Welcome to May

by Erin on May 1, 2012

It’s the beginning of another month, and at Mythography, that means it’s also time for another exploration of this month’s name. You might already recognize the connection between May and the character from Classical myth who inspired it. Why it’s Maia, of course. However, the interesting bit is that not one but two mythical Maias are associated with this month of flowering Spring. Want to learn more? Then read on!

Let’s start with the basics. I mentioned that there are essentially two Maias in this tale. There is a Greek Maia and a Roman Maia. On the one hand, the Greek Maia is probably familiar to you as the mother of the god Hermes. She is listed as one of the Pleiades by Hesiod, which means that she is also a nymph. On the other, the Roman Maia is no doubt much less famous. It is this second, Roman Maia, after whom the month is named.

Now, this second Maia was linked with the god Vulcan in Roman mythology. Apart from this relationship with Vulcan, there really isn’t a great deal of interesting back story about this goddess. In time, however, the Roman Maia was conflated with the Greek Maia, and she then become the mother of the Roman god Mercury according to some sources. Indeed, it just so happens that I have a portion of an Ode by the Roman poet Horace that features both Maia and Mercury.

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