Blessed Beltane!

The May Pole Dance

Maypole dancing is a form of folk dance from western Europe , especially England ,Sweden and Germany , with two distinctive traditions. In the most widespread, dancers perform circle dances around a tall pole which is decorated with garlands, painted stripes, flowers, flags and other emblems. In the second, dancers dance in a circle each holding a coloured ribbon attached to a much smaller pole; the ribbons are intertwined and plaited either on to the pole itself or into a web around the pole. The dancers may then retrace their steps exactly in order to unravel the ribbons.

The first kind of maypole dancing is probably extremely ancient and is thought by some to have Germanic pagan fertility symbolism , although there is a frustrating lack of evidence to support this conjecture. It is traditionally performed in the spring around the festival of May Day , but in Sweden it is during the midsummer festivities.

The Maypole is often considered a phallic symbol , coinciding with the worship of Germanic phallic figures such as that of Freyr . Potential other meanings include symbolism relating to the Yggdrasil , a symbolic axis linking the underworld , the world of the living , the heavens and numerous other realms. Also likely related, reverence for sacred trees can be found in surviving accounts of Germanic tribes, for example, Thor's Oak ,Adam of Bremen 's account of Sacred groves and the Irminsul.

The second kind of maypole dancing originates in the 18th century , derived from traditional and 'art' dance forms popular in Italy and France . These were exported to the London stage and reached a large audience, becoming part of the popular performance repertoire. Adopted at a large teacher training institution, the ribbon maypole dance then spread across most of central and southern England and is now regarded as the most 'traditional' of May Day's traditional characteristics.

The Betane Fires

In Irish mythology , the beginning of the summer season for the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milesians started at Bealtaine. Great bonfires would mark a time of purification and transition, heralding in the season in the hope of a good harvest later in the year, and were accompanied with ritual acts to protect the people from any harm by Otherworldly spirits, such as the Sídhe . Like the festival of Samhain , opposite Beltane on Nov. 1, Beltane was a time when the Otherworld was seen as particularly close at hand. Early Gaelic sources from around the 10th century state that the druids of the community would create a need-fire on top of a hill on this day and drive the village's cattle through the fires to purify them and bring luck ( Eadar dà theine Bhealltainn in Scottish Gaelic , 'Between two fires of Beltane'). In Scotland, boughs of juniper were sometimes thrown on the fires to add an additional element of purification and blessing to the smoke. People would also pass between the two fires to purify themselves. This was echoed throughout history after Christianization , with lay people instead of Druid priests creating the need-fire. The festival persisted widely up until the 1950s , and in some places the celebration of Beltane continues today.

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