Wednesday, 1 May 2013

axis mundi or you got to pick up every stitch

I won’t say that May Day (der Tag der Arbeit) is a subdued affair beyond the land of the Franks by any means (there are quite a lot of protest rallies and demonstrations happening—which I was curious to see but I don’t think I should go looking for trouble today), but I did not appreciate the clear demarcations of customs and traditions and the holiday rather snuck up on me, without the Maypoles (Maibรคume) being set up.
It makes some sense, however, jenseits (this side) of the Limes—the limits of the Roman Empire and thus the civilised world, that conquests would have tamped out some heathen celebrations. The follow-on missions of Christianity did not attempt to totally quash but rather integrate and co-opt such behaviour. No one really knows the origin of the beams, temporary totem-poles, regaled and danced around, but some theorise that the tree represents the axis on which the world turns or the cosmological Yggdrasil that connects the nine worlds of Norse mythology. The bit about the ruckus of the night before, Walpurgis, might be a religious conceit, saying that witches gather to dance with their gods or commune with the devil—although it must have always been observed in some manner and with meaning (though now lost) as a cross-quarter day, exactly half a year on towards the harvest festival of Samhain (Halloween). Superstition holds that one will meet a witch on May Day, which old witch and probably why it is a good idea not to go looking for trouble since it knows where to find you.