The Maypole

To celebrate the May bank holiday we're getting in the mood for festivities with Selvedge issue 11, and the history of the maypole. Before you get lost in its history though, make sure to take note of our special bank holiday discount on Selvedge magazines! Just enter the code MAYPOLE at the checkout to receive 12 issues for the price of 6...

It’s hard to believe that the seemingly innocuous garden party atmosphere of Mayday was once considered highly controversial. Mayday festivities were banned by the Puritans during the years of the Protectorate. Although the Puritans were noted killjoys who also put an end to Christmas festivities, if they were aware of the obscure and sometimes obscene origins of Mayday rituals they would certainly have felt justified.

The Maypole with its phallic symbolism is obviously part of the fertility rites of spring. The Hobby Horse seems more mysterious: but like the May Queen he is a vestige of the celebrations which took place across Europe as hoards of men dressed as animals and girls dressed as queens to be symbolically married, an act that was frequently consummated as the festivities continued on to greet the dawn.

The history of the hobby horse delves into the ancient recesses of our pre-Christian past, a time when the horse god brought the spring and was venerated in such impressive art as the white horse cut into the chalk hillside at Uffington. The horse god represented fertility, essential for an agrarian culture where without fertile land, fertile crops and fertile animals there was no food and no future...

You can read this article in full in Selvedge issue 11.

Enter the code MAYPOLE at the checkout to receive 12 issues for the price of 6.

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