University of Limerick
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Maypole dancing and other body movements in a neo-pagan Bealtaine ritual in Ireland

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posted on 2023-01-05, 14:16 authored by Ana Paula Camillo
Maypole Dancing and Other Body Movements in a Neo-Pagan Bealtaine Ritual in Ireland This thesis examines the role of dance and body movements within a specific Pagan ritual in present day Ireland, namely Bealtaine. The purpose of my research is threefold: to identify the kinds of dances and body movements incorporated into this ritual; to question how participants – the Tipperary Pagans group – perceive these dances and body movements in their ritual; and to analyse the importance and meaning of body movements in the Tipperary Pagans Bealtaine ritual for the participants of this ritual. My place in the study is that of an ethnochoreologist as well as a Pagan and Druidry practitioner. My reasons for choosing this topic are various. First, I am an ethnochoreologist and I wish to study body movements within a group with a particular cultural background; as a dancer, dance is the category of body movement that interests me most. Second, due to my deep interest in Ritual and Religious Studies, I opted to research dance within ritual context. Third, as a Pagan adherent from another country I possess a unique perspective to analyse rituals and dances from both emic and etic perspectives. Moreover, dancing in present day Pagan rituals in Ireland is a field of research somewhat unexplored. As a researcher my position is negotiated in the field: occasionally as insider and other times as outsider. The research methodologies are drawn from the field of ethnochoreology. I undertake fieldwork and conduct ethnographic interviews. I attend and participate in Pagan rituals where the method of participant observation is widely used. Bibliographic sources are also examined (Appadurai, Barber, Bell, Danaher, Featherstone, Grau, Grimes, Hobsbawm, Turner). I attended and participated in a Bealtaine ritual as fieldwork for this study, performed by the Tipperary Pagans group at Saint Berrihert‟s Kyle in Tipperary, Ireland. In conclusion, this thesis analyses and reveals that Maypole Dancing, Puck Hunt, and Jumping the Bonfire were incorporated in the above mentioned ritual. Participants perceive the dance and body movements in their ritual as enjoyable and as a means to connect with ancestors and the earth. The dance and body movements function as homeopathic magic and as a means to connect with the divine. This research shows that the Tipperary Pagans engage in the fertility ritual of Bealtaine in order to acknowledge human dependence on fertility and to connect with nature and ancestors.



  • Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences


  • Master (Taught)

First supervisor

Foley, Catherine E.





Department or School

  • Irish World Academy of Music & Dance

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