Merry May Day Newsletter
May 1, 2019
From Maia to Mary
Today is the date that lies between spring equinox and summer solstice, one of the eight Celtic Fire Festivals since early times. In Greek myth, little Hermes was born to Zeus and the nymph Maia (she was one of the Pleiades or ‘Seven Sisters’) at her cavelike home in the mountainous Greek region of Arcadia. See the Homeric Hymns for fun details about the birth of my favorite little Greek god. Our fifth month of the year is named for his mother, Maia.
When Christianity arrived in the West, the earlier gods and goddesses of Greek, Latin, Celtic, and Teutonic rituals were each appropriated as ‘Saints of the Church.’ And their earlier ‘Holy Days’ (our holidays) are now celebrated as Christian saints’ days.
The only festival that had always seemed so pagan, so unacceptably primal, that it was never appropriated or claimed as a Christian holiday, was May 1st. The Protestants, Puritans, and iconoclasts reviled the entire idea of celebrating any sort of reawakening of primal energy and actually banned the Virgin Mother’s icon (image) for quite awhile.
However, the impulse has remained so strong to revel in this harbinger of the first warmth of spring, that by medieval times ‘Maypoles’ were being erected around Europe, with lusty dances and revels reminiscent of Roman bacchanalia. And within these past hundred years, the Roman Church itself has declared the entire month of May as dedicated to devotion and praise of none other than the quintessential mother: the Virgin Mary!
So today, let’s celebrate fertility and fecundity, of plants, animals, women and men — and especially of ideas! Icon=Idea=Image=Imagination.
Happy Fertility Day!
(For more on the lusty month of May, find my Carpe Diem Newsletter here.)