As many have celebrated the Beltane festivities on the Northern Hemisphere over the past weekend (some may wait for the sixth night after the New Moon, or until the Hawthorn blooms where it yet hasn’t), I am sitting here in my couch, sipping a glass of red wine, contemplating what the German speaking world knows under the term “Walpurgis Night.”
Walpurgis Night is really part of the whole May festivities, where, in true Celtic tradition, the day starts at sundown, on the Eve of the actual festival, and what better way to start the festivities with a night dedicated to the Goddess.
How do we know that we are talking about the Goddess when we say Walpurgis? Church paintings in the Alps give us a clue. There, St. Walpurga is shown as a woman clad in a white dress, with burning shoes and a gold crown, a mandrel in one and a mirror in the other hand. A white dress always indicates the Goddess in Alpine lore, or, as we call her there, the Sacred Lady. Always wearing white. The crown looks more like a golden sun, and with her hot (as in fiery, not Prada) shoes she warms the May soil for the seeds to germinate.
With the mandrel she spins the thread of life, and the mirror shows the Otherworld. Walpurga is the Goddess.
But while Christianity kept the Goddess in good standing, her priestesses and priests, the wise women and men, aka known as witches and wizards, didn’t fare that well. According to lore, they dance with the devil on the mountain that night, eat and drink excessively, and, OMG, have sex. The ingenuous, who happens upon this whacky crowd, must be happy to get away with his life, albeit bruised and stinky, because the bed he thought to be lured into by the witches turns out to be a pile of dung when he wakes next morning.
Well, okay, people probably had a lot of sex at Beltane. After all, that was what it was about, in part. And yes, our Celtic and Germanic ancestors didn’t mind a good feast with a lot of ale and mead. They would even use a lotion made with hallucinogenic plants to go on really awesome journeys to the Otherworld.
There, they met the Goddess, danced with her (not Satan) and performed the sacred act of “merry making” with their peers.
It be rather frivolous, indeed, to not follow their example!