Sunday, May 1, 2016

The sexy origins of May Day

Ashley Wells, Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly based on
A fire festival would be fun, reading the Fire Sutra and carrying torches (Occupy Beltane).
Retro May Day: Beltane celebrations at Edinburgh Fire Festival (A Druid Way)

May Day: Russian Pagan rituals and Christian customs (
Mini Pagabu shrine (sycalaelen)
May Day is not a big holiday in the United States. But it has a long and notable history as one of the world's principal festivals.

The origin of May Day as a time for celebration dates back to when...

It was before Christ, and like so many of our popular celebrations, it has a Pagan connection.

The Druids of the British Isles saw May 1st was the second most important holiday of the year.

It was when the Festival of Beltane was held, when the day divides the year in half.

The other half would culminate in Samhain, November 1st. May Day custom was to set a new fire, an ancient New Year rite performed throughout the world.

The fire itself was thought to lend life to the burgeoning springtime sun.

Cattle were driven through the fire to purify them. Men and their sweethearts passed through the smoke for good luck.
The Powderkegs morris men brave cold to dance at May Day dawn (
Pagan May Day festival (
The beginning of May was a very popular feast time for the Romans, who invaded and occupied the British Isles.

It was devoted primarily to the worship of Flora, the Goddess of Flowers. The festival ran from April 28 to May 2.

The Romans brought in Floralia rituals, and they were gradually added to those of Beltane. Many of today's May Day customs are similar to those combined traditions.

Pagan calendar (
May Day was discouraged during the time of the Puritans.

But it was revived when the Puritans lost power in England, though it was less robust than before.

Gradually, it came to be regarded as a day of joy and merriment for children rather than ancient fertility rites.
May Day protest or Maypole dance? Keep it down. We don't the riot squad in!
The new May Day via edited by Wisdom Quarterly
Beltane Fire Society celebrate summer, Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland (
Sit-ins, demonstrations, May Day strikes, activism, resistance (

May 1st is now International Workers' Day.

It commemorates the struggle of working people throughout the world and is recognized in every country except the U.S., Canada, and South Africa.

But the holiday began in the U.S. in the 1880s with the fight for an 8-hour work day.
In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions passed a resolution that 8 hours would constitute a legal day's work beginning May 1st, 1886.

The resolution called for a general strike to achieve. The legislative route had already failed. Workers were being forced to work 10, 12, and 14 hours a day.

So support for the 8-hour movement grew quickly. But there was indifference and hostility from many union leaders. By April 1886 250,000 workers were involved in the May Day movement centered in Chicago.
The heart of the movement was organized primarily by the anarchist Int'l Working People's Association. This terrified businesses and the state. As they prepared to put down the movement, it took on an increasingly revolutionary character. 

Police and militia were increased and received weapons financed by local business leaders. Chicago's Commercial Club purchased a very expensive machine gun for the Illinois National Guard to be used against strikers. More 

Workers of the world, awaken!
Rise in all your splendid might
Take the wealth that you are making,
It belongs to you by right.
No one will for bread be crying
We'll have freedom, love, and health
When the grand red flag is flying
In the Workers' Commonwealth. - Joe Hill
More Maypoles
May Day around the Maypole, strong phallic rod, symbol, center of our dance, as streamers gush from up top and girls in their spring best take hold (gemmasjourneyoflove).

May Day became the United States' International Workers' Day (happygourmand)
Will the lowly worker-soldiers rise up? US troops perform Pagan rituals at Forward Operating Base Wilson in Zhari Province, Afghanistan (Ben Gilbert/GlobalPost/
By the Middle Ages every English village had its own Maypole. 

Bringing the Maypole from the woods was a great occasion accompanied by much rejoicing and merrymaking.

Maypoles came in all sizes. And villages would vie with one another to show which could produce the tallest.

Maypoles were usually set up for the day in small towns, but in larger towns and in London they were erected permanently.
Maypole: Beltaine, now May Day, in Europe in the US is Int'l Workers' Day (happygourmand)
The Maypole tradition suffered a setback for decades when the Puritan Long Parliament stopped it in 1644.

However, with the return of the Stuarts, the Maypole reappeared and the festivities of May Day were again enjoyed.

One of the changes brought about by the Reformation was an attempt to do away with practices that were obviously of Pagan origin.
Although they succeeded, the Maypole or May Tree with most of the other associated traditions still survived. In France it merely changed names. Elsewhere, the May Tree became the "Tree of Liberty" and was regarded as the symbol of the French Revolution.

Despite the new name, the celebrants treated the tree like a traditional Maypole. They danced around it the same way as their forefathers and mothers.
Trees are linked to celebrations back as far as ancient New Year rites.

The association of trees came riding on the back of the Spring Festival in ancient Europe.

Trees have always been a symbol of the great vitality and fertility of nature and were used in spring festivals of antiquity.

May Day: first snake's head fritillary's bloom, North Meadow, Cricklade, Wiltshire (dailymail)
Anthropologist E. O. James finds a strong relationship between ancient tree-related traditions of the British and Romans. According to James' description, as a part of May Day celebrations youths in Europe cut down a tree, lopped off most of the branches leaving a few at the top.

They then wrapped it with violets like the figure of the ancient Roman god Attis. At sunrise, they used to take it back to their villages blowing horns and flutes.

Similarly, the sacred pine representing Attis was carried in procession to the temple of Cybele on Rome's Palatine Hill during the Spring Festival of March 22nd.
Roots in America
Christian Puritans in U.S. (
The Puritans in the U.S. frowned on May Day, so the day has never been celebrated with as much enthusiasm as in Great Britain.

But the tradition of celebrating by dancing and singing around the Maypole, decorated with colorful streamers or ribbons, survived as a part of the English tradition. 

Children celebrating the day by moving back and forth around the pole, choosing a May Queen, and hanging May baskets on doorknobs are all leftovers of old European traditions.

May Day US
Our democracy has been hijacked by a handful of uber-wealthy corporations and families. The framers of our constitution envisioned a democracy that was representative of us all.
It now costs millions to get and stay elected. That means representatives are indebted to large donors to fund their elections.
There's a solution! Simple legislation that maximizes small donor contributions by matching them 6:1. This has been proven to nullify the corruption of big money on our political system. More

May Day today at the Beltane Fire Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland (

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