"Oh do not tell the priest of our art, for he would call it sin
But we will be in the woods all night a conjuring summer in
And we bring you good news
For women and cattle and corn
For the sun is coming up from the south
With Oak and Ash and Thorn"
And with those words we dance the ancient dance of the May Pole.
This is a pagan ritual I have held on my property for many a year now, tying my life up with those of my friends in a dance as old as the season its self.
We welcome in the May as a time of resurrection and renewal. The primrose path is bursting with blooms and the trees and birds and frogs sway and sing in time with the ancient tune. For the season of growth is here.
"The fair maid who, the first of May
Goes to the fields at break of day
And walks in dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever handsome be"
At the break of dawn on May 1st, maidens wash their faces in the early morning dew to ensure continuing youth and beauty !! This may day it was raining cats and dogs, so it would have been wise to dance naked and cover the entire body. Alas I stayed in bed, another lost opportunity for total youth and beauty. None the less, the may pole was erected, this year in the middle of the back yard, and the limecello flowed, and we all did the dance. It has also become custom to write blessings on strips of ribbon or muslin. These fly free on the air and take our wishes straight to the divine.
The most famous maypoles in history were erected on the Strand in England. Queen Elizabeth I was the first known monarch to participate in the dance. Hers was toppled by none other than Cromwell himself, in 1644. Another famous maypole, erected by Charles II in 1718, was sold to Sir Isaac Newton, who had it shipped to an astronomer friend in Wanstead. There this pagan artifact formed the supporting base of the largest telescope in the world.
The purpose of the May Pole is to bring fertility to the people, animals and crops of the town. Local townsfolk would go out into the fields on Walpurgis night and make love in the freshly plowed fields, to ensure a good harvest and perhaps a bundle of joy the following February. A Beltane fire would be lit on May eve to light the way of the trooping fairies return to the greenwood from their underground dwellings of the winter. Robin Hood and Maid Marian, The May Queen and the Green Man, our connection to the green world is far deeper and ingrained than most of us imagine.
Shakespeare wrote about the trials of the little people in a Midsummer's Night Dream, on this night the fairy worlds involvement with the mortal world mostly consisted of love spells and bewilderment's. Other nights in the year you are better off carrying a Ash, Oak, or Thorn branch with you into the woods to ward off fairy evil. Witches, Goblins, and Ghosts are all about on this night so it is better not to follow will-o-the-wisps or fairy orbs, into the woods or you might wake up someplace quite unexpected.
It's all in good fun for on Beltane morning the sun reigns supreme once more and the ghoolies, ghosties, and long legged beasties are all but forgotten until the Autumnal Equinox, on the other side of the Wheel of the Year !