Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon

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"May Eve was Walpurgis Night, when hell's blackest evil roamed the earth..."

I missed Pi(e) Day (March 14th) this year because I was so sick, so I've decided to make up for it by writing a post on Walpurgisnacht (especially since many of y'all are probably unfamiliar with it). For those more interested in my actual genuine life, I've included a brief rundown of current events here:

Today is payday. I'm thrilled. I'm broke. But I'm not as broke as I'd be if it weren't payday, so again, I'm thrilled. Need to wash clothes tonight. Ellen and I are going to the Us (Not Them Productions) Spring Film Festival tomorrow. We're starting a little earlier than usual, but if we make Rocky, we'll be cutting it close. It also means that I'll be nearly dead for my sister's birthday celebration on Sunday. No biggie, I think. Hopefully her White Ninja books will have arrived by then, and I'll be able to wrap them in the last of my skull-and-crossbones paper from Hot Topic. If not (which is more likely), she gets an IOU and a funny card. Probably one featuring monkeys. Anyway, on to the Walpurgis:

May Eve (also referred to as Walpurgisnacht, Walpurgis Night, or simply, The Walpurgis) is celebrated on the night of April 30th/May 1st, exactly six months after Halloween. It is named after Saint Walpurga (known also as Wealdburg, Valderburger, Valborg and Walburga), an abbess who was born in who lived between 710 and 779 A.D. She was granted sainthood on May 1st, 779, a few months after her death. As Christianity spread through Europe, Christian holidays were created to supplant pagan feasts, and Walpurga, the protectress against witchcraft and sorcery, became associated with the annual Viking fertility rites that coincide with the seasonal change.

In certain pagan belief systems, May Eve is the last night before spring triumphs over winter. It is the night when witches, demons and their familiars enjoy one last mad celebration until Halloween. Further mystical and occult connotations surround Walpurgisnacht as a result of Goethe's Faust. In Faust, Mephistopheles (the devil) takes Faust on May Eve to The Brocken, the highest peak of the Harz mountains, known for centuries as a witches' meeting place. There, Faust participates in the revelry of the Witches Sabbath. The mild spirits of the earth, along with fairies and elves (the ancient dead) awaken and dance though the night, beginning their reign over the more temperate half of the year.

Walpurgisnacht is celebrated primarily in Germany, Eastern Europe and Scandanavia. In parts of Scandanavia (especially Finland and Sweden), Walpurgisnacht is celebrated as a prominent Christian holiday, like Midsummer or Christmas. Originally, the festival was a time to drive out evil spirits with loud noise. In the present day, Walpurgis celebrations are very similar to Halloween in the United States. Bonfires are lit, children dress as witches and evil spirits, and many college campuses hold traditional observances. On the morning of May first, the entire population of Scandanavia utters a collective "dammit" as they discover that Vasaline has been smeared on their doorknobs, bananas have been stuffed into their tailpipes, toilet paper adorns their trees, and President Bush is still in the Whitehouse.

I'm sorry, I forgot that I'm trying to be serious here.

Anyway, since I'm a big dork, I've collected a small but solid playlist of semi-related classical music which I'm sure all of you but evil_jim will ignore:
  • Dreams of a Witches Sabbath from Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz (MIDI), learn about the symphony here.

  • Der Bucklichte Fiedler (The Hump-Backed Fiddler), arranged by Johannes Brahms (MP3),
    There once lived a fiddler in Frankfurt am Main,
    His back had a hump, but his fiddling was fine,
    On the way to his house,
    He crossed the square, he crossed the square,
    A crowd of lovely ladies was gathering there.

    You poor hunchback fiddler come play us a tune,
    We promise to grant you a worthier spoon,
    Play a polka or waltz,
    So gay and bright, so gay and bright,
    For we are celebrating Walpurgis tonight.

    The fiddler began how the fiddle did sing,
    The ladies went dancing around in a ring,
    When the fiddle had played,
    The final chord, the final chord,
    One lady said "Oh fiddler, come claim your reward"

    She tapped on his shoulder and counted to ten,
    The fiddler stood slender and tall once again,
    "Oh, I'll fiddle no more",
    Cried he with glee, cried he with glee,
    "For now the pretty maids will go dancing with me."

  • Danse Macabre by Camille St. Saens (Zipped MP3), performed by a band organ

  • Uranus: The Magician by Gustav Holst from The Planets (MIDI)

  • Neptune: The Mystic by Gustav Holst from The Planets (MIDI)
Finally, just to indulge my own personal preference (which is the only reason I post in my livejournal in the first place), here are some passages from the works of H.P. Lovecraft concerning the Walpurgis:

From Supernatural Horror in Literature:
Much of the power of Western horror-lore was undoubtedly due to the hidden but often suspected presence of a hideous cult of nocturnal worshippers whose strange customs -- descended from pre-Aryan and pre-agricultural times when a squat race of Mongoloids roved over Europe with their flocks and herds -- were rooted in the most revolting fertility-rites of immemorial antiquity. Ibis' secret religion, stealthily handed down amongst peasants for thousands of years despite the outward reign of the Druidic, Graeco-Roman, and Christian faiths in the regions involved, was marked by wild "Witches' Sabbaths" in lonely woods and atop distant hills on Walpurgis-Night and Hallowe'en, the traditional breeding-seasons of the goats and sheep and cattle; and became the source of vast riches of sorcery-legend, besides provoking extensive witchcraft -- prosecutions of which the Salem affair forms the chief American example. Akin to it in essence, and perhaps connected with it in fact, was the frightful secret system of inverted theology or Satan-worship which produced such horrors as the famous "Black Mass"; whilst operating toward the same end we may note the activities of those whose aims were somewhat more scientific or philosophical -- the astrologers, cabalists, and alchemists of the Albertus Magnus or Ramond Lully type, with whom such rude ages invariably abound. The prevalence and depth of the mediæval horror-spirit in Europe, intensified by the dark despair which waves of pestilence brought, may be fairly gauged by the grotesque carvings slyly introduced into much of the finest later Gothic ecclesiastical work of the time; the dæmoniac gargoyles of Notre Dame and Mont St. Michel being among the most famous specimens. And throughout the period, it must be remembered, there existed amongst educated and uneducated alike a most unquestioning faith in every form of the supernatural; from the gentlest doctrines of Christianity to the most monstrous morbidities of witchcraft and black magic. It was from no empty background that the Renaissance magicians and alchemists -- Nostradamus, Trithemius, Dr. John Dee, Robert Fludd, and the like -- were born.

From The Horror at Red Hook:
Moloch and Ashtaroth were not absent; for in this quintessence of all damnation the bounds of consciousness were let down, and man's fancy lay open to vistas of every realm of horror and every forbidden dimension that evil had power to mould. The world and Nature were helpless against such assaults from unsealed wells of night, nor could any sign or prayer check the Walpurgis-riot of horror which had come when a sage with the hateful key had stumbled on a horde with the locked and brimming coffer of transmitted daemon-lore.

From The Dreams in the Witch-House:
The screaming twilight abysses flashed before him, and he felt himself helpless in the formless grasp of the iridescent bubble-congeries. Ahead raced the small, kaleidoscopic polyhedron and all through the churning void there was a heightening and acceleration of the vague tonal pattern which seemed to foreshadow some unutterable and unendurable climax. He seemed to know what was coming - the monstrous burst of Walpurgis-rhythm in whose cosmic timbre would be concentrated all the primal, ultimate space-time seethings which lie behind the massed spheres of matter and sometimes break forth in measured reverberations that penetrate faintly to every layer of entity and give hideous significance throughout the worlds to certain dreaded periods.
* * *

Now he was praying because the Witches' Sabbath was drawing near. May Eve was Walpurgis Night, when hell's blackest evil roamed the earth and all the slaves of Satan gathered for nameless rites and deeds. They were telling each other how badly they dreaded the coming of Walpurgis Night, now only a few days off; and were exchanging pitying comments about the poor, doomed young gentleman. Desrochers, the fellow under Gilman's room, had spoken of nocturnal footsteps shod and unshod, and of the violet light he saw one night when he had stolen fearfully up to peer through Gilman's keyhole. He had not dared to peer, he told Mazurewicz, after he had glimpsed that light through the cracks around the door. There had been soft talking, too - and as he began to describe it his voice had sunk to an inaudible whisper.
* * *

She had, she said, seen Brown Jenkin about the place now and then ever since early in March, and knew from its grimaces and titterings that little Ladislas must be marked for sacrifice at the awful Sabbat on Walpurgis Night. She had asked her neighbour Mary Czanek to sleep in the room and try to protect the child, but Mary had not dared. She could not tell the police, for they never believed such things. Children had been taken that way every year ever since she could remember. And her friend Pete Stowacki would not help because he wanted the child out of the way.
* * *

This was April thirtieth, and with the dusk would come the hellish Sabbat-time which all the foreigners and the superstitious old folk feared. Mazurewicz came home at six o'clock and said people at the mill were whispering that the Walpurgis revels would be held in the dark ravine beyond Meadow Hill where the old white stone stands in a place queerly devoid of all plant-life. The passage through the vague abysses would be frightful, for the Walpurgis-rhythm would be vibrating, and at last he would have to hear that hitherto-veiled cosmic pulsing which he so mortally dreaded. Even now he could detect a low, monstrous shaking whose tempo he suspected all too well. At Sabbat-time it always mounted and reached through to the worlds to summon the initiate to nameless rites. Half the chants of the Sabbat were patterned on this faintly overheard pulsing which no earthly ear could endure in its unveiled spatial fulness. Gilman wondered, too, whether he could trust his instincts to take him back to the right part of space. How could he be sure he would not land on that green-litten hillside of a far planet, on the tessellated terrace above the city of tentacled monsters somewhere beyond the galaxy or in the spiral black vortices of that ultimate void of Chaos where reigns the mindless demon-sultan Azathoth?

Haunter of the Dark:
Late in April, just before the aeon-shadowed Walpurgis time, Blake made his first trip into the unknown. Plodding through the endless downtown streets and the bleak, decayed squares beyond, he came finally upon the ascending avenue of century-worn steps, sagging Doric porches, and blear-paned cupolas which he felt must lead up to the long known, unreachable world beyond the mists. There were dingy blue-and-white street signs which meant nothing to him, and presently he noted the strange, dark faces of the drifting crowds, and the foreign signs over curious shops in brown, decade-weathered buildings. Nowhere could he find any of the objects he had seen from afar; so that once more he half fancied that the Federal Hill of that distant view was a dream-world never to be trod by living human feet.

The summary of Walpurgisnacht history and traditions was compiled from Scandanavian Culture & Holidays, German Customs, Traditions Origins of Holidays, and the World History Wikipedia entry on Walpurgis.
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