Informant – “In early May, the Waldorf school hosts a May Pole celebration. In the central courtyard of the lower grades, the faculty erects a tall wooden pole crowned with a bouquet of flowers. Dangling from the top of the pole are long ribbons. Everyone is invited. Grades 1-3 dance and sing songs with their German and Spanish teachers. Then grades 4-6 dance around the maypole with the ribbons. Each grade has a specific dance, but all the dances are spiral. They interweave the ribbons, going in and out. 7th grade plays the music. Each dance has a very specific song.”
Informant – “The May Pole is a symbolic of the Earth reawakening. The dancing is circular, spiral, going in and coming out. It’s the rhythm of how the world works, an awakening and a sleeping, an awakening and a sleeping. As the outer world becomes more opulent, we see the green, smell the flowers, and inner world becomes sleepier. It’s a very joyful, very OUTWARD celebration. We are recognizing the earth crowned with flowers, the scent, the glory. It’s very very visual.”
The informant learned about this festival when she started teaching at the Austin Waldorf School. She knew about the May Pole before, but not the specifics.
Each grade has a specific role to fill in the celebration. It’s highly regulated. This adds to the community-centric atmosphere of the festival. Everyone has a role to fill. The spiral dancing reminds me of a flower unfurling, going from within to without. It’s interesting that such a joyous, gregarious celebration is so strictly controlled. There is no room for improvisation.
What is being performed?
DA: Well, you know how two people that are walking together are never supposed to split a
AA: I’ve heard that.
DA: I almost split a pole yesterday. Dad went one way and I went the other when we got close
to the street sign outside the house.
AA: If you split the pole is it instant bad luck?
DA: Of course not, but it catches up with you the way karma works.You split a pole and you’ll
find yourself in bad luck eventually.
Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
AA: Where did you hear this?
DA: I’m pretty sure dad told me this when I was 10 years old.
AA: Where is dad from?
DA: He’s from Los Angeles but grew up around his family from Texas and Oklahoma.
AA: What does this mean to you?
DA: Now it’s kind of funny, but when I was really little it was a serious to me.
Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
Leila Atkins brings this up every time she’s walking with friends and they approach a pole. She
hardly performs this outside of the context. Most of the time she performs it as a warning to
people about to split a pole or right after they have done so. It is something I have also heard of
and still hear of in college.
This is something that I have encountered and actively avoid in my lifestyle. I mostly do so out
of kicks and not serious belief, but still recognize that it has a pretty good effect on my life.
“One folklore I’ve heard about USC is actually kicking the flagpole as good luck before football games.”
I’ve heard this too and I have asked about where this has come from, but I’ve never been able to find out. It’s always interesting to see hundreds of people kicking a flagpole on the way to the Coliseum before a game. I’ve heard that football players kick the flagpole as well. This practice seems to only happen during home games, as I have yet to see anyone kicking the flag pole while the football team is playing an away game. A lot of my friends have questioned this practice and the purpose behind it, but they all continue to do it because the action has become a symbolic tradition and an amusing way to demonstrate school spirit.
This practice is similar to other actions people perform for “good luck.” Other common things include crossing one’s fingers or making a wish after witnessing a shooting star. Although these superstitions are more likely than not ineffectual in increasing one’s “luck,” these practices are common because people enjoy these traditions that are passed down generation to generation.