Walpurgisnacht


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Walpurgisnacht

or

Walpurgis Night:

see Walburga, SaintWalburga, Saint
, d. c.779, English missionary in Germany; sister of St. Willibald. She went there to assist St. Boniface, settling at Heidenheim, near Eichstätt (NW of Ingolstadt), where another brother, Winnebald (or Wynbald), had an abbey. St.
..... Click the link for more information.
.

Walpurgisnacht:

see under Walburga, StWalburga, Saint
, d. c.779, English missionary in Germany; sister of St. Willibald. She went there to assist St. Boniface, settling at Heidenheim, near Eichstätt (NW of Ingolstadt), where another brother, Winnebald (or Wynbald), had an abbey. St.
..... Click the link for more information.
.

Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht)

Type of Holiday: Folkloric
Date of Observation: April 30
Where Celebrated: Austria, Germany, Scandinavia
Symbols and Customs: Bonfires, Witches
Related Holidays: Beltane, May Day

ORIGINS

April 30, the eve of MAY DAY, is named for St. Walpurga, an English missionary who became an abbess in Germany, where she died in 780 C . E . On the eve of May 1, her remains were moved from Heidenheim to Eichstätt, where her shrine became a popular place of pilgrimage. Legend has it that the rocks at Eichstätt give off a miraculous oil possessing curative powers. Walpurga is known as the saint who protects against magic.

The traditions associated with St. Walpurga's Day can be traced back to pre-Christian celebrations on the eve of BELTANE, one of the four major festivals of the ancient Celts who once inhabited much of the European continent. The people who lived in the Harz Mountains of Germany believed for many centuries that WITCHES rode across the sky on the eve of St. Walpurga's Day to hold a coven or gathering on Brocken Mountain. To frighten them off, they rang church bells, banged pots and pans, and lit torches topped with hemlock, rosemary, and juniper. The legend of Walpurgis Night is still celebrated in Germany, Austria, and Scandinavia with BONFIRES and other festivities designed to welcome spring by warding off demons, disaster, and darkness.

Although Walpurgis Night is not widely observed in the United States, many Scandinavian clubs and associations, particularly in cities with large Swedish or Norwegian populations, hold celebrations on April 30 consisting primarily of BON FIRES , speeches, folk dancing, and music.

SYMBOLS AND CUSTOMS

Bonfires

Bonfires have been lit to scare off witches and other evil creatures since ancient times. The fires that were lit on the eve of BELTANE were designed to promote fertility and to ward off bad luck and disease. They represented the life-giving power of the sun, and leaping through the flames or over the glowing embers was a way of sharing the sun's power.

It is still customary in parts of Sweden to build huge bonfires on Walpurgis Night and light them by striking two flints together. Every large village has its own fire, often built on a hilltop, and young people dance around it in a ring. If the flames blow toward the north, it means that the spring will be cold and slow to arrive; if they incline to the south, it will be mild. People leap over the glowing embers in a ceremony called "Burning the Witches." There is a widespread folk belief that the fields will be blessed for as far as the light of the bonfire reaches.

Witches

Witches symbolize the evil that is everywhere in the world and that must be guarded against. Because witches were believed to be out riding their broomsticks to a gathering on the tallest peak of Germany's Harz Mountains on Walpurgis Night, people tried to make light of their own fears by wearing costumes and holding parties. Straw effigies of witches were often paraded through the streets and burned in BONFIRES .

FURTHER READING

Christianson, Stephen G., and Jane M. Hatch. The American Book of Days. 4th ed. New York: H.W. Wilson, 2000. Frazer, Sir James G. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. New York: Macmillan, 1931. Gulevich, Tanya. Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2002. Heinberg, Richard. Celebrate the Solstice: Honoring the Earth's Seasonal Rhythms through Festival and Ceremony. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 1993. Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. James, E.O. Seasonal Feasts and Festivals. 1961. Reprint. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1993. King, John. The Celtic Druids' Year: Seasonal Cycles of the Ancient Celts. London: Blandford, 1995. Santino, Jack. All Around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

WEB SITE

Swedish Institute www.sweden.se/templates/cs/Event_17130.aspx

Walpurgisnacht

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Walpurgisnacht is a Christian feast day celebrated in Germany that falls on May Eve. Named for a popular Devonshire (England) saint, St. Walburga, it coincides with the pagan celebration of Beltane but is not connected to it.

Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht)

April 30
People who lived in the Harz Mountains of Germany believed for many centuries that witches rode across the sky on the eve of St. Walpurga's Day to hold a coven on Brocken Mountain. To frighten them off, they rang church bells, banged pots and pans, and lit torches topped with hemlock, rosemary, and juniper. The legend of Walpurgis Night is still celebrated in Germany, Austria, and Scandinavia with bonfires and other festivities designed to welcome spring by warding off demons, disaster, and darkness, particularly the towns of Schierke-am-Brocken, Blankenburg, Elend, and Bad Suderode in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt.
St. Walpurga (or Walburga) was an eighth-century English nun who later became a German abbess. She is the patron saint against dog bites and rabies. On the eve of May 1 her remains were moved from Heidenheim to Eichstätt, Germany, where her shrine became a popular place of pilgrimage. Legend has it that the rocks at Eichstätt give off a miraculous oil possessing curative powers. She is the saint who is also associated with protection against magic.
CONTACTS:
German National Tourist Office
122 E. 42nd St., 20th Fl., Ste. 2000
New York, NY 10168
800-651-7010 or 212-661-7200; fax: 212-661-7174
www.germany-tourism.de
SOURCES:
AmerBkDays-2000, p. 332
BkFest-1937, p. 310
DaysCustFaith-1957, p. 102
DictDays-1988, p. 128
DictFolkMyth-1984, pp. 114, 425, 961, 1165
EncyEaster-2002, p. 631
FestWestEur-1958, pp. 25, 214
FolkAmerHol-1999, p. 203
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 304
OxYear-1999, pp. 94, 178
RelHolCal-2004, p. 271
References in periodicals archive ?
(33) Since the previous century it had been best known for wild landscapes (praised by Goethe, Heine, and Theodor Fontane), a modest stream of visitors, and the annual convocation of witches for the celebration of Walpurgisnacht. This takes place at the Hexentanzplatz (Witches' Dance Floor), perched high on a cliff overlooking river and town, that was once a ritual site used by the Saxons to worship the old Germanic gods.
(76) The connection between Walpurgisnacht on the one hand and, on the other, the modern labour movement's May Days and the emancipation of women may at first seem a little far-fetched.
The violence continues; walpurgisnacht plays out; the hunt as metaphor stays.
By turning her expected masquerade of femininity into a shape-shifting carnival of masks and games, by turning the night into the witches' Walpurgisnacht, she bewilders her audience and forces them to reconsider the roles she so noncommittally embodies.
Over a century and a half later, significant others are, at times, still called upon to fulfill this late-night function, and not merely for surrealist poets but even for level-headed political writers, as is manifest in Wolf Biermann's "Walpurgisnacht" (1986), where not demonic fantasy (as is the case with Hoffmann) but horrific recent German political reality is reenacted in a contorted panopticum--right on the author's bed sheets.
This month, Butler Ballet, resident company of the university's BFA program, adds Balanchine's Walpurgisnacht Ballet (1975) to its repertoire.
Two scenes in his epic poem/drama Faust dramatize a legend of medieval Walpurgisnacht ("witches' night") celebrations held on May Eve (April 30/May 1) on the Brocken, the highest peak of the Harz--with satanic powers ranging over the hilltops and in the dark glens.
Goethe's "Die Erste Walpurgisnacht," in which the great German poet speculates on how the folk tradition began.
Peiter rightly argues against Canetti's and Morgenstern's verdict by demonstrating that his much-neglected Dritte Walpurgisnacht of 1933-34 gives a shrewd analysis of National Socialism in the early stages of the dictatorship.
After many adventures, including the Walpurgisnacht (celebration by the witches), Faust finally utters the phrase (Line 11582), and the devil comes to claim Faust's soul.
And one of the pieces he conducted was Mendelssohn's Walpurgisnacht, which I'd never heard before and which is just wild, wild music.