Thursday, April 30, 2015


YOU all know about Beltane and May Eve, but few people today still remember Walpurgis Night ... which is still celebrated on a mountain top in central Germany. 

Up to 150,000 witches, pagans and the simply curious are converging for May Eve revelries on the summit of the highest peak in the Harz Mountains in central Germany Thursday night for the four-day May Day holiday weekend.

Children in spooky costumes will participate in parades and street fairs in villages on the slopes of the Brocken, the mountain immortalised in Alexander Borodin's "Night on Bald Mountain" orchestral suite.

Bonfires will light the nighttime skies on mountain tops in the Harz region as local communities held their own May Day Eve festivals marking the end of winter and the coming of summer.

In the town of Schierke, a four-hour Walpurgis Night open-air play is being held, tracing the history of the persecution of witches, with players performing writhing modern dances to Medieval music.

The day of the Saint Walburga is celebrated on May 1. 

But the night before, April 30 or May Day Eve (Beltane Eve), is called Walpurgis Night, formerly the date of the pagan festival marking the end of winter. 

Of course, its autumnal counterpart, six months later on October 31, is Halloween, Samhain.

Walpurgis Night is celebrated from the Mediterranean up to Scandinavia, but no where as much as in the forested mountains of central Germany where so many Brothers Grimm fairy tales are set.

According to Germanic legend, this festival has been associated with a witches' carnival, and on this night it was believed that witches met with the devil for one final night of revelry before being consigned to the underworld until they emerge again exactly six months later on October 31 ... Halloween.

The Harz Mountains region is the location of many German fairy tales featuring witches and goblins and the Brocken is the highest Harz peak at 1,142 metres.

For 40 years, the region was split down the middle by the fortified border between East and West Germany. 

But in the 25 years since unification in 1990, the region has regained its title as one of the most romantic fairy-tale areas ... and spookiest.

The mountain also features in the drama "Faust" about an alchemist nobleman who sells his soul to the devil … on Walpurgis Night.

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