Sunday, May 15, 2011

May Day, Maypole, May Queen. What Is It?

As promised in my previous blog I would share with you the meaning of these commom terms that we have heard all our lives, but perhaps not know the full meaning of.

Again, as with many of the holiday festivites, May Day, the Maypole, and May Queen all originate from pagan origin, and true christians should have no part in them.

Early Origins of May Day

In ancient Rome the first day of May fell during the festival of Floralia, named in honor of Flora, the goddess of springtime and flowers. It was a time of singing, dancing, and flower-decked parades, and also to hang flowers on a loved one's door. Roman prostitutes especially enjoyed the festival, for they considered Flora their patron goddess.

The New Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia says on page 8294:

“May Day festivals probably stem from the rites practiced in honor of a Roman goddess, Maia, who was worshiped as the source of human and natural fertility.” A conspicuous feature of this celebration has been (and still is, especially among school children) the dancing around the Maypole.

The same encyclopedia states: “This Maypole is believed by most scholars to be a survival of a phallic symbol formerly used in the spring rites for the goddess Maia.”

According to the polemic anti-Catholic pamphlet, The Two Babylons, the origin of the maypole dance began in ancient Babylon during sex worship and fertility rites. The church of St. Andrew Undershaft in the City of London is named after the maypole that was kept under its eaves and set up each spring until 1517 when student riots put an end to the custom. The maypole itself survived until 1547 when a Puritan mob seized and destroyed it as a "pagan idol".

The World Book Encyclopedia (1973 edition) notes: "The English and other peoples whom the Romans conquered developed their May Day festivals from the Floralia.” And whom did that festival honor? It was held in honor of Flora, the goddess of flowers.

When the Romans conquered other lands, they took their customs with them. However, in Celtic countries the Romans discovered that the first day of May was already celebrated as the festival of Beltane. The preceding evening, the start of the Celtic new day, all fires were extinguished, and when the sun rose, people lit bonfires on hilltops or under sacred trees to welcome summertime and the renewal of life. Cattle were put out to pasture, and the gods were invoked for their protection. Soon Floralia became entwined with Beltane and became the festival of May Day.

For German-speaking and Scandinavian peoples, Walpurgis was the equivalent of Beltane. Festivities began on Walpurgis Night( the eve of May Day) with the lighting of bonfires to drive away witches and evil spirits. Other Europeans developed their own variations of May Day customs, many of which still survive.

Christendom’s churches had little effect on such pagan festivities. “May Day—or Beltane—was the calendar’s most permissive day, the one festival the Christian church and other authorities could never quite control,” observes England’s Guardian newspaper.

May Day Customs

By the Middle Ages, new customs had been added to what had become England’s favorite holiday. Men and women spent the night in the local woods gathering flowers and blossoming boughs to ‘bring in the May’ at sunrise.

Immorality was widespread, according to Puritan Philip Stubbes’ tract The Anatomy of Abuses. Revelers set up a tree as a Maypole in the middle of a village, and it became a focus for day-long dancing and games. Stubbes referred to it as “this stinking Idol.”

The people chose a May queen and often a May king to preside over the festivities. Maypoles and May queens were common in other parts of Europe too.

In mythology, The May Queen is also known as The Maiden, the goddess of spring, flower bride, queen of the faeries, and the lady of the flowers. The May Queen is a symbol of the stillness of nature around which everything revolves. She stands for purity, strength and the potential for growth, as the plants grow in May. She is one of many personifications of the energy of the earth.

She was once also known as Maid Marian in the medieval plays of Robin Hood and of the May Games - she is the young village girl, crowned with blossom, attended by children with garlands and white dresses. Some folklorists have drawn parallels between her and Maia, the Roman Goddess of Springtime, of Growth and Increase whose very name may be the root of "May".

May King

May King is a figure in the mythology of Great Britain and Ireland, as well as a folk custom. Every year, or every seven years, a man from the village would be chosen to represent the King of the May. He would bring fertility to the village, and during the time that he was in power, he could impregnate any woman in the village. At the end of his "reign," he would be ritually sacrificed and a new King of the May would be chosen. According to J.G. Frazier's The Golden Bough, this type of custom was derived from earlier Indo-European tree worship fertility rituals.

What was the significance of these May Day customs? The Encyclop√¶dia Britannica explains: “Originally such rites were intended to ensure fertility to the crops, and by extension to cattle and human beings, but in most cases this significance was gradually lost, and the practices survived merely as popular festivities.”

Ebb and Flow

The Protestant Reformers tried to stamp out what was viewed as a pagan celebration. Calvinist Scotland prohibited May Day in 1555. Then a Puritan-led English Parliament banned Maypoles in 1644. When England was without a king during the Commonwealth period, May Day’s “licentious practises” were discouraged. However, Maypoles were restored with the monarchy in 1660.

Maypole festivities gradually declined during the 18th and early 19th centuries but have been revived in more recent times with a more moral tone. Many of what are viewed as traditional May Day customs, such as children dancing round the Maypole plaiting gaily colored ribbons, date from this more recent time.

However, folklorists researching May Day’s more distant past are discovering many of its pagan roots. In fact, if people knew the real meaning behind the Maypole dance they may not want to participate, certainly true christians would stay far away from it. For example, according to Yasmine Galenorn, in the book "Dancing with the Sun", the pole represents the male principle, and the ribbons that wrap around it (and the wreath placed atop the pole) are symbolic of the female principle. The Maypole represents the phallus of the God. The wreath atop represents the vagina of the Goddess. As the Maypole is danced, the ribbons wind around the pole and the wreath lowers, symbolizing the Divine Marriage, the sexual union of God and Goddess.

The Dance

The May Day dance is rich in pagan symbolism. There are usually eight dancers, one for each sabbat of the year, paired into four couples. (Of course, many more may dance. This is only a suggestion.) The dance involves moving in circles and weaving over and under the other dancers. The women take the white ribbons with their right sides to the pole, and the men take the red ribbons with their left sides to the pole. The weaving of the symbolic birth canal begins with music or chanting as everyone moves forward from where they stand, moving alternately over and under each person coming toward them. (To start, the men begin weaving under the upheld ribbon of the first woman they encounter). Continue the dance until the maypole is wrapped. Tie off the ribbons and let the wreath drop to the ground.

European emigrants took their May Day customs with them to new lands, and some of their descendants still observe May Day in the traditional way. However, in many countries May Day, or the first Monday following May 1, is now simply a workers’ holiday.

May Day Becomes Labor Day

Modern May Day began in North America. Why there? The industrial revolution brought new machines that ran continuously, with the result that factory owners often expected their employees to work up to 16 hours every day except Sundays. (Now, some people work as long even on Sunday).

In an effort to improve the lives of workers, a federation of trade and labor unions in the United States and Canada called for an eight-hour workday beginning on May 1, 1886. For the most part, employers refused to grant this, so on the first of May, thousands of workers went on strike.

The Haymarket Riot in Chicago, Illinois, gave the labor movement in the United States its first martyrs, and workers in England, France, Holland, Italy, Russia, and Spain rallied in support. In 1889 a congress of world Socialist parties meeting in Paris declared that May 1, 1890, would be a day of international demonstrations in favor of an eight-hour workday. The date thereafter became an annual occasion on which to raise workers’ demands for better working conditions.

Today many countries observe a holiday called Labor Day or International Workers’ Day on the first of May. The United States and Canada, however, celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday in September.

Ancient and Modern Links

May Day has always been a people’s festival. Workers took the day off with or without their employers’ approval. Social roles were reversed. The king and queen of the day were chosen from the common people, and the ruling classes were often the butt of jokes. May Day, therefore, readily became identified with labor movements, and by the 20th century, it had become part of the Socialist calendar.

Like the old May Day, the International Workers’ Day has become a day for parades through the streets. Yet, violence has become common during May Day celebrations in recent years. May Day 2000, for example, was the occasion for worldwide rallies against global capitalism. Protests then were marred by fights, injuries, and damage to property. (Sounds a little like the mixing of iron and clay not sticking together in the dream image of Daniels prophecy).

Well I have come to the end of this blog. There is much more information that could be obtained on this subject, but I feel we have enough to make an educated decision on this holiday, that it is not just harmless fun, but flooded with unclean pagan symbolism, that does not honor Jehovah, but the god of this wicked system of things Satan.

The apostle Paul reminded fellow believers: “What fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols? For we are a temple of a living God; just as God said: ‘I shall reside among them and walk among them, and I shall be their God, and they will be my people.’ '"Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,” says Jehovah, “and quit touching the unclean thing.'"”2 Cor. 6:14-17.

This is Raven-as the crow flies

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

April Bows To Glorious May

May, what a delightful picturesque month, when the earth clothes itself with a variety of beautiful fragrant and colorful flowers. The pink cherry blossoms, as well as the white, along with the brilliant yellow forsythia dazzle the eye and causes one's heart to sigh with deep appreciation to the one who made it. Many songs and poems have been written and sung because of the enchanting beauty May inspires. Can you think of some?

How appropriate that "Frabjous Photo" has chosen flowers as the theme for this month's May blog. I am sure it will be an especially delightful and inspiring one.

Don't leave all your May flowers outside. wouldn't it be fun to have bowls of bloom about the house, even in the bathroom? How about using a prized cup that has lost it's saucer, or a seldom used teapot or a squatty little antique sugar bowl?

Floating blossoms are pretty, too, especially in unusual containers, perhaps a bon bon dish or any kind of funny bowl or tray.

For conventional arrangements, putting cut flowers in a vase, you can cut them on a slant with a sharp knife at a cool time of day, and then put them in tepid water (100 degrees) for about an hour before arranging them in a vase of cold water, you will find that they keep much longer.

It is of interest to note, in sixteenth century England the young at heart would rise before dawn on the first day of May and flock to the woods to gather blossoms. At sunrise they would return to the village to decorate a loved one's door and windows and the "Maypole", which was set up in the square. The choicest blooms were fashioned into a crown for the local beauty who was proclaimed Queen of May. Both of these traditions still survive in some form in contempory American life. While younger girls make flower baskets to leave at friends doors, their college-age sisters preserve the traditional crowning of the May Queen ceremony.

What is the meaning of May Day, Queen of May and the Maypole? This will be addressed at a future blog.

No sweeter words can fall on the human ear, than that May is finally here! Let us take note of the different flowers, and blossoms that appear during May, even the humble and prolific dandelion which many dislike and define as a weed, and yet the vitamin rich leaves are used in salads and the flowers to make the most delicious wine. You may want to think twice about removing them from your lawn.

Which flowers actually start the spring season, and which flowers do you delight to see? Here is a cute poem along these lines.

"Some will tell you crocuses are heralds true of spring
Others say that tulips showing buds are just the thing
Point to peonies, say when magnolia blossoms show
I look forward to the sight of other flowers though
Cultivate your roses, grow your orchids in the dark
Plant your posies row on row and stink up the whole park
The flower that's my favourite kind is found throughout the land
A wilting, yellow dandelion, clutched in a grubby hand."
- Larry Tilander, Springtime of My Soul

Also, remember this:

"The brightest and most enduring flowers along the waysides of life are smiles, the sparkle of the eye, loving words, acts of kindness---they never wholly fade from memory. Often after years they are brighter than on the day we first beheld them".
--E. Linton

Let all your joys be as the month of May!

This is Raven-as the crow flies