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Encyclopedia > Maypole
Dancing around the maypole, in Åmmeberg, Sweden
Dancing around the maypole, in Åmmeberg, Sweden

The maypole is a tall wooden pole (traditionally of hawthorn or birch), sometimes erected with several long coloured ribbons suspended from the top, festooned with flowers, draped in greenery and strapped with large circular wreaths, depending on local and regional variances. What is often thought of as the "traditional" English/British maypole (a somewhat shorter, plainer version of the Scandinavian pole with ribbons tied at the top and hanging to the ground) is a relatively recent development of the tradition and is probably derived from the picturesque, Italianate dances performed in mid-19th century theatricals. It is usually this shorter, plainer maypole that people (usually school children) perform dances around, weaving the ribbons in and out to create striking patterns. Image File history File links Maypole_Sweden. ... Image File history File links Maypole_Sweden. ... Åmmeberg is a small swedish town in the municipality of Askersund, in the southern part of the province of Närke. ... Species See text Crataegus (Hawthorn) is a large genus of in the family Rosaceae, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in Europe, Asia and North America. ... Species Many species; see text and classification Birch is the name of any tree of the genus Betula, in the family Betulaceae, closely related to the beech/oak family, Fagaceae. ...


With roots in Germanic paganism, the maypole traditionally appears in most Germanic countries and Germanic country-bordering, most popularly in Germany, Sweden, Austria, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Finland in modern times for Spring, May Day, Beltane and Midsummer festivities and rites. Germanic paganism refers to the religion and mythology of the Germanic nations preceding Christianization, including Norse, Anglo-Saxon mythology, information obtained from archaeological finds and remnants of pre-Christian beliefs in the folklore of medieval and modern Germanic peoples. ... Map of the Roman Empire and the free Germania, Magna Germania, in the early 2nd century. ... Spring is one of the four seasons of temperate zones, the transition from winter into summer. ... May Day is May 1, and refers to any of several holidays celebrated on this day. ... This article is about the Gaelic holiday. ... Midsummer celebration, Ã…mmeberg, Sweden Midsummer, or Litha as it was known by the ancient Germanic peoples, refers the period of time centered upon the summer solstice and the religious celebrations that accompany it. ...

Contents

Regional traditions

Germany

This article discusses the tradition of maypole setting and dancing in Bavaria, Germany. ...

Sweden

In Sweden it is usually called a midsommarstång, as it appears at the Midsummer celebrations, but it is also called majstång, as the word maja means to decorate with greens and that is exactly how most Swedes decorate them. They appear in many varieties, the most common being a cross with two rings hanging from the "arms" and the pole is popularly identified with the male sex and the rings with the female. Garlands of leaves and flowers are usually wrapped around the pole.


Sometimes a crown of flowers is placed on top of the maypole, supported by the ribbons, so that it gradually descends the pole as the ribbons are woven together, finally falling to the ground.

A maypole at the Viktualienmarkt in Munich, Germany
A maypole at the Viktualienmarkt in Munich, Germany

Today maypole dances are often done without dividing the participants by gender, simply having them in pairs facing one another so half go one way and half go the other. ImageMetadata File history File links Download high resolution version (1536x2048, 526 KB) Maibaum at the Viktualienmarkt in Munich, Germany. ... ImageMetadata File history File links Download high resolution version (1536x2048, 526 KB) Maibaum at the Viktualienmarkt in Munich, Germany. ... Dancing around the maypole, in Åmmeberg, Sweden Maypole dancing is a traditional form of folk dance from western Europe, especially England, Sweden and Germany. ...


In Sweden similar traditions were once observed but today the pole is the centre of traditional ring dances, the songs being more or less the same as during the dances around the Christmas tree. Arrangements are usually made by local traditional groups. Swedish speaking parts of Finland often celebrate Midsummer with a midsommarstång as well. A Christmas tree in a Danish home. ...


United Kingdom

The Maypole as a simple pole is several centuries old in the United Kingdom, but the addition of ribbons seems to have been influenced by a combination of 19th century theatrical fashion and visionary individuals such as John Ruskin in the 19th century. Pairs of boys and girls (or men and women) stand alternately around the base of the pole, each holding the end of a ribbon. They weave in and around each other, boys going one way and girls going the other and the ribbons are woven together around the pole until the merry-makers meet at the base. Upper: Steel-plate engraving of Ruskin as a young man, made circa 1845, scanned from print made circa 1895. ...


There are also more complex dances for set numbers of (practised) dancers, involving complicated weaves and un-weaves, but they're not well known today. The Maypole is usually erected on a village green and events are often supervised by local Morris dancing groups. The village green in Comberton in Cambridgeshire, UK, with a pond, a village sign and a bench to enjoy the view For the community in New York, see Village Green, New York. ... A morris dance is a form of English folk dance. ...


A somewhat different Mayday Maypole tradition existed in some regions, which was the carrying of smaller, highly decorated sticks, with hoops or cross-sticks or swags attached, covered with flowers, greenery or artificial materials such as crepe paper. Children would take these hand-held poles to school on May Day morning and prizes may be awarded for the most impressive. This tradition is known as garlanding and was a central feature of Mayday celebrations in central and southern England until the mid-19th century when it began to be replaced by formally organised school-centred celebrations. It still occurs from place to place but is invariably a reinstatement of a local custom that had lapsed decades earlier.


Czech Republic

The maypole (májka or máj) is also still popular in the Czech Republic, in country villages. Villages compete to get taller maypoles than their neighbors, and during the night the youths of a village guard the maypole to keep ruffians from neighboring villages from knocking it over (while at the same time attempting forays into neighboring villages to knock over the maypoles of others).


Sri Lanka

In the 2005 Perahera (procession) at Kataragama in Sri Lanka; children in turbans, dressed like Indian princes, plaited tapes and clashed sticks as they danced around a moving, portable Maypole. They then reversed direction to un-plait the tapes around the moving maypole. Kataragama also Katharagama,and Katirkamam (Tamil கதிர்காமம்) is a regionally popular place of pilgrimage to Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and indigenous Vedda communities of Sri Lanka and South India. ...


United States

Children rehearsing around the Maypole, in Alabama, in 1910.
Children rehearsing around the Maypole, in Alabama, in 1910.

While not celebrated amongst the general public in the United States a Maypole Dance nearly identical to that celebrated in the United Kingdom is an important part of many Secondary or High School dances as part of a May Day celebration. Often the Maypole dance will be accompanied by other dances as part of a presentation to the public. Image File history File links Alabamamaypole1910. ... Image File history File links Alabamamaypole1910. ... May Day is May 1, and refers to any of several holidays celebrated on this day. ...


Communities with a large Swedish population often have Midsummer celebrations, such as Chicago, Minneapolis, and Lindsborg, Kansas.


Symbolism

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. [citation needed] Mural of Mercury in Pompeii. ... This 19th century representation of Freyr shows him with his boar Gullinbursti and his sword. ... This illustration shows a 19th century attempt to visualize the world view of the Prose Edda. ... Mount Kailash, depicting the holy family of Shiva and Ganesha The axis mundi (axis of the world or world axis), in religion or mythology, is the world center and/or the connection between heaven and Earth. ... // In the study of mythology and religion, the underworld is a generic term approximately equivalent to the lay term afterlife, referring to any place to which newly dead souls go. ... Midgard (the common English transliteration of Old Norse Miðgarðr), Midjungards (Gothic), Middangeard (Old English), Midgård (common Danish and Swedish), Midgard or Midgård (Norwegian) and Mittilagart (Old High German), from Proto-Germanic *medja-gardaz (*meddila-, *medjan-, projected PIE *medhyo-ghartos), is an old Germanic name for our... Heaven is an afterlife concept found in many religions or spiritual philosophies. ... Thors Oak was an ancient tree sacred to the Germanic tribe of the Chatti, ancestors of todays Hessians, and one of the most important sacred sites of the Germans. ... Adam of Bremen (also: Adam Bremensis) was one of the most important German medieval chroniclers. ... Sacred groves were a feature of the mythological landscape and the cult practice of Old Europe, of the most ancient levels of Scandinavian mythology, Greek mythology, Slavic mythology, Roman mythology, and in Druidic practice. ... Detail of the bent Irminsul on the Externsteine relief. ...


The present day tradition of maypoles coincides geographically with the area of influence of the Germanic mythos.


However, the assertion of phallic symbolism in relation to Maypoles is based on speculation and possibility rather than evidence and does not reflect its current semiotic values: celebration, community, youthfulness and the arrival of summer.


Modern popular culture

  • A maypole was featured in Men Without Hats' music video for the song "The Safety Dance".
  • The 1973 British film The Wicker Man features a musical scene with boys dancing around a maypole while singing a pagan song. The scene is continued in a classroom where an all girl class is taught the phallic symbolism of the maypole.

Men Without Hats are a Canadian pop group from Montreal, Quebec who were popular in the early 1980s. ... The Safety Dance was the first and biggest-selling single by the 1980s synth pop group Men Without Hats. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...

See also

Dancing around the maypole, in Åmmeberg, Sweden Maypole dancing is a traditional form of folk dance from western Europe, especially England, Sweden and Germany. ... Mount Wollaston, also known as Merrymount, is a neighborhood in Quincy, Massachusetts, USA. Mount Wollaston has a most unusual history. ...

External link

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
  • Photos of a traditional installation of a Maypole in a Bavarian village.

  Results from FactBites:
 
Maypole - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (638 words)
The maypole is a tall wooden pole (traditionally of hawthorn or birch), sometimes erected with several long colored ribbons suspended from the top, festooned with flowers, draped in greenery and strapped with large circular wreaths, depending on local and regional variances.
The Maypole as a simple pole is several centuries old in the United Kingdom, but the addition of ribbons is an invention of John Ruskin in the 19th century.
The Maypole is usually erected on a village green and events are often supervised by local Morris dancing groups.
maypole - definition of maypole in Encyclopedia (542 words)
The maypole is a tall wooden pole (traditionally of hawthorn or birch), with several long coloured ribbons suspended from the top.
The Maypole as a simple pole is several centuries old in England, but the addition of ribbons is an invention of John Ruskin in the 19th century.
In Sweden, the pole is popularly identified with the male sex and the rings with the female.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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