Walpurgis Night

Walpurgis Night takes place between April 30 and May1, and is the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga, an 8th-century abbess in Germany. In German folklore Walpurgisnacht, also called Hexennacht (literally “Witches’ Night”), is believed to be the night of a witches’ meeting on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains, a range of wooded hills in central Germany between the rivers Weser and Elbe. The first known written occurrence of the English translation ‘Walpurgis Night’ is from the 19th century.

Local variants of Walpurgis Night are observed across Europe in the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland and Estonia. In the United States, Walpurgisnacht is one of the major holidays celebrated within LaVeyan Satanism and is the anniversary of the founding of the Church of Satan. The current festival is, in most countries that celebrate it, named after the English missionary Saint Walpurga (ca. 710–777. As Walpurga’s feast was held on 1 May, she became associated with May Day, especially in the Finnish and Swedish calendars. The eve of May Day, traditionally celebrated with dancing, came to be known as Walpurgisnacht (“Walpurga’s night”). The name of the holiday is Walpurgisnacht or Hexennacht (“Witches’ Night”) in German, Valborgsmässoafton in Swedish, “Vappen” in Finland Swedish, Vappu in Finnish, Volbriöö, (Walpurgi night) in Estonian, Valpurgijos naktis in Lithuanian, Valpurģu nakts or Valpurģi in Latvian, čarodějnice and Valpuržina noc in Czech.

The German term Walpurgisnacht is recorded in 1668 by Johannes Praetorius. Walpurgis and S. Walpurgis Abend are also mentioned in the 1603 edition of the Calendarium perpetuum of Johann Coler, who also refers to the following day, 1 May, as Jacobi Philippi, feast day of the apostles James the Less and Philip in the Catholic calendar. The 17th century German tradition of a meeting of sorcerers and witches on May Day eve (Hexennacht, “Witches’ Night” ) is also influenced by the descriptions of Witches’ Sabbaths in 15th and 16th century literature. Walpurgis Night is also very similar to Chaharshanbe Suri, an Iranian ceremony which is held on the last Wednesday of winter to celebrate spring and Iranian new year, Nowruz. Chaharshanbe Suri is also held in other parts of greater Iran.

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