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Walpurgisnacht / Walpurgis Night

Posted: 28 Apr 2011, 14:15
by DaRC
Hi - I was just wondering if any of the forum's German or Nordic member have any local myths, folklore or traditions that they know of?

Re: Walpurgisnacht / Walpurgis Night

Posted: 29 Apr 2011, 07:48
by illion
:hiya: DaRc

May 1. was called "Gaukmesse" (cuckoo's mass) in Norway. The name "Gaukmesse" is probably coming from the name of the first summer month in prechristian times called "gaukmánadr". Now was the time to hear the cuckoo. This is what it was called in Snorris Edda. Sometimes we hear of the name "Valborgdagen" named after the holy Walpurga. The night before May 1. was associated with the tradition of witches flying and witches sabbath in southern Scandiavia, not so much in Norway.

In Norway it is the "gaukmesse" or "Gaukdagen" that started the first summer month. You should not walk barefoot before you have heard the cuckoo for the first time each year. Sometimes it is called "lille gangdagen" (the little walking day). They lit a candle that they carried over the fields, while they took omens for the year. Wind from south meant that a good year would follow, wind from north meant bad year. The summer came with "gaukmesse", an important day because it foretold the summer weather.
If you hear the cuckoo this day your close future will be foretold from the directions you hear the cuckoo.
From South - (Sågjøk) - The grains will be sown in good weather.
From North - (Någjøk) - Disease or death will occur. (A cuckoo clock should not be placed on the northern wall in the house)
From West - (Viljegjøk) - All your wishes will come true.
From East - (Liljegjøk) - Happy marriage or proposing.

Some people say that the night before "Gaukmesse" is the land wights' great feast, elves, huldres, nøcks and trolls get together to celebrate the spring.

Re: Walpurgisnacht / Walpurgis Night

Posted: 03 May 2011, 13:06
by DaRC
illion :applause: most excellent that is just the sort of local knowledge I was seeking. So 'ta muchly' (as we say down here for thank you very much).
Now was the time to hear the cuckoo.
It was a couple of weekends ago my wife & I got to hear the first cuckoo, at about 5a.m. and it sounded like it was right outside our window! We weren't happy to receive such an early and loud alarm call - but hey at least our window is south facing.

Re: Walpurgisnacht / Walpurgis Night

Posted: 03 May 2011, 18:02
by Dendrias

For Germany:
Legend: Witches are told to assemble on the Brocken (highest mountain in the Harz mountains ... close to my hometown, which is at the outskirts of the mountains) to meet (and court) the devil . Read Goethe's Faust for that.

Folklore: Widespread is the "dancing into May", which can happen is a simple tent or any other dancing facility. It's quite nice, but (?) nearly always connected to alcohol. There's no spiritual trait, just dancing (disco dancing, ballroom dancing, schunkeln).
A pupil of mine told me that in his village witches with their brooms gathered on the marketplace - of course, this is about the same disguising as fastnacht is ... and it happens a lot in the Harz mountains - surprise!
In the wikipedia-article you can see a picture from Heidelberg. I'm not in it, but custom is to walk straight to the top of the Heiligenberg to celebrate with loads of alcohol, food, fire, music and drugs ... and to leave behing all the rubbish modern youths leave behind. I'm not sure whether naked jumping through the fire is spiritually motivated or by "spirit".
A friend of mine took a birch to place it in front of his best friend's girlfriend's house ... and himself married her later. And that's quite a custom as well (the birch, not to marry your best friend's girlfriend). That's called a "Maibaum".
Of course, the anarchists and leftists wreak havoc in Berlin and Hamburg. They always do. That's a custom as well.

Now, that's what I have encountered directly. I haven't experienced other customs.

Re: Walpurgisnacht / Walpurgis Night

Posted: 02 Feb 2012, 13:19
by Abfalter
As the Walpurgisnacht starts with sundown on April 30th , it is actually the beginning of Beltane, just like Hallowe'en is the beginning of Samhain. The night is named after the Christian saint Walpurga, who, like Mary, St. Margareth, St. Katherine, and St. Barabra, is a Christian version of the Goddess. As such Walpurga is sometimes depicted as the White Lady (the Alpine mythological representation of the Goddess) with shoes on fire (warming the Earth,) a mirror (as a symbol for reincarnation, mirroring the soul in the next life), with a golden crown (the Sun) and a mandrel (to spin the thread of fate.) Clearly, she's the Goddess.
Today's association with the Walpurgisnacht is witches on their brooms dancing furiously with the devil, obviously a condemnation of the pagan traditions carried out that night.
There are indications that initiations of new priests, i.e. Druids in the Celtic Alps, happened that night, for all the known reasons (the veil to the Otherworld is lifted etc. etc.) and that the participants built a sacred fence from willow branches around the ceremonial places, usually on the tops of hills with radiesthetic significance. The image of folks carrying bundles of willow branches up the hill became the "witches with their brooms."
As Beltane is also a festival of procreation and about the joy of the start of the light half of the year, the rituals in these gatherings became probably ecstatic and fun as the night went on, especially with the application of "Flugsalbe" (flying lotion) which usually contained black henbane, belladonna and other psychtropic substances, maybe even fly agaric.
Other than dancing and sex, playing tricks on the villagers seemed to have been a result of the indoxination, a tradition that is still kept in some Alpine valleys.

Greetings from the Celtic Cradle
Christian (I know, the name is misleading) :grin:

Re: Walpurgisnacht / Walpurgis Night

Posted: 03 Feb 2012, 12:12
by DaRC
thank you ever so much Christian - a great addition to this thread :o

I'd not thought about the mirror & flame indicating the goddess; there's a local legend where an old lady used a sieve (as a mirror) and a candle (as the sun), plus a cockerel to fool 'the Devil' that it's sunrise. I'd not thought of that old lady as a representation of the goddess before.

Re: Walpurgisnacht / Walpurgis Night

Posted: 03 Feb 2012, 15:20
by Abfalter
Oh, my pleasure, as "wisdom would die if not used." :old:
I thought I'd add some local myths and customs. Many of them deal with divination, especially - and because of the date - the kind that has to do with who is going to be the spouse. At the same time, many deal with the death of someone, often within the same story, as in the one following:
"In Carinthia a maid asked the farmer's wife if she knew how to divine her (the maids) future husband. The farmer's wife instructed the maid to wipe the kitchen floor naked at midnight, and look over her shoulder to the door (in other versions through her legs, or from the door to the kitchen table,) where she will see her future husband. The maid did as told, and saw the farmer in the door. Upset and thinking the farmer's wife had told her husband about the maid's quest, confronted the farmer's wife the next morning. Knowing her fate now, the woman only sighed and asked the maid that she'll not only feed her own future children, but also the ones the farmer has already with her, the farmer's wife."

In the lower part of the Salzburg province, people stick two boards in an St. Andrew's cross (X) on the stable doors to keep the Percht from the animals. Now, "Percht" is actually a dialect term of the the (Three) "Beths", the manifestations of the Goddess Trinity, Wilbeth, Ambeth and Borbeth. They are the christianised saints Katherine, Margareth and Barbara. (Yes, we're back there again.) So, this Christian practice is either meant to block the Goddess from entering the stables, as in to "keep the old faith out" or has to do with that it's often Borbeth, the "old crone accompanying the souls into the Otherworld," the Alpine leader of the Wild Hunt, who is referred to as Percht. She would visit the stables and mark the cattle that is bound to die this summer, and the St. Andrews cross would then be meant to stop her from doing so.

It is also custom to burry a mirror with its reflecting side downwards on a crossroads (in the meaning of a crossing of water veins) on Walpurgisnacht. The next night, between 11 pm and 12 pm, it is to be removed. Then, one can see the future in the mirror, particularly a future spouse or who is going to die the next year.

Other customs:
  • Rain in the Walpurgisnacht means good weather throughout the year.
    Those who make butter while naked around midnight will have good butter the rest of the year.
    A dowsing rod made of a one year old hazelnut broken at midnight indicates metal in the ground.
    To make horses stronger, get wolfsbane from the forest in the Walpurgisnacht and mix it into their food. (Aconitum napellus is poisonous, so I don't know...)