History of Walpurgis Night "Walpurgisnacht"

  April 30th. Some call it "Halfoween", as the date marks the mid-point between Halloweens. Exactly six more months until All Hallows' Eve. But you need not wait another half-year to celebrate your dark urges. For it is also Walpurgis Night!

  Celebrated in northern Europe and Scandinavia, the "Walpurgisnacht" tradition hoped to ensure fertility for crops and livestock. The rituals are often marked with feasting, singing, dancing, and bonfires. All the noise and flames are meant to keep the spirits at bay. You see, this is the evening when witches and their cohorts gather to revel one last time, before the warmth of Spring takes hold.

  Because Walpurgis Night is supposedly a time when the barrier between our world and the supernatural world is more easily crossed, it's featured quite a bit in popular culture. Some examples (via Wikipedia):
  In the 1931 film Dracula, a Romanian peasant describes the night on which the film begins as Walpurgis Night.
  The Bram Stoker short story "Dracula's Guest" takes place on Walpurgisnacht: "Walpurgis Night was when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad â when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel."
  In the H. P. Lovecraft story "The Dreams in the Witch House", Walpurgis Night is referred to as "the Witches' Sabbath", when Hell's blackest evil roamed the earth and all the slaves of Satan gathered for nameless rites and deeds.
  The Coffinshakers have a great song called "Walpurgis Night" beginning with the verse: "The witches are flying east from the dying of the sun. Bonfires light up their ride, the night has just begun."

  Black Sabbath's song "War Pigs" was originally called "Walpurgis", with lyrics involving the events at a Black Mass. "Witches gather at black masses. Bodies burning in red ashes..."

  And perhaps my favorite artistic depiction of Walpurgis Night is the closing sequence of Fantasia (Night on Bald Mountain) which portrays the devil Chernabog summoning evil spirits and restless souls from their graves. Disney sure had guts to put this beautiful nightmare in a children's film. The sequence opens with this introduction (which I'm not sure you'd hear in a present-day Disney cartoon): "Bald Mountain, according to tradition, is the gathering place of Satan and his followers. Here on Walpugis Night, which is the equivalent of our own Halloween, the creatures of evil gather to worship their master. Under his spell, they dance furiously."

  So, remember April 30th on you calender next year, and join in celebration, be it a "Halfoween" party, a spring feast, or a backyard bonfire. At the very least, enjoy this clip from the Fantasia sequence. A classic of Disney animation...

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Uploaded 09/07/2012
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