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Walpurgis Night – The Other Beltane

By Jax

[Snip] Walpurgisnacht (Walburga’s Night / Walpurgis Night) is a popular Germanic holiday celebrated at the same time as Beltane. It has a colorful history which, from what I can find, dates from after the Christian conversion in Germany making it one of the few holidays that pagans might have adopted from a Christian festival, instead of vice versa.* Now famous for the bonfires that light the hills of Sweden, the champagne toasts in Finland, and the pranks of southern Germany it has been known as both a witch’s holiday and the feast day of a saint.

St. Walburga was born in Devonshire in 710 and grew up in an abbey in England where she learned to write and studied Latin, rare training for a woman in her day. In fact, later in life she wrote a biography of her brother, making her one of England and Germany’s first female authors. She moved to modern-day Germany in 748 to help St. Boniface convert the heathens. (*Jax pauses to shake a fist at the sky before continuing the tale.*) She performed her first miracle on the boat over when she calmed a storm that threatened their journey. She lived the rest of her life in what we now call Germany and became an abbess before she died in either 777 or 779. She was canonized in 870. Her official Catholic feast day is the day of her death, February 25, but the more popular celebration is the day of her canonization: May 1st. In Germanic countries her celebration was conflated with May Day, and the evening of April 30th was turned into Walpurgis Night.

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