The Ace of Wands (for more Maypole information follow the link) from the Wheel of Change Tarot by Alexandra Genetti
The Dance / Chants / The Pole / Ribbons / The Wreath / Consecration
It's impossible to think of Beltane without thinking of the Maypole. This is perhaps one of the most popular symbols of the season, representing the Divine Marriage between the Lord and Lady of the Greenwood. The pole represents the male principle, and the ribbons that wrap around it (and the wreath placed atop the pole) are symbolic of the female principle.
The Maypole represents the phallus of the God. The wreath atop represents the vagina of the Goddess. As the Maypole is danced, the ribbons wind around the pole and the wreath lowers, symbolizing the Divine Marriage, the sexual union of God and Goddess. --Yasmine Galenorn, Dancing with the Sun
The May Day dance is rich in pagan symbolism. There are usually eight dancers, one for each sabbat of the year, paired into four couples. (Of course, many more may dance. This is only a suggestion.) The dance involves moving in circles and weaving over and under the other dancers. The women take the white ribbons with their right sides to the pole, and the men take the red ribbons with their left sides to the pole. The weaving of the symbolic birth canal begins with music or chanting as everyone moves forward from where they stand, moving alternately over and under each person coming toward them. (To start, the men begin weaving under the upheld ribbon of the first woman they encounter). Continue the dance until the maypole is wrapped. Tie off the ribbons and let the wreath drop to the ground.
Many folks wear bells when dancing the May dance. Make your steps a cross between a skip and a jog, coming down in time to the music, so that the bells mark off the beats of the music or chant.
May Day Chants
(the following chants provided by Grey Mere on the Sabbats listserv)
We are the flow and we are the ebb
We are the weavers, we are the web
We are the needle, we are the thread
We are the witches, back from the dead
We are weaving the web of life.
Weave, weave, weave me a rainbow
Out of the falling rain.
Weave me the hope of a new tomorrow.
Fill my cup again
Lady, weave Your circle tight
With a web of living light
Earth and Air and Fire and Water
Bind us to you.
The traditional Maypole is a fir tree that has been stripped of all but its uppermost branches (often the trunk of the Yule tree was saved for the Maypole), but traditions vary. Some use oak; others pine. It may range in height from a few feet to as large as you care to make it. (Bear in mind, ribbon will need to be twice as long as the pole.) With unlimited space outdoors, ten feet is a good length. Of course, in a pinch, even a flagpole would do. For those who have restricted space or who have to celebrate indoors, a 3-4 foot dowel inserted in a wooden base and placed upon the altar will work as well.
If you cut a tree for the Maypole, please ask the tree's permission before cutting and leave an offering at the base. An offering of food, wine, or flowers is entirely appropriate.
However many ribbons you use, you will need equal numbers of at least two colors, depending on the number of dancers you'll have. I recommend at least 6-8 dancers. Ribbons for the pole should be twice as long as the pole and about two to three inches wide. Colors vary according to preference. Traditional colors are red for the God and white for the virgin Goddess. Some use colors of the season -- hunter green for the forest, gold for the sun, or purple for the color of grapes and wine. I've even heard of people using a rainbow of colors to represent the signs of the zodiac. Some traditions request that dancers bring a ribbon in a color representing a certain blessing they might wish for.
The ribbons can be tied just below the topmost branches of the tree or adhered to the top of the pole with thumbtacks, nails, or glue. In Dancing with the Sun, Yasmine Galenorn recommends making crosscuts on the top end of the pole, tying knots on the end of each ribbon, and threading the ribbons through the slits at the top of the pole. The knots will keep the ribbon from sliding out of the slits as it is woven around the pole.
The wreath should be made on Beltane morning. It is traditional to go to the fields to gather May flowers at this time. Fashion a wreath from greenery and decorate with the first blooms of the season. It must be somewhat bigger than the top of the maypole, taking into account any branches you left at the top, in order that it may fall down the pole as the ribbons are wound.
Consecrate the Maypole
Erection of the Maypole should be carried out with great fanfare. Once the tree has been selected, cut down, and the branches removed, it might be carried in processional to the dance site. Next, a hole must be dug. Pour an offering of water with a pinch of salt or a purifying herb like rosemary into the opening with words like:
Earth Mother, may this offering
Prepare you to receive
This symbol of your consort, our Lord.
Next, anoint the Maypole itself, using altar oil or a mixture of any of the following: myrrh, musk, and/or sweet woodruff. With the oil, make the sign of the solar cross, or the Rune inguz, a rune related to the annual "king's circuit," or walking of the land, to ensure the fertility of the land:
At each anointing, say:
Blessed be this tree,
Vehicle of our Lord
Which shall soon enter
Our Mother, the Earth.
When the Maypole has been erected and decorated, light the balefire and celebrate!
Dancing with the Sun by Yasmine Galenorn
The Sabbats by Edain McCoy
Ancient Ways by Pauline Campanelli