Just what is a maypole? The maypole is simply a wooden pole raised in the month of May, in a common town area. The pole is usually crowned with flowers and has long ribbons attached for each participant to hold onto and weave around the pole as they dance. It is part of May Day or Beltane; a joyous celebration welcoming the return of Summer's warm weather and all the vegetation and security it brings.
Maypoles were very common in medieval Europe and the custom has happily survived, in some parts of the world, to this day. Of course, as with all ancient customs, the actual origin of the maypole is debated and the symbolism somewhat fluid. There were foreshadowings of the maypole in Roman times, and they were heavily present throughout Germanic Europe and England. As to origin, there is so much history and documented occurrence of the maypole that it would be impossible to pinpoint, with any surety, an actual start date for the practice. I think, in the mists of time, from sacred groves and tree worship, must have come the idea to bring a tree into the "center of things". For the maypole, originally a tree, was prepared by stripping the branches and bark, and then carried into the town center by the townsfolk. He was decorated, danced around and witnessed merry-making (of all sorts!). Many maypoles were left up year round as they were an important symbol of community coming together. As to further symbolism ... oh there is plenty. From the sacredness of tree worship to the baseness of phallic representation; it's all a merry mix. Since summer is a time for warm weather, when blossoms and flowers abound, and crops are planted ... it is natural to think of celebrating love and beauty and of growth and fertility. Couples went "a-maying" and the dancers, in weaving ribbons around the maypole, probably hinted at romantic unions.
But this was meant to be just a mere moment for maypoles! I've made a small one for the garden fairies to dance around. By day and by night, thus far, my camera has caught only cats ...
Bibliography: Wikipedia, Maypole, last edit Apr 2021; Witta, An Irish Pagan Tradition, Edain McCoy, Llewellyn Publications, 1993
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