Thursday, May 10, 2012


For most people the month of May brings to mind may baskets and flowers, Mother's Day...things we think of as sweet and wholesome. But I think about maypoles, the ancient customs that once surrounded them, and the big party we could all be enjoying, if we put aside our modern sensibilities for just one month, and embraced the Maypole. After all, May used to be a time of debauchery. Even Julie Andrews sang about the "Lusty month of May" in the Broadway production of Camelot.

According to Wikipedia, cranky Protestants in the 16th century frowned on maypoles and maypole doins', and cracked down on the revelers. Even here in the New World, maypole enthusiasts met with persecution.

Records show that in 1628, William Bradford, governor of New Plymouth, wrote of an incident where indentured servants fled their servitude and formed their own colony. They erected a maypole in the center of their settlement, and engaged in shameful maypole activities, much to the scorn and disapproval of the nearby colonies.

In Bradford's words:

"They also set up a May-pole, drinking and dancing about it many days togaether, inviting the Indean women, for their consorts, dancing and frisking togither, (like so many fairies, or furies rather,) and worse practises. As if they had anew revived & celebrated the feasts of ye Roman Goddes Flora, or ye beasly practieses of ye madd Bacchinalians. Morton likwise (to shew his poetrie) composed sundry rimes & verses, some tending to lasciviousnes, and others to ye detraction & scandall of some persons, which he affixed to this idle or idoll May-polle. They chainged allso the name of their place, and in stead of calling it Mounte Wollaston, they call it Merie-mounte, as if this joylity 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 ye broad seall, for ye governmente of ye Massachusets, who visiting those parts caused ye May-polle to be cutt downe, and rebuked them for their profannes, and admonished them to looke ther should be better walking; so they now, or others, changed ye name of their place againe, and called it Mounte-Dagon."[20]


  1. My Mom was a real fan of May Day. As I recall, she deemed it a holiday. (we still had to go to school) I don't remember dancing around a May-polle but we must have had fun...I guess.

    BTW-I think Bill would be better served spending his time taking a couple spelling classes rather that worrying about the party up on the hill.

  2. Yes, Indeede, his spaellyng is ye scandall here.

    It's cool that your mom celebrated May Day. I always wanted to make a big deal out of it with my girls and make may baskets, but most years I was too tired, busy, overwhelmed. I think one year we did leave flowers on the neighbor's doorstep.

  3. We used to do the same. Except it wasn't the first of May. It was the end of October and we left the flowers in a paper bag on the porch...and the bag was on fire...and it wasn't flowers in the bag.

  4. Of course you left burning bags of doo-doo on someone's porch step! Why does this not surprise me?!

  5. I think we left a may basket for joshie and jacob once. Yeah, one of those things that are hard to make time for.

  6. always wondered this, simone....when you include an excerpt from someone,,do you type it out? 'cause if you had to type the whole thing from mr. bradford it must have been tedious. i remember making may baskets in school. catholic school.

  7. Naw, no typing it out. I just copy and paste.