WALPURGISNACHT

A small edition for Saturday. This edition is aptly named WALPURGISNACHT. This would be April 30th, celebrated by Goethe in “Faust”.

Have a great weekend, and happy reading.

Gwyllm

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WALPURGISNACHT

Walpurgis Night which is celebrated on 30th of April is originally a heathen spring festival. The heathen deities Wodan and Freya are said to have conceived Spring that night. It was a feast of sacrifice in which the focus was formed by the drink of love and a green coloured May punch. Traditionally the festival was held on the Brocken the highest mountain in Northern Germany.

A. Dürer, The Witches

In the Middle Ages, during which witch hunting reached its pinnacle, the inquisition declared the 30th of April as the Witches’ Sabbath. It was believed that the witches rubbed a special ointment onto their skin that enabled them to fly. Having done so they mounted their brooms and flew to the Brocken where they met other witches. The farmers tried to protect themselves by hiding their brooms, billy-goats and goats which were also used as a means of transport by the witches. Three crosses over the house- and stable door were believed to keep the witches away. In order to protect sleeping children, stockings were crossed over their beds. In urban areas as much noise as possible was made in order to keep the witches away. On their flight to the Brocken the witches were believed to bite pieces out of every churchbell they passed. The Brocken itself is steeped in legend. Countless tales are recounted about what happened to people who found themselves on the mountain while the witches were meeting.

Walpurgis Night probably received its name during the time of the inquisition. Walburga, born on the 30th April, was an abbess of a very kind and gentle nature. She died in Eichstätt in 788. Even after Christianisation some people did not want to give up their belief in pagan gods. In order to frighten Chrisians they dressed up as devils and witches. The Church on their behalf introduced the gentle Walburga as the counterpart who would protect its followers. Thus Walburga has become the protector from witchcraft and magic.

The night from 30th April to the 1st May is also called “Freinacht” (“free night”). During that night it is very common in Germany to wrap cars in toilet-paper and play others little tricks on people. And not only is it celebrated to drive out the winter, or to protect oneself against witches but also conscripts celebrate it as their last chance to have some fun before their medical inspection for the military service the next day. .

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From Faust:

Witches in chorus

The witches t’ward the Brocken strain

When the stubble yellow, green the grain.

The rabble rushes – as ’tis meet –

To Sir Urian’s lordly seat.

O’er stick and stone we come, by jinks!

The witches f…, the he-goat s…

Voice

Old Baubo comes alone, I see;

Astride on farrow sow is she!

Chorus

So honor be where honor is due!

Dame Baubo first! to lead the crew,

A hag upon a sturdy sow!

All witches come and follow now!

Voice

Which way didst thou come here?

Voice

By Ilsenstein crest;

I peered into an owlet’s nest.

Her wild eyes stared at me!

Voice

To hell, I say, with thee!

Why ride so furiously?

Voice

She almost flayed me!

See here, the wounds she made me!

Chorus of Witches

The road is wide, the way is long:

How madly swirls the raving throng

The pitchfork pricks, the broom us hurts;

the infant chokes, its mother bursts.

Wizards. Semi-chorus

We creep as slowly as a snail;

Far, far ahead the witches sail.

When to the Devil’s home they speed,

Women by a thousand paces lead.

The Other Half

Not so precise are we! Perhaps

A woman takes a thousand steps.

Although she hastes as best she can,

One leap suffices for a man.

Voice (above)

Come with us from the rockbound lake!

Voices (below)

We fain would follow in your wake!

We’ve washed, are clean as clean can be;

Yet barren evermore are we.

Both Choruses

The wind is hushed, the starlight pales,

The dismal moon her features veils;

As magic-mad the hosts whiz by,

A myriad sparks spurt forth and fly.

Voice (from below)

Tarry! Tarry!

Voice (from above)

Who calls so loud from rocky quarry?

Voice (from below)

Take me too! Take me too!

Three hundred years I have been striving

To reach the peak – I’m not arriving;

I fain would join my equals too.

Both Choruses

The broomstick carries, so does the stock;

The pitchfork carries, so does the buck;

Who cannot rise on them tonight,

Remains for aye a luckless wight.

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