second feast of St Walpurgis, or Walburga (Beltaine Eve) is one of the
main holidays during the year in both Sweden and Finland, along with
Christmas and Midsummer. Walpurgisnacht (Walpurgis night) in Germany
has been celebrated for centuries. Farmers used to place crosses and
herbs above stable doors to protect their livestock from the witches
that fly around tonight en route to their 'evil covens' on Germany's
highest mountain, the Brocken, in the Harz Mountains. German
cartographers of the 18th Century sometimes added to any map of the
Harz Mountains a few witches flying on broomstick towards the summit of
German villagers used to light fires in the
fields. Any crop illuminated by the firelight or touched by the smoke
was sure to be fertile. Or, so it is said.
stem from an ancient pagan spring festival. The deities Woden and Freya
were the parents of Spring. German people used to drink 'the drink of
love' (Trank der Mine), which supposedly had rejuvenatory powers and
today's 'May punch' (Maibowle) containing woodruff herb probably
derives from that custom.
Some believe that Walpurgisnacht
customs began when the first central Europeans were converted to
Christianity: pagans dressed up in frightening costumes to scare away
the Christians who were trying to eradicate the old beliefs. The
Church, it is said, pushed the Walpurgis cult because St Walpugis was
the protector against magic.
In Germany tonight, Walpurgis
night, witches flying to their rendezvous with the Devil take a bite
out of every church bell they pass. Householders should hide their
broomsticks or else, it's said, a witch will steal them. People
traditionally make a commotion to scare off the witches, and children's
socks are crossed on their beds for the same purpose.
witches arrive at their sabbat on brooms, cats, flying horses, goats
and even on pitchforks and shovels. Amidst thunder and lightning they
build a fire of spruce trunks which they dance around after Satan,
dressed in black velvet, makes his annual speech.
night was used by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as the dramatic setting
for his Faust. It was also the night on which Adolf Hitler, no stranger
to occult beliefs, took his own life ...