This article was released in Travian magazine 05/2012.
MOTHER of Hermes! and still youthful Maia!
May I sing to thee
As thou wast hymned on the shores of Baiae?
Or may I woo thee
In earlier Sicilian? or thy smiles
Seek as they once were sought, in Grecian isles,
By bards who died content on pleasant sward,
Leaving great verse unto a little clan?
O give me their old vigour! and unheard
Save of the quiet primrose, and the span
Of heaven, and few ears,
Rounded by thee, my song should die away
Content as theirs,
Rich in the simple worship of a day.
...so did John Keats called to Maia, goddess of May, the month named after her. But why they picked her and why did they pray to her?
Maya, the Roman goddess, was born according to Roman mythology as a daughter of Faun and goddess called Gaia. Being the daughter of a keeper of forest and the goddess of Earth, Maya or also Maia, became the goddess of fertility and growth, since her name was derived from latin maius, maior, which means "larger" or "greater". According to myths, she was later a wife of Vulcan, Roman god of blacksmithing and forges. Later on, Maia transformed into different goddesses. She was explicitly identified with Earth or Terra and Bona Dea (lat. for Good Goddess) and her character spliced with the goddesses such as Fauna (wife of the horned god of the forest, plains and fields), Ops (the patroness of riches, abundance, and prosperity and wife of Saturn), or Juno (the protector and special counselor of the state, daughter of Saturn). Maia became an ideal name for a month of blooming trees, growing grass and renewal of life.
Unfortunately, origins of the name of this goddess are not so beautiful. Earlier, Maia was a Greek goddess, born to Atlas and Pleione as the oldest of seven sisters. Those sisters became known as Pleiades (cluster of stars was named after them). Myth says that Zeus in the dead of night secretly begot Hermes, who later on stole Apollo's cattle and invented the lyre from a tortoise shell. After that, Maia also raised the infant Arcas, the birth child of Callisto with Zeus. Therefore the name Maia has several translations, such as "midwife," "good mother," "foster mother," or "aunty." Not a bad name for a goddess, but neither a win.
It was usual to give a gift to a god or goddess whose blessing you are calling for. In this case, sacrifices were made. Not the human ones, at least no one wrote such. There were two celebrations: one in December and one in May. There's little known about celebrations hold on 1st of May. It was documented that a pregnant sow or a cow was sacrificed to the goddess Bona Dea, but that's probably all, since all men were excluded and prohibited to see the ritual. Only women were allowed to attend the celebration. Some say that men who saw the ritual were blinded, others says that men were excluded from this holiday because women were having a feast and indulged in various sexual acts to increase their birth potency. But who knows where the truth lies...
And so, first calendar made it's way. The first time Maia was used in calendar, it was around a year 753 BC. Romans say that Romulus, the founder of Rome, has made it. Calendar consisted of 10 months, out of which first 4 Martius, Aprilis, Maius and Iunius were named after gods Mars, Aphrodite, Maia and Juno. The calendar year lasted for 304 days, therefore corrections were raised.
Numa Pompilius, the second of the seven traditional kings of Rome, has added months January and February, where January was derived from the two-faced Roman god Janus, from the Latin word ianua, which means "door" and February was named after the Latin term februum, which means purification (purification ritual Februa was held on February 15).
After that, Julian and Gregorian calendar were introduced, which were based on these first calendars.
Note: Image in Perex comes originally from this web site.