The Mass of St. Walpurga or Walpurgis Night is observed on April 30 in parts of Northern and Eastern Europe, from Sweden to the Czech Republic. It is known as ‘Walpurgisnacht’ in German-speaking nations, ‘Valborg’ in Sweden, and ‘Čarodejnice’ in the Czech Republic. Walpurgis Night is also known as “the other Halloween.” For example, on April 30, a traditional Walpurgis Night ritual involves the burning of an effigy of a witch on a campfire. In Sweden, this is bonfire night, once thought to ward off evil spirits but is now a fun way to get rid of excess gardening trash.
History of Walpurgis Night
The holiday’s origins may be traced to pagan fertility ceremonies and the arrival of spring. The pagan feast was blended with the tale of St. Walpurga, an English-born nun who resided at Heidenheim Abbey in Germany and subsequently became its abbess when the Norse were Christianized. Many locals felt Walburga had cured them of their ailments. St. Walpurga is tied with May 1 because of a medieval tale of her being canonized after her bones were transferred from their burial site to a church about the year 870.
April 30 marks the midway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. The date has a significant link to Beltane, a Celtic festival celebrated on the final day of winter and the beginning of summer.
People in the Harz Mountains of central Germany thought that witches rode through the sky on April 30, naming it Witches Night (Hexennacht), and maintained a coven atop Brocken Mountain, according to Germanic tradition. The townspeople would burn bonfires to terrify the witches and fend off any evil spirits, as witches didn’t enjoy a smoke. Because witches were said to dislike noise, they would also ring church bells and bash pots and pans. They would also pray to St. Walpurga (just in case) whose feast day falls on April 30.
St. Walpurga brought Christianity to the region in the ninth century. She is the patron saint of those suffering from dog bites, rabies, and whooping cough. Her intercession is invoked for protection against sorcery.
If chasing away witches on Walpurgis Night wasn’t thrilling enough, it was also the conclusion of the Middle Ages’ administrative year, which would have been a good enough reason to relax with a flagon of artisan-crafted mead and to toast something nice near a campfire.
Walpurgis Night timeline
Beltane, an ancient Celtic Sabbat (religious festival) merged with Germanic May Day, is Christianized to commemorate the canonization of St. Walpurga.
News of the miraculous effects of Walpurga’s Oil draws large crowds to her shrine, making her canonization grow in popularity.
Based on his studies of historical festivals, the scholar and mythologist Jacob Grimm organizes a vast amount of information on ancient rites, deities, heroes, and more, and titles it “Teutonic Mythology.”
The contemporary Wicca movement sets the calendar in its current shape and includes the eight most sacred festivals observed in ancient times.
Walpurgis Night FAQs
Is Walpurgisnacht a pagan festival?
Both Halloween and Walpurgisnacht have their roots in ancient rituals performed with the changing of the seasons (known as Samhain and Beltane, which refer to the return of winter and the start of summer, respectively). These days were particularly significant since they were thought to occur when the barrier between the spirit and physical realms was thinnest.
Which countries celebrate Walpurgis Night?
Walpurgis Night is celebrated in Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and the Netherlands. While there is some overlap in the styles of celebration, each country has its unique set of customs.
What is the significance of the name Walpurgis Night?
Walpurgis Night is named after St. Walpurga, an English Christian missionary.
Walpurgis Night Activities
Light up a bonfire
Without a bonfire, Walpurgisnacht is like Christmas without a tree. For hundreds of years, enormous bonfires have been set atop a community’s tallest hill to scare away the ghosts of the unseen realm.
Drink to your heart’s content
Walpurgisnacht, like New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras, and St. Patrick’s Day, is widely regarded as a night of tremendous joy. Mead, a sweet honey wine, is traditionally drunk on Walpurgis Night.
Hang spring flowers
Walpurgis Night, like Christmas, is commemorated by adorning rooms with greenery. Instead of evergreens, we’re talking about spring foliage blossoming at this time: flowers, shrubs, and — if feasible — oak boughs.
5 Interesting Facts About Walpurgis Night
It’s called “the second Halloween”
Neo-pagans refer to the celebration as “the second Halloween” since it shares many parallels with Samhain (October 31), when bonfires are lit.
Christian and pagan customs mix
Walpurgis Night celebrations combine elements of pagan Celtic and Germanic customs and Christian traditions surrounding St. Walpurga’s veneration.
Strongly rooted in the Beltane Festival
Modern-day celebrations trace their origins to the Beltane festival, a Celtic festival of regeneration.
It’s a night of awakening
The night of April 30 was thought to be either the springtime awakening of problematic spirits or the final chance for winter’s evil forces to wreak havoc on the living.
The saint’s oil heals
Walpurga’s Oil taken from the saint’s shrine and tomb is said to have healing properties.
Why We Love Walpurgis Night
It gives you time to declutter
It provides an opportunity to declutter your house and rejuvenate your spirit. Take your time and incorporate some magical cleaning rituals.
It’s a time to ward off evil spirits
To ward off bad spirits, many people hang blessed sprigs of vegetation from their houses or barns. Others leave slices of bread coated with butter and honey.
It is a month of freshness
As spring eventually emerges, the first dazzling hues of changing nature appear after testing our patience. Longer days make our routines and minds seem lighter.
Walpurgis Night dates