Editor, Daily Nexus,
I was bewildered by columnist Sarah Kent’s depiction of the maypole at a neo-pagan spring festival as “a big, old symbol of a male-dominated universe” (“The Wednesday Hump: Imagine the Day When Boobies Rule the Earth,” Daily Nexus, May 8). When she goes on to imagine a “more female-oriented” society wherein the most practical applications of the principle of height are subverted, resulting in an idyllic world devoid of friction and problems, I suspect that she has missed the point.
The neo-pagan calendar represents and celebrates the influence of the sun on the lives of people in an agricultural society. These cyclical influences are necessarily tied to principles of fertility, harvest, death and regeneration. Certain festivals “exalt” the sun and focus on seed sowing and growth, while other, more reflective festivals are carried out during periods of the year when solar influence is viewed as dormant. In most neo-pagan traditions, the sun represents the masculine principle of nature, whereas the earth and the moon represent feminine principles of nature.
Therefore May Day celebrations tend to focus on the planting of seeds in the earth for harvest season and the increasing solar light that will make the seeds grow. The overt phallic symbolism of the maypole makes sense at this time of year. Harvest festivals in the fall recall a “dying” god, the Oct. 31 holiday (six months opposite from May Day) uses a cauldron to symbolize the womb, winter festivals represent the earth as a goddess in full recognition of her darker or prophetic aspects, etc. In addition to the annual solar festivals, most neo-pagans also celebrate monthly lunar festivals, which are entirely goddess-centered.
The festivals held by neo-pagan groups are meant to recognize and celebrate the balance between “masculine” and “feminine” principles in nature, both as a way of getting in touch with our forebears’ simpler, agricultural worldview, and as a way of learning from these principles as individuals and as a society. There’s a reason that these holidays were revived or re-imagined by feminists in the mid-20th century, and you can be sure that it wasn’t to celebrate a “male-dominated” universe.