Happy Halfway-to-Halloween! It’s Walpurgis Night 2016!

Walpurgisnacht - Half Way to Halloween

Beware ye, those who wander into the setting sun of April 30th, for ‘tis Witches’ Night and thou art not alone!

The eve of Saturday, April 30th, brings with it the celebration of Walpurgisnacht or “Witches’ Night” from the ancient Germanic tradition. The name, Walpurgis Night, is derived from the Festival of Saint Walpurga which takes place on May 1st, and the last day of April is celebrated with dancing and great bonfires that symbolically burn away the last remnants of winter and welcome the arrival of spring. Local variations of the festival are recognized across Europe, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland and Estonia.

In Germanic folklore, Walpurgis Night is the night when witches and sorcerers gather on the peak of the Brocken Mountain, the highest peak of the Harz mountain range in Northern Germany, and participate in a wild bacchanal that pays tribute to the Devil. Just like the Festival of Samhain, exactly six months opposite on the Gregorian calendar, this is a night when their magical powers are at their absolute peak and the layer between the supernatural world and the earthly plane is the thinnest.

In popular culture, Walpurgis Night has played a part in Bram Stoker’sDracula” (both the novel and the 1931 film starring Bela Lugosi), Goethe’sFaust,” H. P. Lovecraft’sThe Dreams in the Witch House,” Dennis Wheatley’sThe Devil Rides Out” (both the novel and the 1968 Hammer Horror film starring Christopher Lee), Walt Disney’sFantasia” (the “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence) and the 1971 Spanish werewolf movie, “La Noche de Walpurgis.

Walpurgis” was also the original title of heavy metal titans, Black Sabbath’sWar Pigs,” from their 1970 “Paranoid” album. Geezer Butler’s original song lyrics were indeed about the Witches’ Sabbath, but the record company thought the title sounded “too Satanic” (!) and convinced him to change the track into an anti-war song.

Just like the celebration of Krampus Night has finally taken root during the Christmas season in North America over the last decade, I think it’s only a matter of time before Walpurgis Night becomes “the Halloween that happens in the spring” here in the United States, and I’m sure Louisville’s coven of costume store sorcerers and enchantresses will be leading the charge.

The Phantom of The Ville

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