The eve of May is also called Walspurgis Night (from Walspurgisnact in German and Dutch) and Hexennact or Witches Night. According to various folktales witches fly to buck mountains and have a dance party around bonfires on the peaks. The next day, May Day (or Beltane) signals the beginning of summer, therefore, May Eve is the last night of Winter’s influence. It is fitting that witches circle during this liminal time when spirit flight is thought to be more effective and it is a good night to try spirit flying if you are learning how.
Dancing and communing around a fire is a primal rite that persists throughout time from prehistory to today. The drawings of people in early cave pictographs and the photos of folk customs and modern witches dances today bear striking similarity.
A witch can travel to the bonfire on a buck mountain by path-working there from a private spot in their room maybe with a helpful incense of mugwort on a censor in the window sill or even in by flying to it in their dreams.
My favorite way to ritually journey to the witches sabbath is to actually go to an outdoor site and light a campfire or set up a jar candle or lantern to circle. When your awareness changes as you move around the flames, direct your senses to notice the other witch spirits dancing around you.
A traditional way to see the witches sabbath on Witches Night is to dress with your clothes inside out and walk backwards to the crossroads.
I suspect that on Walpurgis night, witches determine fate with their weaving a of their magic dances. I was struck particularly by the pervasiveness of foretelling folk charms associated with this night. If you hide in the cornfields on Walpurgis night you will hear what will occur in the next year. Rain on May eve predicts a good harvest, but rain on May morn is bad. Young ladies untwist a thread and pray to St. Waldpurgis on her day to fortunetell. A girl learns the personality of her future partner by interpreting the characteristics as it is untwisted of a thread that they’ve kept by an icon of Virgin Mary for three days. So for example if the thread untwisted easily she could figure her partner would be easy going.
The Saint who pray-tells these fortunes is the 8th century British nun Walpurga who immigrated to Germany and established holy houses. In Eichstatt, her tomb trickled healing oil. Perhaps some folk pagan fire festival and the saint’s day just happened to coincide and became associated, but it’s is also probable that a St. Walpurga served as stand in for worship of a pagan deity like the underworld fairy Frau Holda or the seasonal goddess Holle. These cognate figures are associated with spinning and weaving–which in traditional witchcraft and fairy faith are tools of determining fate. European deities of fate are usually three women with spinning and weaving tools, the functions were passed on to witches in later lore.
For a magical Walspurgis night witches ritual, I can imagine the traditional witch’s cord as the flax, the forked stang serving as the distaff, and round dance the wheel spinning the witches’ fates.
- Call of the Horned Piper by Nigel Jackson
- The Book of Hallowe’en by Ruth Kelley
- Witchcraft Medicine by Christian Rätsch, Claudia Müller-Ebeling, and Wolf-Dieter Storl