Symbols of Spring: Dance Archetype Inspires Season of Renewal

Symbols of spring mostly focus on rebirth. The Maypole dance, among them, captures the light-hearted mood of the season.

Mother Dance unites in her archetype the sacred and profane, the erotic and unearthly, the visceral and the transcendental.

The May pole dance is an ancient Celtic rite. Virginal girls spiral colorful ribbons around a pole, in a delicate dance that brings them together and apart.

Shiva dancing next to photo of older woman dancing in similar pose

According to the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia (6th ed., 2009), "The Maypole dance derives from spring rituals glorifying the phallus," (n. p.)

Maypole dances may be a relic of ancient Greek rituals that celebrated the life-death-rebirth mystery of the Isis-Ishtar-Iananna story.

Maypole Dance Weaves Together Elements of Sacred and Erotic

Today, pole dancers in men's clubs carry on the profane use of the phallic prop.

Judith Lynne Hanna reminds, "Dance and sex both use the same instrument -- namely, the human body -- and both involve the language of the body's orientation toward pleasure.

"Thus, dance and sex may be conceived as inseparable even when sexual expression is unintended" (p. 212; Dance and Sexuality: Many Moves. Journal of Sex Research, Mar-Jun 2010).

Ecstasy, Ephemerality Characterize Dance as Symbol of Spring

Mother Dance, regent of merry May and symbols of spring, is the archetype of ecstasy of body and spirit reaching towards the unknown - spirit using body, body stretching beyond physical limits.

Dance is all about image, movement, and rhythm.

Much ritual dance is related to the hypnotic pulse of drums.

"For thousands of years groups of people around the world have played music on percussion instruments -- for rituals, dances, ceremonies, and just for fun" (Anthony Tomassin, New York Times (April 7, 2010), p. 5).

Of all the symbols of spring, Mother Dance best signifies the ephemeral: A dance exists in time, experientially, then -- like youth, like life itself -- vanishes into the mystery.

Antinomies Abound in Mother Dance Archetype

To think of Mother Dance is to think in opposites:

  • virginal women and a relic of phallus worship in the May pole dances of merry May.

  • the ghost dance that signified revitalization for Native Americans, yet produced extinction. Notes the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, "Although a nonviolent form of protest, it ended with the massacre of over 200 Sioux men, women, and children by the U.S. army at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1890."

  • bare feet stomping on the earth to tribal rhythms versus the legend that the ballet dancer Nijinsky defied gravity and managed to fly for a few seconds when he jumped.

  • the erotic give-and-take of tango dancers viewed in counterpoint to the the stately steps of medieval court dances that strictly kept the sexes several feet apart.

Myths of the Dancer Archetype

The archetype of Mother Dance is encoded into mythic traditions from around the world. For example:

"Hawaiian myth ascribes hula's invention to Hi'iaka, sister of the volcano goddess Pele, and its safekeeping to the goddess Laka," notes the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia.

"Originally part of religious ceremonies, it [the hula] was danced by groups of specially trained women who illustrated the various accompanying texts (mele), which were chanted by men."

Terpsicore is the muse inherited from the mythology of ancient Greece, according to N.S. Gill.

In India, Shiva is the god who dances the World into being.

woman in red dress dancing blissfully

What Magic Does Your Dance Call into Being?

"Dancing is an ancient form of magic," writes Heinrich Zimmer in Philosophies of India, quoted by Atanu Dey.

"The dancer becomes amplified into a being endowed with supra-normal powers.

"The dance induces trance, ecstasy, the experience of the divine, the realization of one's own secret nature, and, finally, mergence into the divine essence.

"To work magic, to put enchantments upon others, one has first to put enchantments on oneself. And this is effected as well by the dance as by prayer, fasting and meditation.

Dance Is an Act of Creation

"The dance is an act of creation. It brings about a new situation and summons into the dancer a new and higher personality. It has a cosmogonic function, in that it rouses dormant energies which them may shape the world."

Thus, Mother Dance is one of the most profound symbols of spring.

The mystic appeal of dance among the symbols of spring is universal and invariably linked with the process of birth, never stronger than in the fecund conditions of merry May.

You are, at this very moment, dancing atoms expressing the movement of your life. What is your dance calling into being?

Symbols of Spring & Archetype of the Month Celebrate Your Inner Life

Fashion After 50 celebrates the creative, spiritual, and inner life of older women. Archetype of the Month explores the symbolic, or achetypal, patterns of life as they relate to aging and women.

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Croning Ritual

> > Symbols of Spring & Dance

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