Monday, 12 April 2010

Maypoles, Weaving & Beltane

What connection is there with maypoles in the UK and Beltane? Well that depends on your point of view. The idea of a maypole is to have ribbons attached to the top and children holding them at the bottom dance in a pattern that weaves the ribbons around the pole. So is this pagan? The symbolism is certainly phallic and as we all know Beltane is the celebration of fertility.

Over the years they have been banned as "a Heathenish vanity, generally abused to superstition and wickedness." by those lovely puritans (they really didn’t know how to have fun!). In the countryside, may dances and maypoles appeared sporadically even during the Interregnum, but the practice was revived substantially and joyously after the Restoration. By the 19th century, the maypole had been subsumed into the symbols of "Merry England". The addition of intertwining ribbons seems to have been influenced by a combination of 19th century theatrical fashion and visionary individuals such as John Ruskin in the 19th century. Pairs of boys and girls stand alternately around the base of the pole, each holding the end of a ribbon. They weave in and around each other, boys going one way and girls going the other and the ribbons are woven together around the pole until the merry-makers meet at the base.

The weaving is also something some pagans do in order to bind male and female as fertility ideals or as meditation process, it’s very calming! So are the ribbons just pretty Italianise symbols the Victorians added or is there another meaning?

Regardless of whether it is Pagan the maypole is an important part of the celebrations for many villages and towns. Ours will be on the Sunday together with the crowning of the May Queen and Garland competition. And if like me you haven’t got a garden that’ll take your own maypole you could always make a small version for your altar:

For this simple craft project, you'll need the following:
· A 1" thick dowel rod, about a foot long
· A wooden circle, about 4" in diameter
· Pieces of ribbon in various colours, about 2 feet long each
· A hot glue gun
Use the hot glue gun to attach the dowel rod to the centre of the wooden circle. Once the glue has dried, you can stain or paint the wood if you choose. Attach the centre of each ribbon to the top of the dowel rod, as shown in Figure 1. Weave as desired. (

Use the Maypole as a centrepiece on your altar. You can braid the ribbons as a meditation tool, or include it in ritual. Optional: add a small floral crown around the bottom to represent the feminine fertility of the Sabbat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this idea for a Beltane craft. I just "May" make it : )

Thanks for sharing!