Spring has returned to the Finger Lakes

Maypoles are erected as signs that the happy season of warmth and comfort had returned, part of the general rejoicing at the return of summer, and the growth of new vegetation. In this way, they bore similarities with the May Day garlands which were also a common festival practice in Britain and Ireland. Look closely and you’ll spot garlands worn in the crowd.

Before the performance, the teacher explained the educational rationale for the dance, having to do with sensory development, especially proprioception: also referred to as kinanesthesia (or kinesthesia), is the sense of self-movement, force, and body position. It is sometimes described as the “sixth sense”.

I included Kayvon’s two grandmothers discussing the art of wool spinning, making yard on a spinning wheel. I used the children’s songs, at the end, as theme music throughout. I was going to overlay the first song over the grandmothers until I reviewed the cut and decided the “cookoo, cookoo, cookoo” song would not be appreciated.

The earliest use of the Maypole in America occurred in 1628, when William Bradford, governor of New Plymouth, wrote of an incident where a number of servants, together with the aid of an agent, broke free from their indentured service to create their own colony, setting up a maypole in the center of the settlement, and behaving in such a way as to receive the scorn and disapproval of the nearby colonies, as well as an officer of the king, bearing patent for the state of Massachusetts. Bradford writes:

They also set up a Maypole, drinking and dancing about it many days together, inviting the Indian women, for their consorts, dancing and frisking together, (like so many fairies, or furies rather,) and worse practices. As if they had a new revived & celebrated the feasts of the Roman Goddess Flora, or the beastly practices of the mad Bacchanalians. Morton likewise (to shew his poetry) composed sundry rimes & verses, some tending to lasciviousness, and others to the detraction & scandal of some persons, which he affixed to this idle or idol Maypole. They changed also the name of their place, and instead of calling it Mount Wollaston, they call it Merie-mounted, as if this jollity would have lasted ever. But this continued not long, for after Morton was sent for England, shortly after came over that worthy gentleman, Mr. John Indecott, who brought a patent under the broad seal, for the government of Massachusetts, who visiting those parts caused the Maypole to be cut down, and rebuked them for their profanes, and admonished them to look there should be better walking; so they now, or others, changed the name of their place again, and called it Mount-Dagon.

Governor Bradford’s censure of the Maypole tradition played a central role in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fictional story “The Maypole of Merry Mount”, published in 1837.

Source: Wikipedia “Maypole” and “proprioception.”

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

3 thoughts on “Maypole!!

  1. Thank you Michael for sharing this fascinating look at some history behind the Maypole. Fortunately, this tradition survived this Puritan dilemma with its initial reaction.

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