3 Beltane Maypole Problems...And How to Fix Them
Raise the maypole! Weave the pretty ribbons! Collapse in exhaustion,
pig out at the potluck, and go home knowing you’ve
participated in a life-affirming, ancient European Pagan tradition.
Simple. Effective. Fun for all ages.
Well, the maypole is
effective and fun, but apparently it’s
not so simple. I asked some of my nearest and dearest in the Pagan
community their biggest problem with the maypole. Here are the three
answers I heard over and over again. I hope my suggested solutions will
help your private group or local community next time you raise the
pole upright. This was the number one problem cited by
my friends, and rightly so. Or, as Trystn put it: “Keeping
the pole upright so it doesn’t bean someone on the head,
terrorize the dog, or knock over the altar.”
The key, of course, is a
solid maypole stand, a very deep hole, or a strong human (or two) to
hold it up. There are pros and cons to each of these solutions.
If your Beltane celebration
takes place on private or forest service (or other government land),
you may not be allowed to dig a deep hole—and a fourteen-foot
pole needs at least four of those feet to be firmly underground,
preferably packed in with dirt and rocks. The hole also has to be
well-marked so no one accidentally falls in and is seriously hurt.
However, a maypole hole is cheap, i.e. free, stable
(nothing’s more stable than good, packed earth), and easy to
undo—just fill in the hole!
Unfortunately, your average
Christmas tree stand is a great maypole base in theory but
doesn’t work all that well in practice. An eight-foot pole
(the minimum height, in my opinion) will easily topple from the tension
of as little as ten people pulling on the ribbons attached to it. A
better stand can be made from an old car wheel (with or without tire),
some PVC pipe, a bag or two of cement, and green paint. Determine the
diameter of your maypole, then find about twelve to fourteen inches of
PVC pipe wide enough for your maypole to fit down into. Set the pipe in
the middle of the car wheel, fill in with cement. When it’s
dry, paint it so it looks less like a car wheel full of PVC pipe and
cement. You might also want to cover it with flowers or budding
branches on the big day. Some people advocate sticking the bottom of
the maypole into a five-gallon drum filled with wet cement three or
four days before the ritual, but I like the lower, broader base that a
car wheel provides.
Sometimes patio umbrella
stands work well, if your group or community can afford a wide-based
Of course, a strong man or
two can stand or sit and hold the maypole upright while everyone else
dances around it. Again it’s a cheap (free), effective
solution. But be warned, and I say this from experience: If at all
possible, find a human maypole stand who wants his fertile female
partner to get pregnant! Better yet, find a couple who want to be
parents, or want to be parents again, and have them hold the maypole
together while everyone else dances around it. Speaking of dancing,
that seems to be the second most common maypole problem.
No one here knows
how to dance around a maypole. Let’s start with the
part—ribbons.Everyone will need a satin or grosgrain ribbon
(found in most fabric departments and stores) that is (and this is the
really important part): twice the length of the maypole. So if your
fourteen foot maypole has four of those measured feet in the ground,
the dancers need a twenty-foot ribbon to wrap around the ten feet of
pole left over. Why satin or grosgrain? The paper ribbon you decorate
your Yule presents with is too fragile, and will tear in a heartbeat.
The fabric ribbon with wire running through the edges will make ugly
bunchies in the weave. Nice, flat inexpensive ribbons can also be made
from two-inch strips of cheap, pretty fabric.
Now that everyone has a long
affixed to the maypole, put the ribbon down for a minute and practice
the weave motions.
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