sights, rites and colors

In the old days, when people thought of May Day, they didn't think of Communism, or International Workers Day (or even massive immigration protests).

In simpler times, lovely young maidens would dance around the Maypole.

"They ... set up a May-pole, drinking and dancing about it many days together, inviting the Indian women, for their consorts, dancing and frisking together, (like so many fairies, or furies rather,) and worse practices. As if they had anew revived & celebrated the feasts of ye Roman Goddess Flora, or ye beastly practices of ye mad Bacchanalians."

-- Governor William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation

The Puritans in England didn't like Maypoles either, so they were banned under Cromwell (although, interestingly, they were restored along with the monarchy).

According to Wikipedia, the history is very ancient:

Maypole dancing is a traditional form of folk dance from western Europe, especially England, Sweden and Germany. Dancers dance in a circle each holding a coloured ribbon attached to a central pole, known as the maypole. By the movements of the dancers the ribbons are intertwined and plaited either on to the pole itself or into a web around the pole. The dancers may then retrace their steps exactly in order to unravel the ribbons.

Maypole dancing is extremely ancient and is thought to have Germanic pagan fertility symbolism. It is traditionally performed in the spring around the festival of May Day, but in Sweden it is during the midsummer festivities.

More here, including the connection to the Roman Festival of Flora (although it appears that the British erected Maypoles before the Roman invasion of 43 AD). The Festival of Flora (Floralia, later Ludi Florales) was traditionally celebrated from April 28 to May 3. (It seems Governor Bradford knew a little bit about ancient history.)

Anyway, I was privileged to attend a Maypole Dance this morning, and I'll share a couple of pictures in the hope of honoring the true spirit of May Day.

The dancers begin by winding the ribbons (accomplished by dancing in different directions around the Maypole):

Maypole.jpg


As the ribbons wind around the pole, they become woven into a distinctive pattern at the top:

Maypole2.jpg

The weaving complete, the maidens above are dancing around the pole.

Being that this is Floralia, the blog post wouldn't be complete without some Spring flowers. The color of these tulips pleased me:

tulips.jpg


While Coco didn't attend the festivities, she has colorful eyes, and I managed to illuminate her irises with the camera flash:

EyesOfCoco.jpg

She's a "bi-eyed" dog, which means that she has one blue and one brown eye. As you can see, the two retinas have different colors too.

In humans the condition is known as heterochromia. Alexander the Great had heterochromia. So does David Bowie.

No, I don't make this stuff up. Coloring the truth is redundant.

posted by Eric on 04.30.06 at 09:23 PM










Comments

And when I was a little boy, we used to leave MayBaskets (little baskets with candy) at the doors of little girls. We'd ring the bell and then run away.

I'm guessing not a lot of May Baskets are left at doors these days. At least not without the bell-ringers arrested as stalkers, and the contents of the baskets taken to the ER for x-raying. How sad.

pikkumatti   ·  May 1, 2006 10:36 AM

While I find it rather sad that I know this, David Bowie does not have two differently colored eyes. In fact, he has two blue eyes. In 1962, he got into a fight with a friend, George Underwood. His left eye was permanently damaged as a result, and so he has one normal blue eye and a blue eye with the pupil permanently dilated, which makes it look brown.

I suppose that means he has false heterochromia.

I watch too many biographies on TV.

Jon Thompson   ·  May 1, 2006 4:35 PM

My husband is one of five kids. Half have blue eyes, and half have brown eyes.

Heterochromia makes for fun math problems. (Evil Rob's eyes are blue.)

B. Durbin   ·  May 2, 2006 12:37 AM

Good comments. I wonder why heterochromia would be so extremely rare in humans, and not terribly rare in dogs though.

Eric Scheie   ·  May 2, 2006 7:55 AM

If you are interested, it is worth noting that there are two causes of "real" heterochromia.

The more common is a simple imbalance in melanin levels between the two eyes (or inside one eye; by definition, if one eye is two colors, that counts as heterochromia). However, in around 40 reported cases to date (creepy cases that point out that even DNA testing isn't perfect), another cause has been noted.

Chimerism, a condition in which two separate non-idential twins fuse as embryos, can result in an incredible number of weird things. For one thing, eyes of different color. But, for another, it can mean that a person can have children incapable of donating organs. It is one of the oddest things I've ever heard of, and only slightly less disturbing than the idea of a dead twin inside your body.

Jon Thompson   ·  May 3, 2006 1:08 AM

There is a syndrome in humans of wide set eyes, with different colours, and congenital deafness.
Wardenburg's syndrome
As for different colour pupil, no. The "white" eye is either a tumor or a cataract.
Red Reflex

boinkie   ·  May 3, 2006 7:43 AM

HI MY NAME IS JESUS i HAD TWO COLOR EYE PITBULL AND HE WASNT BLINDTHATS.SUPPOSBLY THEY GET BLIND.WELL I REALLY MISS HIM ALOT BECOUSE THE OLD MAN SAID THAT IT WENT AFTER HER WELL I THINK.THATS CRAP BECOUSE IAM FROM IOWA AND THEY BANNED THEM FROM WERE IAM WELL THANKS FOR UR TIME .R I P WICKED MY BABY DOUGHTER MISSES U GAURDING HER FROM CROSSING THE STREET SHE LOVES U AND SHE SAID ULL WILL BE ON HER SIDE.

JESUS   ·  May 16, 2006 12:13 AM

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