festivities. One of its main elements is the old maying processional called the 'Hal-an- Tow,' in which people go out to the woods early in the morning to gather greenery to decorate homes and buildings and carry through the streets.
Chorus] Hal an tow, jolly rumble oh
We were up long before the day oh
To welcome in the summer
To welcome in the may oh
The summer is a-comin' in
And winter's gone away oh
Take no scorn to wear the horn
It was a crest when you were born
Your father's father wore it
And your father wore it too

[chorus] Robin hood and little john
Have both gone to the fair oh
And we will to the merry green wood
To hunt the buck and hare oh

[chorus] What happened to the span-iard
That made so great a boast oh
They shall eat the feathered goose
And we shall eat the roast oh

[chorus] The lord and lady bless you
With all their power and might oh
And send their peace upon this land
And bring peace by day and night oh

Furry Dancing, was probably related to the Hal-an-Tow processional This is the second dance of the morning. Where the people of the villiage dressed in their finest clothes, The town is beautifully decorated with hazel, bluebells and other locally-found greenery gathered around the May Pole to dance hand-in-hand through the town, ; its revellers rowdily re-enact St George's battle with the dragon. Rather obscurely the play's verses also allude to the Spanish Armanda and Robin Hood, accompanied by young men dressed as St. Michael and St. George, Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, and Little John. They dance down the main streets, into gardens, shops, and houses; in one door and out another, to bring the luck of Summer to the owners and tenants, and drive out the darkness of Winter.

Have you ever stood in the April Wood and called the new year in?
While the phantoms of three thousand years fly as the dead leaves spin?
There's a snap in the grass behind your feet and a tap upon your shoulder.
And the thin wind crawls along your neck---
It's just the old gods getting older.
And as the kestral drops like a fall of shot and the red cloud hanging high---
come --- a Beltane>

Have you ever loved a lover of the old elastic thruth?
And doted on the daughter in the ministry of youth?
Trust your head between the breasts of the fertile innocent.
And taken up the cause of love,for the sake of argument.
Or while the kisses drop like a fall of shot
from soft lips in the rain---
come---a Beltane.

(Ian Anderson:The Group "Jethro Tull")

Will you go a-maying, a-maying, a-maying, Come and be my Queen of May and pluck the may with me? The fields are full of daisy buds and new lambs playing, The bird is on the nest, dear, the blossom's on the tree."

"If I go with you, if I go a-maying, To be your Queen and wear my crown this May-day bright, Hand in hand straying, it must be only playing, And playtime ends at sunset, and then good-night.

"For I have heard of maidens who laughed and went a-maying, Went out queens and lost their crowns and came back slaves. I will be no young man's slave, submitting and obeying, Bearing chains as those did, even to their graves."

"If you come a-maying, a-straying, a-playing, We will pluck the little flowers, enough for you and me; And when the day dies, end our one day's playing, Give a kiss and take a kiss and go home free."

The Maypole:(or What is a Maypole?)

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1945, the earliest picture of the maypole was found in a drawing in a window in Betley Hall in Straffordshire built by King Edward IV.
Early mention's of the may-pole dance describes choosing a standing birch tree ,attaching streamers to the branches and weaving them around and around in movements appreciative of the coming spring. Modern maypoles can be constructed from a pole either set in the ground or in a cement or wood weighted base, with streamers attached to the top.
Some see the Maypole as representitive of a phallus,symbolic the male principle of fertilization. (Female principles are represented by beribboned may baskets and round-ribboned wreaths used in the dances around the pole.) Sometimes, the hand-fasting movements of the dances would give young people license to 'go into the wild' together.
May Day is a solar festival, celebrated on May first(or around that date, halfway between spring equinox and summer solstice ideally. In the U.K, the Queen of the May,(or the Maid Marian), mounted on a white horse is the central figure in the May Day mumming plays,with Robin Hood as her consort.(The Jack in the green or the green man.)

Building A Maypole
What you need: You must consider how many people will be using the may-pole. The general rule is,the more people you have, the taller the may-pole. The longer the ribbons-the heavier the base-(or deeper the hole.) So,with a few people,you can make a neat little pole with doweling-and an outdoor umbrella stand.
For a small group (4-10)use a 9 foot pole, for a medium group (12-20) a 18’ pole, and large (22-50) a 27’ tall pole. (or,I have seen plastic sewer piper used as well,be innovative-there is nothing wrong with that!
Ideally (And this is far-fetched) This should be a tree cut in the woods (being carefull to not break any laws!!!)you would trim it of it's branches, leaving a stub on top to hold the wreath. Most people will have to make due with a round piece of post from a lumber yard or hardware store.
For a 9’ pole you want to plant it at least a foot deep in the ground(I reccomend more), the 18’ pole, at least 1 ˝ ‘ deep, and the the 27’ at least 3’ deep.
Figure the depth of the hole into the size of the May Pole. So,if you bury the pole 3 feet,you will have 3 feet less pole to dance around. For the multi-colored ribbons - you can go buy pre-colored ribbon from a craft store the exact length of the pole (above ground) before it is planted, or take fabric by the yard and cut it in 1 inch strips the exact length of the pole (above ground).


Facts about the Maypole:May pole history blurred in fantasy
And also This Other link by the same website.
The Pagan Origins of May DayOn this site Show how Christianity has affected the old pagan holiday.
How to Make a May-Pole An informative Page.

The Celibration of Mayday

"  Never had the Maypole been so gayly decked as at sunset on midsummer eve. This venerated emblem was a pine-tree, which had >preserved the slender grace of youth, while it equalled the loftiest height of the old wood monarchs. From its top streamed a silken banner, colored like the rainbow. Down nearly to the ground the pole was dressed with birchen boughs, and others of the liveliest green,and some with silvery leaves, fastened by ribbons that fluttered in fantastic knots of twenty different colors, but no sad ones. Garden flowers, and blossoms of the wilderness, laughed gladly forth amid the verdure, so fresh and dewy that they must have grown by magic on that happy pine-tree. Where this green and flowery splendor terminated, the shaft of the Maypole was stained with the seven brilliant hues of the banner at its top. On the lowest green bough hung an abundant wreath of roses, some that had been gathered in the sunniest spots of the forest, and others, of still richer blush, which the colonists had reared from English seed. O, people of the Golden Age, the chief of your husbandry was to raise flowers! "

  © by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Names for May Day

May Day/Beltaine Links

History of The Maypole(Maibaum):
THE MAYPOLE OF MERRY MOUNT by Nathaniel Hawthorne:
Mayday on the WEB:
Origin and Traditions of Mayday:
May Day Poem:

May Wine

A German white-wine punch flavored with woodfuff. Also called Maibowle, it is a punch made from sweet, light wine infused with aromatic woodruff leaves. It's served cold with fruit (usually strawberries) floating in it. May wine is sold bottled and can be found in some gourmet liquor and wine stores.

Because of the Coumarin-content in Woodruff, it should not be drunken too often, and not-at-all by pregnant women,nursing mothers or the ill.