Happy May Day!

| On
Sunday, May 01, 2005

I interrupt my tardy posts about Wordstock to wish everyone a happy May Day! Here is a description of May from the Ecyclopaedia Brittanica 11th edition (from 1911):

May, the fifth month of our modern year, the third of the old Roman calendar. The origin of the name is disputed; the derivation from Maia, the mother of Mercury, to whom the Romans were accustomed to sacrifice on the first day of the Month is usually accepted. The ancient Romans used on May Day to go in procession to the grotto of Egeria. From the 28th of April to the 2nd of May was kept the festival of Flora, in honor of the goddess of flowers. By Romans the month was considered unlucky for marriages, owing to the celebration on the 9th, 11th, and 13th of the Lemuria, the festival of the unhappy dead. This superstition has survived to the present day.

In medieval and Tudor England, May Day was a great public holiday. All classes of the people, young and old alike, were up with the dawn and went "a-Maying" in the woods. Branches of trees and flowers were borne back in triumph to the towns and villages, the centre of the procession being occupied by those who shouldered the maypole, glorious with ribbons and wreaths. The maypole was usually of birch, and set up for the day only; but in London and the larger towns the poles were of durable wood and permanently erected. They were special eyesores to the Puritans. John Stubbes in his Anatomy of Abuses (1583) speaks of them as those "stinckying idols," about which the people "leape and daunce, as the heathen did." Maypoles were forbidden by the parliament in 1644, but came once more into favor at the Restoration, the last to be erected in London being that set up in 1661. This pole, which was of cedar, 134 ft. high, was set up by twelve British sailors under the personal supervision of James II., then duke of York and lord high admiral, in the Strand on or about the site of the present church of St Mary's-in-the-Strand. Takend down in 1717, it was conveyed to Wansted Park in Essex, where it was fixed by Sir Isaac Newton as part of the support of a large telescope, presented to the Royal Society by a French astronomer.
For an acccount of the May Day survivals in rural England see P.H. Ditchfield, Old English Customs extant at Present Times (1897)

So ends the britannica article. I will edit in some links shortly (hopefully before the end of May 1) to other May 1/early May celebrations including the International Workers of the World day, and the Gaelic Beltane.
edit: Here's a link to a site with more links on Beltane - by just browsing I already learned that the Hawthorne is also referred to as the Mayflower! Caveat - be sure to go to the botttom of the page right away to turn off the obnoxious computer bagpipes!
Here's an article on the history of the worker's struggle and how it ties in to May Day.

Do you know of any early summer/ May specific songs? the only one I can think of off the top of my head is XTC's The Wheel & the Maypole.
Be First to Post Comment !
Post a Comment

Klik the button below to show emoticons and the its code
Hide Emoticon
Show Emoticon