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Happy Walpurgis Night!

Evidently today, April 30, is Walpurgis Night, and while I can't say I've celebrated it before or have definite plans to do so today, I must say it sounds rather cool. Here's what Encyclopaedia Brittanica says on it (and it must be true since it isn't Wikipedia):
Walpurgis Night, a traditional holiday celebrated on April 30 in northern Europe and Scandinavia. In Sweden, typical holiday activities include the singing of traditional spring folk songs and the lighting of bonfires. Celebrations in Finland include a carnival and the drinking of alcoholic beverages, particularly sima, a type of mead. In Germany, the holiday is celebrated by dressing in costumes, playing pranks on people, and creating loud noises meant to keep evil at bay. Many people also hang blessed sprigs of foliage from houses and barns to ward off evil spirits, or they leave pieces of bread spread with butter and honey, called ankenschnitt, as offerings for phantom hounds.
[Molly's interjection: Phantom hounds! How awesome is that? Why don't any of our usual holidays involve phantom hounds?]

The origins of the holiday date back to pagan celebrations of fertility rights [sic - surely "rites"?] and the coming of spring. After the Norse were Christianized, the pagan celebration became combined with the legend of St. Walburga, an English-born nun who lived at Heidenheim monastery in Germany and later became the abbess there. Walburga was believed to have cured the illnesses of many local residents. After her death she was canonized as a saint on May 1. Although it is likely that the date of her canonization is purely coincidental to the date of the pagan celebrations of spring, people were able to celebrate both events under church law without fear of reprisal.

Other sites give the same basic information; namely, that it was yet another pagan celebration that got turned into a Christian and sometimes specifically anti-pagan holiday. There are reports that in German folklore, Walpurgis Night was when witches met atop a certain mountain, so in a way it's a celebration for witches; but nowadays it sometimes involves symbolically chasing away the witches till next year. Very similar to some interpretations of Halloween/Samhain, that way.

In any case, it sounds like a fun way to start off Beltane/May Day/Spring Day. May you all be the May Queen or Green Man of your personal household this weekend. I did bring in some fresh sprigs of sweet woodruff and orange-mint, so perhaps I'm celebrating in my small way too!


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 30th, 2011 10:02 pm (UTC)
Although it is likely that the date of her canonization is purely coincidental to the date of the pagan celebrations of spring,

Fat chance. It was a standard practice to turn pagan holy days into Christian saints' days, thus winning the people over to the new religion. I call it stealing, but hey.

And if you want to celebrate Beltane the old-fashioned way, get yourself a really good bottle of wine and get yourself and your honey nice and sloshed, then drag him into the sack for a night of what the Texans used to call "tall fucking". ;)
Apr. 30th, 2011 11:37 pm (UTC)
I like that icon.
Apr. 30th, 2011 11:42 pm (UTC)
Hee! "Tall" makes it sound like it ought to be up against a wall, but perhaps that's just my ever-literal mind. Yeah, in reading about Beltane rituals, I thought,
(a) Damn, why couldn't I have been raised pagan instead of Catholic?, and
(b) Ooh, juicy idea for a spicy love story!
I may yet write that one. Rather than the Easter Bunny one. ;)

And, I, too, like that icon. As you may imagine, coming from that Catholic background, I still find it hard to wrap my mind around a religion that *encourages* sexy behavior. But am all for it!
Apr. 30th, 2011 11:19 pm (UTC)
"Fertility rights" are why that family has like 19 or 20 kids by now. BECAUSE THEY CAN.
Apr. 30th, 2011 11:43 pm (UTC)
Heheh. Totally. Some take their "fertility rights" a bit too far.
Apr. 30th, 2011 11:37 pm (UTC)
*sigh* I want my own green man.
Maybe I can get a necklace.
Apr. 30th, 2011 11:46 pm (UTC)
Oooh. I hadn't heard of Green Man necklaces, but in Googling it, I learn they are A Thing. Cool-looking, too. I'd like a Green Man garden plaque to lurk under a bush or something.

Yeah, as I said to serai, I was quite intrigued by the Green Man/May Queen sexy ritual when I read of it, and may put it in a love story sometime. Romantic stuff!
May. 1st, 2011 12:49 am (UTC)
They do have the Bamberg green man miniatures. He's my favourite green man.
And then you have the three hares. YAY! I love ancient motifs!
May. 1st, 2011 03:23 pm (UTC)
I didn't know about the three hares, either. Cool stuff! I need to read up on my ancient symbolism. I think I've even seen Green Men in gardens or on houses before, and simply didn't realize what they were.
May. 30th, 2011 04:34 am (UTC)
Walpurgis Night
Now imagine what it would look like if Terry Gilliam were planning your Walpurgis Night festivities. Walpurgis Night features in "Faust," and Terry Gilliam directed the current English National Opera production of "The Damnation of Faust." I'm still puzzled, and I suspect I may be for quite some time.
May. 30th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Walpurgis Night
Heheh. Wow...I can only imagine. He does indeed bring the crazy.
May. 30th, 2011 04:38 am (UTC)
Forgot to sign my Terry Gilliam comment. Also forgot to apologize for being late to the party. Der.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )