While the idea of Beltane — especially its sexual and fertility aspects — has become the dominant way of thinking of this cross-quarter time in American Neo-Paganism, if you read Pagan or occult books written before the Great Pagan Explosion of the 1980s and 90s, or have an interest in Germanic Paganism, you will often see references to Walpurgisnacht, the night of the feast of Saint Walpurga.
Walpurga came from England to Germany as a Christian missionary, and was known for her power against epidemic illness — rather relevant to today — and against black magic.
Now, it conveniently happened that Walpurga was canonized on May 1 of 870 (or so), when her remains were relocated to a church. This provided cover for people to celebrate the old pagan cross-quarter day under pretext of venerating the saint.
In Norse traditions the time is viewed in somewhat the same way as its seasonal mirror Samhain: a time when the veil between the worlds is thinner. So bonfires are lit to keep away malevolent spirits.
A more recent tradition — probably dating to the 16th or 17th century — is that witches (in the black magic sense) gather on Walpurgisnacht; thus its alternate name, Hexennacht, “Witches’ Night”.
The Satanic Temple (a non-theistic, secularist, civil libertarian group, not to be confused with conman Anton LaVay’s Church of Satan) designates Hexennact as a time to honor “those who fell victim to superstition and pseudoscience, whether by witch hunt, Satanic panic, or other injustices.”
So as we move into the brightest quarter of the year (centered on the summer solstice), let’s take a moment to celebrate that even sainted Catholic missionaries can’t keep the Old Religion down, and indeed often become its unwitting defenders or enablers.
Let us notice that this time when the leaves are springing forth from the trees is just as liminal as the time when they will fall again in the autumn.
Let’s consider that it’s a good time to banish unwelcome spiritual influences from our lives, perhaps with that Great Transformer, fire.
And let us also remember victims of witch hunts and panics, and resolve to protect the rights of others, especially the concept of due process, so threatened today.