|The Maypole by Peter Miller|
It is a glorious day today. The sun is shining, Bluebells are blooming in the woods, Swallows and House Martins swoop overhead, bright Brimstone Butterflies flit amongst the May blossom in the hedgerows and the children at the school in the back garden have celebrated the first day of May.
The old ritual of dancing round a Maypole would not be with us today had the Puritans had their way for they banned this ancient tradition of paying homage to Nature and to the feminine in particular. When the throne was restored under Charles II he was more tolerant of merry making (he was known as The Merry Monarch!) and the day was celebrated all over Britain. According to Tradamis, 'a notable one was in the Strand. This was 134 foot high (41m) and stood there until Sir Isaac Newton used parts of it as a base for his telescope!'
Nature Sculpture 1899-1900
Mucha Museum, Prague, Czech Republic
We can credit the Pre-Raphaelite John Ruskin for the Maypole as we know it in the present day. He was very keen on Nature and believed that along with learning to read and write children needed to take exercise. He thought this should include being out of doors and learning to dance. In 1881 while at Whitelands College (a training college for teachers) he initiated a May Festival for which he created a series of dances. His idea was embraced by the teachers who passed them on, and carried them with them on their teaching assignments. By the time of Ruskin's death in 1900 this vision he had was looked upon as tradition.
Some of these early Maypoles survive on village greens and are still used today for festivities. I love these countryside traditions and they are quite wondrous to see knowing that people have enjoyed them for centuries.
|The Bluebells at Queen Charlotte's Cottage in Kew Gardens|