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Walpurgis or Beltaine Eve: Does it matter?

A celebration of Walpurgis held in Heidelberg
A celebration of Walpurgis held in Heidelberg
Andreas Fink

"Occult Weekly" recently published an article about Walpurgis, a pagan holiday held the night of April 30 and celebrated primarily in Germanic countries such as German, Finland and Sweden. According to “Occult Weekly”, this night is highly charge with magic because it is the night when winter is closest to transitioning to spring.

Readers might pause a moment here and wonder if that did not already take place during the vernal equinox. However, there is a difference between the astronomical event of equinox and when spring actually appears in the land. In northern countries, winter is longer. It begins earlier and ends later. Walpurgis recognizes that the winter is actually leaving the land.

Furthermore, some authorities on Celtic paganism have said that the pagans of the British Isles only recognized two seasons, winter and summer. Summer began on May 1 and ended October 31. Winter began November 1 and ended April 30. Opinions on this vary, but it is a common belief.

It is when the changes actually occur that atmospheric magic is at its highest level. New life is bursting from the earth and the trees bringing with it a powerful energy. Those who can sense this energy can channel it to do many things from encouraging the fertility of their crops to making positive changes in their own lives.

The name Walpurgis does not come from pagan sources. It is named for an English holy woman who traveled to Germany and founded a Roman Catholic convent in the 8th century. Later she became a nun and was canonized a saint on May 1, 779.

The irony of this is priceless because the woman for which the night is named was intensely against witchcraft. She had been known to preach against it and consider it evil.

According to German legend, on Walpurgis witches gather in Brocken Mountains in the center of Germany. This legend appears to have been created by people who feared witches and their powers. It even served a purpose in German literature as Proust's “Faust” is based there.

Further research indicates that some pagans consider Walpurgis as either a separate holiday from Beltane or to be a Christian holiday converted to a pagan one rather than the other way around as normal. Since, however, the central common aspect of Walpurgis ceremonies is the bonfire, it is more likely that the holiday is actually the celebration of Beltane Eve. It is not uncommon for Beltane celebrations to begin at sundown April 30 and continue until sundown May 1 or 2.

Regardless of origin, the fact remains that the transition from winter to spring (or summer to the Celts) is a night charged with intense power. It is directly across the Wheel of the Year from Samhain, and of equal intensity. By some beliefs the veil between our world and the next is just as thin that night. Some even refer to it as the second Halloween.

Beltane will be time for fertility rites, the Maypole and the greening of homes. Use the energy of Walpurgis or Beltane Eve to make powerful changes in your life such as beginning education for a new career or beginning a creative project. Use it to help others as well.

Summer is beginning, but soon the summer solstice will be here and the days will begin growing shorter again. Take advantage of all that is good while you can. The Wheel of the Year turns and the darkness will come again.

"Occult Weekly" is publish by 7witches Coven