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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Walpurgisnacht

Walpurgisnacht: in Germanic countries, the night of April 30 to May 1st. On this night witches fly from all directions on broomsticks to dance, drive away the last remnants of snow and herald the beginning of spring. According to folk tradition, the devil presides at the witches’ Sabbath until the May Queen appears at midnight, signifying the end of winter. The witches must report all their misdeeds of the past year at this gathering. Those who have not done their fair share receive a beating as punishment. By all accounts, it is a night of boisterous obscenity and indecency.

In times past, farmers were advised to bore three holes over the door of their cowshed and place special roots and herbs in these cavities on Walpurgisnacht. The time and manner for digging up the roots was precisely defined for it was believed that such herbs had power over witches and could prevent them from entering the cowshed and doing harm to the cattle. The name Walpurgisnacht is taken from St. Walpurga, who was the daughter of Richard of England. According to tradition, her bones were taken to the Eichstatt Church on May 1, 870 and the church used her feast day in an attempt to Christianize these pagan practices.


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