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The month of May takes its name from the goddess Maia, who appears in both Greek and Roman mythologies. In Greece, she was “grandmother,” “midwife,” or “wise one” and she was known as the mother of Hermes. The Romans associated her with their fire goddess of the same name who, along with Flora and Feronia, ruled growth and warmth, including sexual desire. Maia’s day was the first of May, and the associations with growth can still be seen in the Christian dedication of the month to Mary, Queen of Flowers.
When Romans came to Britain, they brought with them their own ancient spring rites. The goddess Flora was worshiped as the embodiment of the flowering of all of nature, including human. She was the queen of plants, the goddess of flowers, and the patron of Roman prostitutes. Flora was honored during a week-long festival from April 28–May 3. The Floralia included the gathering of flowers, used in processions, dances, and games. Young raced to see who could be the first to hang a wreath on Flora’s statue, and wrap garlands around the columns of her temple. The female body was especially6 honored at this time. Graphic, erotic medallions were distributed, and public orgies celebrated the fruitfulness of the earth. The “festival of nude women” was celebrates until the third century CE, when Roman authorities demanded the celebrants be clothed. The sense of unrestrained freedom was even enjoyed by Roman slaves on this day, with the stipulation that they return to their mater’s houses that night.
Copyright Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2001 Pages 21 to 25