Dancing Around the Maypole

On Thursday at the International Festival, dozens of people gathered around to watch the Pagan Student Association’s Maypole Dance. Since the International Festival is all about showcasing different cultures, it was fitting that the PSA have a place at it. But what exactly is a Pagan? Lianna Costantino, the High Priestess of the Sylvan Hearth Pagan Temple responds, “Paganism is technically any religious tradition that is not Catholic, Christian, Muslim or Jewish.” The umbrella term covers many faith traditions, including one of the more popular ones, Wicca. This particular tradition honors the Earth, deity, each other, and life. “Wiccans do not deny sexuality – we embrace it as sacred,” says Costantino. There are 8 seasonal festivals called sabbats that most Wiccans celebrate. Beltane, which is celebrated on May 1st, is a rite of fertility. Costantino stresses, “Fertility is not just about sex and not just about making babies, but fertility for a job venture, school career, or a new beginning. That kind of symbolism is important to us.” One custom during Beltane is the Maypole Dance, which is what students saw at the International Festival. The members of the PSA created and prepared a hole in the earth (Mother Earth) by pouring milk and honey in it as an offering. The milk is given as sustenance for her children, and so that she will be fertile to provide for all of her children, who are every living thing on the planet. The honey is given to sweeten her and to offer her pleasure and joy. The men held the long wooden pole and the women made a wreath of flowers to crown it, which is symbolic of the wedding ring, and according to Costantino, “a circle that reminds us that there is no beginning or end to love or life”. The pole, an obvious phallic symbol and representative of the God, is inserted into the Earth. Once the pole was steadily positioned in the ground, the dancers took the ribbons that dangled from the top and began to dance around each other, braiding the ribbons around the pole. “The braiding of the ribbons is a creation of union, and the dance is a prayer in motion”, explains Costantino. When the dancers began to run out of ribbon, they tied them off and held the wreath up. Then the dance and prayers were finishes, and they let the wreath fall to the ground, which represented that the God and Goddess had just mated and is symbolic of climax. “Taking part in the Maypole Dance was great fun”, says Jenna Boysen. “It’s a way of realizing that unless we give back to the God and Goddess, we may not receive.”The PSA actually provided a great deal of entertainment at the International Festival. They brought the Moorish dancers, the bagpiper, and of course, performed the Maypole Dance. As an organization that is often overlooked or unnoticed, they certainly made a name for themselves at the International Festival. “We are searching for a place where we can be safe, where we can be heard, and where we can celebrate our religious traditions,” says Costantino. The PSA is open to anyone who is of a faith tradition that is not categorized as Catholic, Christian, Muslim, or Jewish. “We are aware that not everyone wants to be associated with the word ‘pagan’ and that’s fine. But if someone would like to explore an earth-centered religion, we would welcome them.”One reason that PSA hasn’t been noticed as much is because they are not allowed to put their notices and flyers up on the Campus Ministries display board. “We are trying to get a display case in the UC and if they grant a space, we would like to make the offer to make it available to any other non-Christian faith tradition that would like to use our space to display notices.” If you have any questions, Lianna Costantino would welcome them at liannacostantino@yahoo.com.