Stones and bones, brooms and fire. In the olden days, the night before May 1st was spent burning brooms or effigies of witches in big bonfires to ward off evil. Witches were thought to gather at the Brocken, a mountain in Germany where they held their strange revels around infernal fires of their own. Dead things might come galloping up out of their graves to follow the witches and join in their wicked revelry. Wild storms preceded and followed the witches and the Wild Hunt on their nighttime gallivants.
It’s terrifying stuff, but like most fairy tales, people don’t really believe in it anymore. But maybe they should.
I’ve loved Walpurgisnacht since I first started observing it as a complementary holiday to the more often observed Beltane or May Day. I even did a post on it last year, which has been one of my most popular posts to date, actually. This year, the group I do my social witchcraft with celebrated Walpurgisnacht together, and it may have been one of my favorite gatherings to date.
It started with a bonfire in a park about 500 feet from a big Boy Scout campout. Or, rather, it really started the day before when I am sure I piqued the curiosity of a few neighbors by hiking into our local woods, dropping handfuls of something powdery and muttering to myself at certain locations on the forest perimeter, then emerged moments later with a big, heavy object under my arm. I spent the rest of the day piecing together all of the elements I would need to fulfill my duties at Walpurgisnacht—sorting candles, making magical gifts for my co-coveners, bringing the appropriate skulls and bones and broom and stang down to my car under cover of darkness so I wouldn’t have to drag them out the next day while the neighbors looked on (they already had enough reason to look at me funny, why add to that?).
When I pulled into the camp, the scouts were swarming. As I struggled to gather some firewood from a rather flooded site, a number of the boys approached, waving glo-sticks and flashlights and demanding (in a charmingly pirates-and-lost-boys way) “Who goes there?!” Apparently some older kids had been running around trying to scare them earlier, so I had to vouch that I was not, in fact, a “robber” as they put it.
By the time our leader had arrived, the scouts had pretty much removed themselves to the far side of the camp and were engaged in what looked like a snipe hunt (bless ‘em). We got the fire going and arranged everything we would need for the night.
I can’t say too much about what happened next, but I will say that the following things may have been involved:
- Black-strap Molasses Rum offerings
- Leaping the fire on a broom
- Hedge-Crosser’s Smoke from Forest Grove Botanica
- An exchange of several magical gifts
- I may have worn lipstick at one point
Walpurgisnacht proved to be a great night for a few witches to gather around a bonfire, calling upon the dead, riding brooms, leaping through flame, and generally doing all the things the fairy tales say. We may not have had storms on the Brocken, but the winds definitely started rising before all was said and done. At one point, I very seriously had to say, “If you hear the sound of horses’ hooves, drop to the ground and don’t look up.” Maybe it was just my imagination at that point, but the air certainly seemed ripe with witchery.
So, what did you do on Old May Eve? (Or the next day, for that matter.)
5 thoughts on “Blog Post 126 – Walpurgisnacht 2011”
Since we are deep into the traditional Oaks/Derby pre-parties, it is very easy to put together the traditional April 30th evening (my great-grandfathers always said that for the Celts and before that, the Picts, the day began at sunset…we had tons of well-dried driftwood from the River, fire wood locally cut from the winter and a box of carefully preserved dried garden plants, flowers, pine cones, etc.
I don’t remember this not being done, the hills on April 30th were dotted with fires blazing even in rainy misty nights and at the front of caves too. The ashes had many uses and if one spent the night outside all night, well…what happened on May Day Eve stayed private.
We always had certain foods served too, deviled eggs, ham, fresh greens, potato dishes, corn bread, walnut and chocolate pecan pies, whipped cream and lots and lots of company. The Bourbon was usually brought out by the bonfire late late in the night, only for the men, I gather. Beautiful wild nights recreated as best as I can recall!
Ok, I completely lost it with “I may have worn lipstick at one point”. Hehehe. I wish I lived out by you, I so would have wanted to be at that party. Sounds like a blast as well as churning the witchy air..very, very cool!
My Beltane was much more tame. I planned on going to a Faerie Festival on Sat. in PA (it’s actually a Beltane Fest, but guess they call it Faerie so the “non-pagans” are not scared or confused), but my daughter was sick. So I did a little solitary celebration Sat evening. This is one of the minor points for me since it is not a solar point (I’m pretty sure I have mentioned that before, about the solar’s being my majors :>). Lit some incense, burned some herbs in my NA clay pot, had some brew and did some Corn Maiden adoration chants. Basic but nice.
This sounds like too much fun – but the entire time I was reading your post, I kept wondering if the scouts got a good look at the ram’s skull!
I spent the weekend at a Spring Festival. Nice and sanitary. Next year – more debauchery.
Sounds like you all had a grand time. What did I do for Walpurgisnacht 2011? My friend Ash (his blogspot is “crossroadsorcery”) organized an event this year and treated me and a handful of others to the ceremony of the Red Meal, followed by revelry into the wee hours. My first Walpurgisnacht, and hopefully the beginning of an ongoing tradition!
Thanks Modred! It sounds like your WPN was pretty witchy, too. It became one of my favorite holidays almost immediately after I began celebrating it, so be warned, it can be addictive! 😉
All the best,
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