May Day’s pagan roots are alive and well in Beltane

by | May 1, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — “Love, whose month is ever May,” Shakespeare wrote in the comedy “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” Centuries later, Phillipa Soo is crooning about the “Lusty Month of May” in the Broadway revival of Lerner and Loewe’s hit “Camelot.”The recognition of May as a time for romance and its results is one of the oldest features of the Western calendar, marked on May Day, an ancient holiday that celebrates fertility and sacred sexuality. Pagan cultures established a tradition of planting a maypole in the ground and dancing around it, and modern Wiccans still regard the maypole as a symbol of the union between the God and Goddess, the masculine and feminine forms of divinity honored on May Day, or Beltane.
The tradition is still widely celebrated by communities of all faiths, greeting the warming weather and the fertility of the land by hanging May baskets from their doors or simply bringing cuttings indoors.
“I remember dancing the maypole as a child,” the Rev. Jerrie Hildebrand, a Unitarian Universalist minister, told Religion News Service. 

But today Hildebrand is the president emeritus and communications liaison for the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, a 35-year-old affiliate of the Unitarian Universalist Association that serves as network for those in the denomination who adopt goddess- and earth-based pagan spirituality. 
She sees Beltane — one …

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