April 30th ~ Walpurgisnacht or Hexennacht ~ Witches Night
The air is full of the promise of Spring, however, you can feel that Winter wants to hang on just that little bit longer, with its overcast skies and clouds full of ice cold tears. Quite appropriate then really for Walpurgisnacht, or the alternate name, Hexennacht (Witches night).
The transition between Winter and Summer, a liminal point, a time between times where veils between worlds thin, and supernatural forces come out to play or cause havoc! Beltane sits opposite the wheel to Samhain, where the veil between the living and the dead becomes thin. At Beltane, it is between the human world and the faerie and nature spirits that thins.
In Celtic traditions, It was believed that witches and evil supernatural forces took to the skies to scare folk, spreading malevolence throughout the land. The evil, cold and shadowy (therefore bad) winter spirits make one last ditch attempt to stop the good summer spirits claiming the land for summer completely.
So townsfolk rang church bells and made all the noise they could to scare off the dark forces moving through the air. They lit bonfires and torches, hung rowan, primrose and red thread crosses on the barns to protect their animals. Vigils were kept throughout the night until the rise of the Sun at dawn. When Winter would be defeated and Summer was on the way.
In Germany on April 30th, people believed that Witches and demons all met up on the highest peak of Harz mountain, where two rock formations known as The Devils Pulpit and The Witches Altar eeriely sit, and at the stroke of midnight, would fly on their broomsticks, pitchforks and goats to prevent the Queen of Spring from entering the country. Thus began a battle of Winter, that was seen as evil, and Spring, which was seen as good. All the goats and brooms got hidden, and loud noises such as whip cracking and door slamming were said to keep the spirits at bay, and large fires would be lit to scare off the demons.
Flight and fires are a common theme throughout Europe on this night. I for one will be out dancing among the flames and probably causing havoc in my household as it is also my husbands birthday, so a few pints of Guiness or mead shall be consumed!