Flora and the Maypole….

This print started out as FLORA the flower Goddess but soon after some thought morphed into the personification of the Maypole …not so pretty but more distinct 🌀….She is Queen of Spring and wears the crown of the Maypole …….

In my school days all schools had a Maypole – a huge wooden pole with a designated hole in the playground . I see Flora as the Queen of the Maypole…

May Day celebrations have their origins in the Roman festival of Flora, goddess of fruit and flowers, which marked the beginning of summer. It was held annually from April 28th to May 3rd.The pre-christian Romans observed the festival of Floralia in honour of Flora, goddess of flowers. Roman mythology however tells of the Godess Cybele (6 BCE), goddess of flowers and fruitfulness, whose lover, Attis, was gored by a wild boar and bled to death under a pine tree. The distraught Cybele believed that the spirit of Attis had been transferred to the tree and she therefore had it cut down and brought back to Rome, decorated with flowers and garlands. A period of mourning was then observed after which Attis’s spirit was resurrected and restored to Cybele, symbolising the rebirth of all living things in the spring.

Great celebrations followed and it is suggested that this is the origin of the custom of bringing back a tree from the woods and setting it up as a Maypole, decorated with flowers and garlands. In certain parts May Day was known as “Furry Day”. In the South west – Helston. A traditional May day dance -is known as Maypole Dancing. Our own customs preserve in some form many of the elements of the Roman tradition. In the past, young people would go to the woods on the night before May Day or early in the morning and bring back a tree decorated with flowers and garlands. The tree would be set up in a central place as a Maypole and would be the focal point of the day’s celebrations.

Garlands have always played an important part in the proceedings and they are described in the Literary Gazette in 1847 as being “firmed from a hoop for a rim with two half hoops attached to it, crossed above, much in the shape of a crown; each member is beautifully adorned with flowers.” The garlands were suspended on a pole and taken round from house to house. An essential part of May Day celebrations has always been the procession round the neighbourhood accompanied by loud music, usually played on horns and bagpipes.
Inevitably, the holiday atmosphere and excessive eating and drinking must have led to unruly behaviour and this was much disapproved of by the Puritans who banned maypoles in 1644. Very few maypoles were left standing in defiance of this edict.  Maypoles and May Day celebrations were again allowed after the restoration of the monarchy.


About redseedsgatherer

Linda Hill
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