“Walpurgisnacht”: the witches’ night

I imagine you are all prepared for this unique night. What is going to be celebrated? Today is the “witches’ night”, one of the most important festivities of the witches’ calendar in Northern Europe. On this night, one of the most intense and frightening witches’ sabbaths of the year takes place at the Brocken Peak in the German Harz Mountains. Witches and warlocks invisibly travel the skies to gather in secluded places to perform their lurid and demonic rituals, including banquets, macabre and erotic dances around bonfires, excesses of all kinds and, of course, devil worship. Or at least that is how it was popularized by Christians centuries ago.

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The sabbath on Mount Brocken. Johann von Goethe placed here one of the most famous episodes of his philosophical novel Faust, when the doctor and Mephisto attend the sabbath held during the Walpurgis Night. Jesús Callejo

However, the night of April 30 to May 1 had other more spiritual and occult connotations in its pagan aspect before it was discredited by spurious interests. It had a strong symbolic component linked to fertility and agricultural cycles. It was a key date in many regions of the northern hemisphere, where it implied the victory of Light in its everlasting battle against Darkness, purification, and, therefore, the proximity of summer.

As they did with so many other pagan festivities, Christians took it over and syncretized it with their cult to eliminate its pagan character. For this reason, this night was associated with St. Walburga or Walpurgis (710-778), an English saint who moved to Germany to support her uncle in the conversion of the Germanic pagans. She is commemorated on May 1 because it was on this day, but in 871, when her remains were transferred to the city of Eichstätt. Invoking her serves, precisely, to acquire protection against witches, evil spirits, and their evil spells. The legend says that one day she was teleported by the devil to a sabbath on Brocken Peak. The fact is that she began to catechize everyone, and was on the verge of converting the Devil himself to the holy faith.

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A sabbath according to the unique imagery of the master Goya. El Aquelarre-Francisco de Goya

After this syncretism, bonfires continued to be lit on this magical night, no longer to invigorate the witchcraft powers, but to neutralize them. For the same reason, crucifixes and herbs were placed on the doors, salt was poured at the entrances of the sheds or the bells of the temples were rung.

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