May Day on May
1st & it's Roman Roots: the Floralia from April 28
--- May 3
Flora, the Goddess of Blossoms and Flowers (1880)
De Morgan Foundation Collection
When the Romans came to occupy the
British Isles. The beginning of May was a very popular
feast time for the Romans. It was devoted primarily to
the worship of Flora, the goddess of flowers.
around the world use the observance of May Day as a rich
source of multicultural activities that can complement
the May curriculum. Dancing around the Maypole is an
often popular activity for the younger children,
although the boys may need a little encouragement.
meaning of the Maypole dates back to the
spring fertility festivals of India and
Egypt. The Maypole was decorated with
flowers and streamers. The streamers were
held by dancers who circled the pole,
weaving a pattern as they passed each other
during the dance. The pole represents the
masculine principle of nature whereas the
wreath represents the feminine principle.
Half year mark
|May Day is
exactly a half-year from November 1, All Saints' Day.
For the Druids of the British Isles, May 1 was the
second most important holiday of the year. Because, it
was when the festival of Beltane held. It was thought
that the day divides the year into half. The other half
was to be ended with the Samhain on November 1.
|"If we use the
solar cycle, which would be most apparent cycle to the
old agrarian communities of Europe and North America,
May 1st is the approximate beginning for the start of
Solar Summer. This day starts the quarter of the
year with the greatest potential sunlight and the
longest days north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
Many of the so-called folk or pagan
festivals and days of observance were tied to the solar
and lunar cycles and the great cycles of life. By the
start of May, most trees are in full leaf, many Spring
flowers are in bloom and the Earth is brimming with both
plant and animal life taking advantage of the high sun
levels and ever warmer temperatures. The longer daylight
hours allow folks to take advantage of the natural light
for both work and play."
Keith C. Heidorn, PhD, ACM
THE WEATHER DOCTOR
The hawthorn’s "orgiastic use …
corresponds with the cult of the Goddess Flora, and..
accounts for the English medieval habit of riding out on
May Morning to pluck flowering hawthorn boughs and dance
around the maypole. Hawthorn blossom has, for many men,
a strong scent of female sexuality; which is why the
Turks use a flowering branch as an erotic symbol."
(1895 - 1985), The White Goddess, p. 176
Earth Goddess of May
|The only month that
was certainly named after a deity is March but it is
very possible that Maia, the daughter of Atlas and
Pleione and mother of Mercury [Hermes] by Jupiter gives
May its name. Another possibility is for Bona Dea, the
earth goddess of chastity and fruitfulness of women
|I have come to the
fourth month, full of honor for you; Venus, you know
both the poet and the month are yours."
It was later said that "April was sacred to Venus, and
her festival “the Festum Veneris and Fortuna VirilisâÄ
“occurred on the first day of this month." Apparently
Aprilis stems from aphrilis, corrupted from
Aphrodite, or from Apru, an Etruscan borrowing of
Greek Aphrodite, a fertility goddess. Alternatively, it
may stem from the Latin aperire (to open), as so
many buds and blossoms open in this month.
there is little debate that the month was dedicated
to the fertility goddess the Romans called Venus and the Greeks
|June dedicated to the goddess of
marriage, Juno make and excellent triad for festivals inspired
by love with Venus and Maia.
The Month of
May is named after the goddess Maia, the wife of Mars,
Mother to Mercury.
Since the dawn of time, human-kind has
celebrated the spirit and intention of the season in ritual and
festival. These fecund festival forms
continue to release spirits of the season across time and
especially myth, cult and religion, are tenaciously preserved in
nonphysical forms but constantly being transformed by time and
contact with other stories, rhythms and colors. It is this
spirit which is the way of truth to life’s renewal.
The festival of
Floralia or Florales Ludi
Goddess of Spring, Flowers,
and youthful pleasures
The Queen of Spring is a beautiful and serene Goddess. She was
married to Zephyrus, the west wind.
Flora is the twin sister to Faunus, the god of wild creatures,
originally was called Sabine
was also known as Chloris to the Greeks.
It was a celebration of Nature in
full blossom, a carnival of sexual fun and liberty and marked by
the consumption of oceans of grog. Beans and other seeds were
planted, representing fecundity. Originally a movable feast
controlled by the condition of the crops and flowers, it’s
believed to have been instituted in 238 BCE under the command of
an oracle in the Sibylline books, with the purpose of gaining
from the goddess the protection of the blossoms. Games were
instituted in honour of Flora at that time, but were soon
discontinued before being restored in 173 BCE in the consulship
of L Postumius Albinus and M Popilius Laenas as a six-day
festival, after storms had destroyed crops and vines.
Offerings of milk and honey were made on this day and the
surrounding five days, which comprise the Florifertum. The city
would have been decorated in flowers, and the people would wear
floral wreaths or flowers in their hair.
Day and night there were games, pantomimes,
theatre and stripteases with people of all classes in their
brightest clothes. Goats and hares were let loose as they
represented fertility. Gift-giving for the season included small
vegetables as tokens of sex and fertility.
GAMES & COMPETITIONS:
It was celebrated annually with games (ludi Florales)
These farces and mimes, which received official recognition,
were known for their licentiousness. The courtesans and
prostitutes of Rome, regarded the day as their own,
performing naked in the theater and, suggests Juvenal (Satire
VI), fought in the gladiatorial arena. Early sexual
performances of were probably for the promotion of
fertility, but before long the season was a celebration of
general sexual freedom among the whole populace until the
authorities clamped down.
The final fifth festival day called Florifertum:
Flora was also the goddess of Spring, especially associated with
vines, olives, fruit trees and honey-bearing plants. A temple
was built for her at the Circus Maxima between the Aventine and
the Palatine hills, and a shrine at the Quirinal at which corn
stalks were offered. When Augustus became Pontifex Maximus, he
built a chapel to Vesta in his own house on the Palatine, and
dedicated it on this day, which was made a public holiday.
Hekate was celebrated the last three
days of each lunar month. On May 1, Roman women honored her as
Bona Dea, the Good Goddess. They met in secret by night to
invoke her names: Fauna of the animals, Damia lady of wild
places, Ops giver of abundance, Fatua speaker of prophecies,
Tarentia of the underworld, Rhea the sky mother, Maia Majestas
Queen of the May
The sixth day of the new moon of May is the birthday of Artemis,
Goddess of birth and protector of wild creatures. The seventh
day of the May moon is the birthday of her brother Apollo, for
whom one-day-old Artemis acted as midwife
AROUND THE WORLD
Scandinavia & Germany:
Viking fertility celebrations took place around April 30
and due to Walburga being declared a saint at that time
of year, her name became associated with the
celebrations. Walburga was worshipped in the same way
that Vikings had celebrated spring and as they spread
throughout Europe, the two dates became mixed together
and created the Walpurgis Night celebration.
Walpurgisnacht, the night of April
30th, is a night on which people, including witches,
conduct rituals to ward off the evil spirits of winter,
and children play pranks on unsuspecting victims around
Walpurgis is one of the main holidays during the year in
both Sweden and Finland, alongside of Christmas and
Midsummer. The festival is named after Saint Walburga a
nun who was also a Saxon princess and was made a saint
on May 1st.
Berlin, Germany traditionally has yearly demonstrations
on May Day. There is little political or religious
connection to the Walpurgisnacht celebrations. the
night when allegedly the witches hold a large
celebration on the Blocksberg and await the arrival of
Spring. Maypoles remain common in Scandinavian
countries, and the trimmings are often left through
summer and winter as a gesture to symbolically insure
the coming of spring the following year
Japan: there is the so-called May sickness, a
kind of sickness where new students or workers start to
be tired of their new schoolwork or jobs. It is due to a
Japanese custom that all schoolyears and fiscal years
start on April 1st.
|Spain: On May Day by the old-style Julian
calendar in Spain, Mary of Fatima appeared above an oak
tree, wearing a crown of roses.
|France: the May Tree became the
"Tree of Liberty" and was the symbol of the French
Revolution. Despite the new nomenclature, the peasants
treated the tree in the same traditional spirit. And
they would dance around it the same way as their
forefathers had always done.
Celtic Beltane [Ireland &
word means "brilliant sacred fire" is now more
commonly known as May Day. People danced around
bonfires on hilltops, moving in a clockwise, or "sunwise"
direction. Later generations would dance around a
pole instead of a fire.
Maia is analogous to the Irish Queen Medb or Maeve, the
faery Queen Mab and Lady May. Beltane was held to mark
and celebrate the blossoming of spring, and
coincided with the ancient pastoral event of moving
livestock to their summer grazing. While Beltane
originally did not occur on any fixed solar date it
tended to be held on the first full moon after the
modern 1st of May
It was a celebration of the fertility of the land
and their animals. The main traditional element
which was common to all Beltane festivals was the
fire which gave it its name. All the fires of the
community would be extinguished and a new, sacred
'Need Fire' was lit by either the village head or
spiritual leader. From this source one or two
bonfires were lit, and the animals of the community
would be driven through or between them. It was
believed that the smoke and flame of the fires would
purify the herd, protecting them in the year to come
and ensuring a good number of offspring. The
inhabitants of the village would then take pieces of
the fire to their homes and relight their hearths,
and dance clockwise around the bonfires to ensure
good portents for them and their families.
Edmonton’s May Week
Labour Arts Festival brings together the
labour movement, workers and artists to
celebrate and support working class
culture and the contributions of artists
and workers to our society.
May Week’s goal is to
promote the interests of cultural
workers and trade unionists, and to
bring working-class culture from the
margins of cultural activity onto centre
beltane.org/ Edinburgh's Beltane
festival originates in the Scottish and
Irish Gaelic pre-Christian festival of
the same name.
|UK [England, Wales]
|In the England and much of the UK, traditional English May
Day rites and celebrations include Morris dancing,
crowning a May Queen, celebrating Green Man day and
dancing around a Maypole. The nationally observed Spring Bank
Holiday helps celebrate May Day on the first Monday
after May, and this together with the labor movement
rallies and efforts to join forces with other oppressed
people to bring attention to popular struggles all mix
more these traditional gatherings with ancient pagan roots
make the holiday weekend memorable.
Mary we crown you with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels
And Queen of the May.
Contemporary folk song sung by Roman Catholic
schoolchildren in the UK. The month is dedicated
Robin Hood and Maid Marian lead
games all over Britain. Chimney sweeps hold parades,
carrying effigies of the Green Man decked with flowers
through the streets. Hobby horse dances and Morris
dances take place from May 1 through May 8, the last day
of Beltane. Children born in the week "between the
Beltanes" have second sight and the powers and skills of
all creatures. Taliesin was found in the salmon trap of
his foster-father Elphin on May Day, a magical Beltane
child who became chief bard of Britain
Prior to the Restoration, May was a
time of great revelry,
summer was greeted by men
blowing cow horns. Young women would rise early to
cleanse their faces in May morning dew and blankets
would be soaked in the same, in the belief that sick
children would be cured once wrapped in them. Almost
every village in England had a maypole, but the Puritans
forbid them through an
official Act of Parliament in 1664.
With the restoration of the monarchy in 1661, May Day
was once again celebrated.
On the restoration of the monarchy
a Charles II General Wade raised the famous maypole in
April 1661 on The Strand in London to celebrate the
king's return to the capital. According to contemporary
sources it stood 41 yards high. However, it would appear
that the restored maypole became occasional displays of
public rejoicing. The fate of the Strand maypole was not
ignominious, in 1717 it was purchased by Sir Isaac
Newton and transported to Essex where it was adapted to
support his 'great telescope'.
The down time caused the holiday to
lose some of its sexual license and for many communities
May Day and its daytime Maypole replaced Beltane and its
nighttime fire. However Ireland and Scotland still
continue to keep fires burning bright.
A great many local fairs, parades and
other events take place in England throughout May. If
you're keen to go along some of the more traditional
|The Puritans frowned on May Day,
so the day has never been celebrated with as much
enthusiasm in the United States as in Great Britain.
|In Hawaii the May Day is
celebrated with the tradition of Lei. A festival of the
natives of Hawaii, nurtured since time immemorial, Lei
was officially celebrated first in 1929. Lei Day is
celebrated in Hawaii instead of May Day. Schools
throughout the islands crown their own kings and queens
and create courts in celebration, and to honor the
people and customs of Hawaii.
The Most Holy Virgin Mary crowned Queen
El Lucero de la Grada, Monastery
of Carmel, Cuenca de los Andes, Ecuador
of May there is a special flower
dedicated to Our Lady which corresponds
with a particular virtue. When you offer
to Mary each day of May the acts of the
designated virtue, you will have
presented her with a most beautiful
spiritual bouquet of flowers by her
glorious feast on May 31st of the
Queenship of Mary. On May 1st, the Feast
of Saint Joseph the Worker, Mary's
earthly spouse was the LILY and the
designated virtue: PURITY. No flower is
more significant in identifying the
Foster Father of Jesus and chaste
Protector of Mary than the holy Joseph
who is the symbol of purity, and that
symbolic flower is the white, pure Lily.
The only major polytheistic [pagan] holiday which has never been
On May 1st in 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman
Turks, after a long, bloody, and desperate battle. The
last emperor of the Eastern Roman empire died in battle,
his body found under a huge pile at the wall. The days
of pillage, rapine, and plunder which followed destroyed
the last surviving libraries of the ancient world would
also lead to a rebirth. The scholars found new patrons
among the trading Italian families in Venice and
Florence. The translation of the ancient books by the
old Greco-Roman authors would fuel the philosophy behind
the Italian Renaissance. One of humankind's greater
|"You start in April and
cross to the time of May
One has you as it leaves, one as it comes
Since the edges of these months are yours and defer
To you, either of them suits your praises.
The Circus continues and the theatre's lauded palm,
Let this song, too, join the Circus spectacle."
Ovid, Fasti (V.185-190)
|Augustine criticized the celebration
of Flora, questioning why it should be
"more satisfactory to irritate the gods by temperance, than to pacify them
by debauchery; and to provoke their hate by honest
living, than soothe it by such unseemly debauchery"
(De Civitate Die, II.27).
|"use life's beauty as it blooms"
|May Day is designated
International Workers' Day. It is indeed an
international holiday in many countries, but not the USA
and UK. The adoption of May Day by socialists and
also the communists as their primary holiday cements
official resistance to this holiday in the US. In a
separate attempt to co-opt May Day, the Roman Catholic
Church added another Saint Joseph's Day in 1955 that
Christianized 1 May as the day of "Saint Joseph, the
|In the U.S., Mayday is generally
considered a popular celebration of the labor movement
and associated popular struggles. In 1884 the Federation of Organized Trades and
Labor Unions, successfully demanded an eight-hour
workday in the United States, to come in effect as of
May 1, 1886.
May 1st, come to the Euromayday Parades an/dd take part
in the actions on the streets of Europe.
We are acting to become the protagonists of our own
Precarious of the world let's conspire and
for a free, open, radical europe! "
Mayday on indymedia =
Over 1,700,000 google links
Mayday is also the anarchist day of
remembrance and rage. The Mayday Tribe’s first and
last action would occur on May 3rd, 1971 to
protest the Vietnam War.
The Tribe’s plan was to “shut
down the Government" over 10,000 would be
arrested. It would be the largest mass arrest in
by Berta Joubert-Ceci
In Cuba, according to Prensa Latina, 1.3
million people gathered in historic Revolution Square. Presided
over by Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro, the gathering was also
attended by many union representatives from around the world who
had been part of the Fourth Hemispheric Conference against the
Free Trade Area of the Americas, held recently in Havana. A
total of 60 percent of Cuba’s population attended simultaneous
rallies held throughout the island.
In Brazil, where the Landless Movement MST had initiated
an 11,000-strong march from Pernambuco to Brasilia demanding
land reform on May 1, more than 1 million attended a May Day
march in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s capital.
In Mexico, where, according to the Electrical, Social
Security and Telephone workers’ unions, half of the population
survive on less than $7 a day and nine out of 10 peasants do not
receive even minimum wage, tens of thousands demonstrated
against President Vicente Fox, accusing him of being a "lackey
of the United States and the World Bank."
In Ecuador, where the masses last month forced out
President Lucio Gutiérrez, leaving his vice president, Alfredo
Palacio, in charge, 10,000 workers demonstrated, chanting "Palacio
out, Congress out, everybody out." They also carried giant
banners against the Free Trade agreement.
Demonstrations were held in almost every country of South and
Central America and the Caribbean, including Argentina,
Chile, Uruguay, Nicaragua-where protests have been held
recently against the neoliberal government of Enrique Bolaños-and
Puerto Rico. The progressive sector of the unions in this
island colony of Washington joined in solidarity with
organizations waging a struggle against the privatization of
beaches by U.S. corporations.
On May Day the Flamen Volcanis offered a
sacrifice to Maia; the women-only festival to the Bona Dea
was held; and the Lares praestites (spirits of the dead who
guarded Rome) were honored. Next came the festival for the
wandering spirits of the dead, known as Lemures. The festival
for the Lemures was held on the 9, 11, and 13 of May, but not on
the unlucky even days. The festival was part of a public cult to
propitiate the spirits of the dead so they wouldn't threaten the
In the Roman pantheon, each
of the Pleiades is associated with its own goddess (the Seven Sisters)
May is for Maia Majesta, the "Great Mother." and the Roman goddess of
spring, Traditional May Day celebrations were pre-Christian
agricultural festivals. Eventually the significance was lost and the
practices survived merely as popular festivities. It is a festival of
happiness, joy and the coming of summer.
May day is the only major festival of
pre-Christian Europe that was not adapted by the Christian
church for its own purposes. Part of a yearly cycle that
includes midwinter and harvest celebrations, it stands midway
between the long, cold nights of winter and the days of plenty
at summers end, with symbolism and ceremony that reflects its
Across Europe the key symbol of the day is
fresh spring growth, and the general hope is for fecundity.
Traditionally, youths spent the eve of May Day in neighbouring
woods and awoke the villagers the next morning by visiting each
house, singing a traditional carol and bearing garlands of fresh
leaves and flowers
The date was also reckoned as occurring on the
first full moon in the sign of Taurus, halfway between the
Spring Solstice and Midsummer Equinox, or after the blooming of
the hawthorn tree, the tree sacred to the Goddess/Queen of the
May in spring.
In the Roman pantheon, each of the Pleiades is associated with
its own goddess (the Seven Sisters), and she who lends her name
to May is Maia Majesta, the "Great Mother." mother to
Other festivals of the month include honor paid to Vulcan, Maia,
and the mother of the Lares.
May Pole & May Day through history
The maypole is a tall wooden pole
birch), with several long colored ribbons suspended
from the top. The top of the Maypole is often festooned
with flowers and greenery.
It appeared in most Germanic countries,
and is especially popular in
Austria for the May festivities, as well as in
Sweden during the
Midsummer festivities. In the
United Kingdom it plays a key role in many
May Day and
Beltane festivities and rites. It also remains
popular in the
Slovakia and coastal regions of
Finland, including the
Åland islands and the archipelago.
The Maypole as a simple pole is several centuries old
United Kingdom, but the addition of ribbons is an invention of
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.
|New France Habitants Celebrating Around a Maypole NAC/ANC;
eldritchpress.org/nh/mmm.html From Twice-Told Tales, 1836, 1837
By Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864
"The Maypole of
Merrymount" recounts a most interesting encounter between the
Puritans and the forces of anarchy and hedonism.
As Morton himself wrote in The
New England Canaan (Book III, Chapter 14): "The Inhabitants of .
. . Mare Mount . . . did devise amongst themselves . . . Revels and
merriment after the old English custome; (they) prepared to sett up a
upon the festivall day . . . and therefore brewed a barrell of excellent
beare . . . to be spent, with other good cheare, for all commers of that
day. And . . . they had prepared a song fitting to the time and present
occasion. And upon May day they brought the Maypole to the place
appointed, with drumes, gunnes, pistols and other fitting instruments,
for the purpose; and there erected it with the help of Salvages, that
came thether to see the manner of our Revels. A goodly pine tree of 80
foot longe was reared up, with a peare of buckshorns nayled one somewhat
neare unto the top of it: where it stood, as a faire sea mark for
directions how to finde out the way to mine Hoste of Mare Mount.
Maypole dance for a folk
Mount Wollaston for a maypole
celebration gone very wrong indeed
Saturnalia | this merry Roman
festival dedicated to the
involved feasts and gift giving. Saturnalia (from the god
Saturn) was the name the Romans gave to their holiday marking
the Winter Solstice. Over the years, it expanded to a whole
week, the 17 December to 23 December.
All people were considered equal during
these celebrations, slave and free, rich and poor, one with
another. Men dressed in hides of animals, women’s clothes, and
masks, enacting ritual plays. It also
degenerated in some locales, from mask playing and role reversal
to debauchery, so that among Christians the word "saturnalia"
came to mean "orgy".
It was traditional for Romans to exchange gifts during this
holiday. These gifts were customarily made of silver, although
nearly anything could be given as a gift for the occasion.
epigrams by the poet Martial survive, seemingly crafted as
riddling gift-tags for gifts of food.
The customary greeting for the occasion is "Io, Saturnalia!" —
io (pronounced "yo") being a Latin interjection related to "ho"
(as in "Ho, praise to Saturn").
Mark Ungar, San Francisco
I assume, when I say "Merry
Christmas," that whomever I direct the
greeting to will understand that what I actually mean is:
"Have a happy year-end period, regardless of which ancient
tradition of marking the winter solstice you have inherited
from your ancestral culture, and enjoy your chosen rituals
of togetherness and renewal in which our similarities -- not
our differences -- are celebrated. I am not a Christian, nor
do I assume you are one, nor do I hope to convert you to
Christianity -- but I still wish you a happy year-end period
and confer such blessings upon you as a compassionate heart
Main Page: Carnaval.com