On 30 April, you can celebrate the other Halloween, Walpurgis Night, with the witches.
Since the medieval era, this time was when the worlds of the living and dead were closest.
On Walpurgis Night or May eve, legend says that witches fly to meet the devil at the summit of the Brocken Mountain.
There they boast about the year’s evil deeds and top off the stories with a bacchanalian frenzy.
(Some stories involve kissing a goat’s backside!)
Frightened peasants used to hang crosses and herbs on stable doors to protect their livestock.
Ringing church bells or cracking whips were other ways to discourage witches from dropping by.
Today, however, people come to be with the witches, not to escape them.
A-farting on stinking old goats
The writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) wrote that on Walpurgis Night the witches sing:
“Now to the Brocken the witches ride;
the stubble is gold and the corn is green;
There is the carnival crew to be seen,
And Squire Urianus will come to preside.
So over the valleys our company floats, with witches a-farting on stinking old goats.”
For up to 300 days a year, the mysterious Brocken is shrouded in mist and fog,
The winds have twisted the trees.
Strange rock formations have names like the Devil’s Pulpit and the Witch’s Altar.
As if all this wasn’t creepy enough, the ghost of the Brocken might scare you to death.
The setting sun magnifies your shadow and projects in onto the low lying clouds or mist, adding a rainbow or halo effect.
The first victim was a climber, who lost his balance when a haloed figure came towards him from the mist.
He literally died from being afraid of his own shadow, falling to the rocks far below.
Medieval Walpurgis Night
On Walpurgis Night, precautions were taken against cattle-harming witches.
Blessed bells were hung from cow’s necks. Stable doors are locked and sealed with three (yes, three) crosses.
Didn’t want to miss out on the witches? Put on your clothes wrong side out and walking backward would help you see them.
So would wearing a wild radish around your neck or on your person.
Love potions were thought to be exceptionally potent on Walpurgis Night.
You slept with one stocking on and checked it the next morning.
If you found a single hair, that was the hair color of your future spouse.
Keep a linen thread near a statue of the Virgin Mary on Walpurgis Night.
At midnight, unravel it and recite the following:
“Thread, I pull thee;
Walpurga, I pray thee,
That thou show to me
What my husband’s like to be.”
His disposition was foretold by the thread’s being strong or easily broken, soft or tightly woven.
Out of the broom closet
Europe has quite a few witches in the broom closet.
In the Czech Republic, the local variation is Carodejnice (Burning of the Witches).
Bonfires are lit all over the country and an effigy of a witch – or an old broom- is burnt.
To Czechs, it’s a day all about love.
Apparently, a kiss under a cherry tree that night will keep both tree and young lady from drying up.
In Finland, the night is combined with May Day as one of their most important holidays.
It involved a large amount of heavy drinking!
In Sweden, it’s the Feast of Valborg and is nowadays treated more midsummer celebration “with witches”.
Then, of course, there are the modern day pagans around the world who celebrate Witches Night in their own way.
Siobhan is a freelance writer, research addict and lover of twisted history. If you like horrible but amazing history, check out her website www.interesly.com or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/interesly. Or you can reach her through www.siobhanoshea.com.