(May) Pole Dancing

The May pole dance is not what you may think of when you hear the term “pole dance.”  The May Pole is a tradition from Europe.  It is part of community rejoicing at the return of spring.  Some people think that its origins are pagan reverence for sacred trees.  In Slovakia, where Suzi and I lived for more than two years, May poles had a small spruce or pine lashed to the top of the bigger pole.   In Denmark it is called the “May Tree.”  In Northern Scandinavia the May Pole dance happens during mid-summer celebrations.  But it is still called a May Pole, perhaps because the Swedish word for “dress” is maja and the dance certainly “dresses” the pole.

The Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship celebrated May Day a day early, on April 30.  We followed the Swedish tradition of May Pole dancing on April 30 so Swedes can march with their Unions on May 1.

Our fellowship started by making garlands and wreaths for our heads.  Jay and Sherry built a small bonfire according to the Celtic tradition (where May Day is called Beltane) and then danced around a May Pole.  Everyone grabbed one or two ribbons and counted off one two, one two.  Ones went clockwise and twos went counter clockwise. (Traditionally boys and girls alternated around the May Pole, each gender going in a different direction.)   The dancers did kind of a “Grand Right and Left” that continued until the pole was wrapped.  But there is motion added, you had to duck under every second ribbon to give the pole a braided look.  Jay called out “Over, Under, Over, Under.”   Some mainland European poles have only two colored ribbons and everyone goes in the same direction so the May Pole looks kind of line a barber pole.   In Sitka the dance continued until the pole was wrapped in a colorful, braided “pole cozy.”

Happy May Day, Happy Beltane!

To see my post on London’s Beltane Bash, click here.

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