Halloween isn’t the only night when the supernatural rules. There’s a penetrating chill in the wind. The bright moon rises behind the shivering, nearly naked trees. A profound sense of foreboding permeates the darkness. This is the night, after all, when witches ride their broomsticks through the sky, and the natural world is forced to confront the powers of the supernatural; this is Walpurgis Night 🧙🏻♂️ the 30th of April, a tradition dating back to Viking times (and possibly further).
The festival is recognised with the building of bonfires, it was thought that the power of the fire would scare away evil spirits or predators, or possibly both; loud noises were made and homes adorned with protection talismans. In Southern Sweden, a long known custom is of younger couples collecting greenery, branches and leaves from the forest at dusk. The couples would adorn the houses of the village and take part in festivities relating to the forthcoming Summer. This tradition is similar to that of one that exists in Britain, where young couples would ‘tie the knot’ in a hand wrapping ceremony on the 30th April and have 366 days (a year & a day) to make the wedding succeed, before untying the knot the following year if unsuccessful.
In the British Isles the 30th April is honoured as one of the cross points of the neo-pagan calendar and known as Beltane, and shares similar traits with their European neighbours such as celebrating fire and the coming of Spring. In medieval Ireland there are records of huge ‘Bealtaine’ fires in Central Ireland and also at a number of ancient prehistoric sites. Many customs that take place have links with European neighbours and are well known across the Isles, these vary from the May Pole and crowning of the May Queen.
Across the world many pagans, wiccans and Celtic traditionalists will be casting circle, performing ritual and above all celebrating the element of fire on April 30th or there abouts – magick is alive and well.
In film and books, Beltane and Walpurgis Night have been portrayed in many diverse ways. The unforgettable film “The Wicker Man” was no doubt influenced by the records of Julius Caesar indeed the film’s screenwriter, Anthony Shaffer was intrigued by the reports that the Gauls and Celts burning criminals in a large wicker figure at the start of Spring.
Dracula, a truly European vision of horror has a number of links with Walpurgis night. In the short story “Dracula’s Guest” takes place on Walpurgis Night. Stoker wrote, “Walpurgis Night was when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad – when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel.” Later in the 1931 film “Dracula”, at beginning of the film a Romanian peasant describes the night as Walpurgis Night and Dracula’s clerk Renfield arrives at Dracula’s castle at midnight, the beginning of the witching hour.
So if you miss your Halloween spookiness and horror, then why not take part in the Beltane / Walpurgis Night festivals and light a bonfire, crown a Queen and then dance around a pole! Or you could just sit at home and watch “The Wicker Man”.