Nursery Rhymes

May Pole Dancing

Medieval life and Times

May Pole Dancing - Definition
Definition and description of a May Pole: A May Pole was a tall vertical pole decorated with streamers or ribbons that were held by dancers who performed May Pole dancing to celebrate May Day. The May Pole was erected on the Village Green or a similar open space about which the rustic May-day sports were held.

Description of May Pole Dancing
May Pole dancing featured the young girls perform circle dances around a tall pole, painted in stripes, which was decorated with garlands of flowers and other emblems. The youngest girls danced in the inner circle whilst the older girls danced in the outer circle. The girls each held a ribbon which was attached to the May Pole. May Pole Dancing involved circular steps during which the ribbons were intertwined and plaited. The May pole dancers would then unravel the ribbon by retracing their steps.

Medieval Dance

May Pole Dancing - The May Pole
The cutting of a great tree and bringing it to a village to use as a May Pole was a great event in Medieval village life. Great care was taken in choosing the tree, and neighbouring villages often competed with each other to have the tallest May Pole. The bark of the tree was removed, or smoothed, and decorated with garlands of flowers and brightly colored ribbons to prepare the May Pole. The May Pole was then erected in the centre of the Village Green. This ritual was repeated in villages every year, however some of the May Poles which were erected in towns were permanent and only fresh flowers and ribbons were added for the May festivities.

The Origin and History of May Pole dancing
The origin of May Pole dancing dates back to the Pagan times, and the Maypole was basically a phallic symbol. Trees have always been the symbol of the great vitality and fertility of nature.  May Pole dancing was therefore strongly associated with fertility. Traditionally May Pole Dancing was performed by the young girls from the Medieval villages as part of the May time celebrations. The History of the Maypole and May Pole dancing was connected with both the Druids, Wiccans and the Romans. May 1 was an important date for the Druids as this was when the festival of Beltane held. Beltane marked the beginning of the pastoral summer season and was celebrated by lighting fires. Wiccans celebrated by dancing round a Maypole and choosing a May Queen. Then the Romans came to occupy the British Isles. The beginning of May was also an important feast time for the Romans which was devoted primarily to the worship of Flora, the goddess of flowers when the Festival of Floralia was held. Over time the traditions and rituals of the Floralia were added to those of the Beltane culminating in May Pole dancing, which is still carried out to this day.

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