Was Robin Hood another name for Puck or a forest god? He certainly seems to have become this in his incorporation into the May Games. The May Games were already a well-established feature of rural life in the 15th century when the Robin Hood legend was associated with them. Earlier ballads about an outlaw living in the forest became part of practices that have survived to this day such as the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance. The May Games were reviled by puritans as excuses for lewd behaviour and are often linked to earlier fertility festivals. For a discussion of this development and the nature of the earlier ballads, see HERE (Word file download).
In the May Games, maypoles and the May Queen were the formal part of the ceremonies. But the expeditions off into the woods to collect may blossom were another matter. One local worthy complained that of the maidens who went, not a third returned with their maidenhood intact. The hawthorn was closely associated with these rites, though the informal associations were linked to another flower. Here is a poem from the Pagan Movement Ethos Group papers, a source which will provide some examples of faerie lore and law in future posts. The context here is a link between the pairing off of couples at this time and the union of the May Queen and the King of the May:
The lark sails on the morning air
And all the flowers of Spring are here
And all the scents alluring.
The milkmaids in their milky smocks
Work the teats with heavy sighs
They watch the milk a jetting forth
And on the ploughboys cast their eyes
And sigh again the louder.
The Sacred Spring runs in the Earth
For ice-locks long have melted now
And the mound which guards the mossy gate
Is scented and enticing.
Of all the flowers of Spring they love
The pinky-white ones in the meads
That grow up straight and tall the more
The water runs beneath them.
Lady's smock, milkmaids,
Town hall clock, and cuckoo flower,
May-blob, naked ladies,
Smicker-smock and may flower;
Many names more, perhaps,
And lore, perhaps,
To mark the hour that
Spring has come.
And many milkmaids more, perhaps,
Will cast their smocks on grassy swards
And many ploughboys more, perhaps,
Will cast their breeches by them:
Then there'll be no more 'perhaps'
But rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes
And do' and do' and thrusting in
And the Earth a singing loud her lust
And legs spread out on dewy grass
And the Horned One singing loud his lust
And seeds a welling up right fast
And the two a thrusting harder, harder;
A turning round of sparkling eyes
And the seeds a coming fast and free
To me! To me! To me! she cries
And frothy streams a running fast,
She's won her lord at last
Has won his lady love
For all the Summer long.