Walpurgis Night: The Other Halloween (April 30, 2013)

Walpurgis Night: The Other Halloween (April 30, 2013)

Gather round the bonfire, my friends, for
Walpurgis Night is at hand! I, The Phantom of the Ville, have awoken from my
winter slumber and have returned to my old haunts in the River City with
exciting news. In early June, Louisville Halloween will be unveiling a new,
improved website with a number of new features that will better serve your smart
phones and digital devices. Expect a much bigger media presence in the Ville
this year as well. There will be more news, new haunted houses, new contests,
movie screenings and reviews, horror convention appearances and panels and much
more spooky fun.

Six months of orange & black obsession begins
on May Day, the first of May, 2013. To kick things off, I might suggest you
light a candle, pick a horror movie on Blu-ray or DVD and celebrate Walpurgis
Night, also known as Walpurgisnacht. Like All Hallow’s Eve traditionally marks
the end of Summer and the beginning of Winter in America, Walpurgis Night is a
festival celebrated in much of Central and Northern Europe that marks the end of
Winter and the beginning of Spring.

Named after an English missionary, Saint Walpurga,
who was granted sainthood on May 1, she became associated with the holiday of
May Day. The night before May Day, which is celebrated with singing, dancing and
great community bonfires, came to be known as Walpurgisnacht. It is exactly six
months from Halloween.

Like All Hallow’s Eve, there is an ancient pagan
connection to witchcraft and sorcery. In Germany, Walpurgis Night is believed to
be a night when witches gather and light huge bonfires in honor of the old gods,
and like our tradition of trick-or-treat, youngsters often play pranks on
neighbors under cover of darkness. In the Czech Republic, April 30 is known as
Burning of the Witches Night,” and straw witches and broomsticks are burned in
massive bonfires. In Estonia, people dress like witches and indulge in large
street carnivals.

Aside from the connection to witchcraft, the
common theme in almost all celebrations of Walpurgis Night is that of the
community bonfire. Folks gather together in the still chilly night air to sing,
dance, drink and warm themselves by massive fires on hilltops all across the
land, symbolically burning away the last of Winter.

There are a couple of movies that involve the
themes of Walpurgis Night and May Day if you’re looking for something to watch
to get you through the night. “La Noche de Walpurgis” (1971), more commonly
known in America as “Werewolf Shadow” and “The Werewolf VS the Vampire Women” is
actually the fifth entry in a saga of twelve werewolf films featuring Spanish
actor, Paul Naschy, as the cursed Waldemar Daninsky. Only tangentially related
to Walpurgis Night, two college girls awaken an ancient vampire-witch queen
during the course of the night and Daninsky’s werewolf character attempts to
rescue them, but eventually succumbs to the curse of the Full Moon and gets into
a knock-down-drag-out battle with the vampire queen.

The best movie ever made about May Day and its
connection to witches covens and ceremonial bonfires is undoubtedly Robin
Hardy’s “The Wicker Man” (1973) starring Christopher Lee. In this cult classic,
a police sergeant (Edward Woodward) travels to a secluded island in search of a
missing girl only to be confronted by one of the most unusual cults ever
depicted in a horror film. A must see film for the uninitiated, the climax still
has the power to shock modern audiences.

Commence with your own Walpurgis Night bonfire or
start a new May Day tradition, but come back and celebrate with us regularly now
through October 31st for more news, reviews, interviews and
adventures in the Louisville shadows.

The Phantom of The Ville

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