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Dancing the Maypole

Guest Author - Leslie Ravenwing

May Day is celebrated all over Europe in our current age and consists of men and women, or boys & girls, grabbing ends of colored ribbons that are attached to the top of a pole planted in the ground. Atop the pole is a flowered wreath. Men or boys dance one direction (often clockwise) and women or girls dance the other direction (often counter-clockwise). They then alternate going over one person, under the next with their ribbon to create a fine weave around the pole. As the ribbons tightly weave around the pole, the flowered wreath slides down over the pole until the dance is ended.

Up until recently, the May Pole dance was practiced heavily all over the world, especially in Indo-European rooted nations, especially the United States until (1) fundamental churches discovered its true origins and meaning, and (2) busy urban city-centers created a lifestyle that had no time for such silly practices. The English celebrate May Day as the "Morris Dancers" who are men who dress up and dance the may pole, or place bells on their ankles to dance atop hills striking the earth with their staves to wake it up & tell it to produce. It was attempted to be stamped out by puritanical religions beginning in the 7th century by the Church condemning participants as sinners. 17th century in France church bells were rung to protect the city from flying witches during the month of May. Some recognize its Pagan origin, while others see its fun traditions. Many schools and children dance the May every May 1st - just because its a fun thing to do. Some even go to the extent of electing a May King & Queen. The choice is yours - its a fun tradition . Regardless of whether you keep its origin in its place or incorporate it within or outside of you May Day Celebration. So, in case you decide to add this tradition to your heritage, here's how to make one:

What you need:

For a small group (4-10) a 9' pole,
medium group (12-20) a 18' pole, and
large (22-50) a 27' tall pole.

This could be a tree cut in the woods (trim it of branches, leaving a stub on top to hold the wreath if possible) or purchasing thick lumber bamboo the attach to each other, or a round piece of post from a lumber company. For the 9' pole you want to plant it at least a foot deep in the ground, the 18' pole, at least 1 *' deep, and the the 27' at least 2' deep. You want strips of material for the ribbon - you can go buy pre-colored ribbon from a craft store
the exact length of the pole before it is planted, or fabric in the yard and cut up in 1 inch wide strips the exact length of the pole. Or if you want to be semi-natural about it - take white cloth, muslin, or bed sheets and tear them into strips of *" - 1 inch width at the length of the unburied pole. Dye them with your own natural dyes. Tie or attach these alternating colors at the top of the pole.

Place a wooden peg or find a broken branch towards the top point of the pole. Take grape vine and wrap itself around itself to make a wreath whose inner diameter is three times the width of the pole. Then stick lots of foliage and flowers in the wreath. You can also make your own wreaths to wear while dancing. Now plant the pole firmly into the ground, now you are ready to do the dance.

A popular weaving & dancing chant is:

"We are the flow, we are the web,
we are the weavers, we are the web."
(Starhawk, I believe)
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Content copyright © 2014 by Leslie Ravenwing. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Leslie Ravenwing. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Ro Longstreet for details.

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