Walpurgisnacht celebrations draw largely from pagan Beltane and May Day celebrations, and is mostly celebrated in Nordic cultures in Europe and communities in the United States. The name Walpurgisnacht comes from an eighth century British nun named Saint Walpurga. After her death, it was said a healing oil dripped from her tomb. Her sainthood and Viking spring celebrations fell at the same time of the year and became mingled over the centuries as her stories became interwoven with spring rituals.
Walpurgisnacht is both viewed as a farewell to spring and May Day as welcoming of summer and is celebrated by both pagan and Christian alike. Fairy folk and witches get together and revel to say good-bye to the spring. Goethe chronicles the witchly celebration lead by Mephistopheles in Faust. Christians burn bonfires all night and make loud noises on Walpurgisnacht to offer protection to the villagers, their crops and livestock, and to keep all evil influence of the witches celebration away from their homes and children.
Ways to Celebrate Walpurgisnacht
- Branches should be tied over or across the doors of barns and houses and horseshoes nailed up over thresholds to offer protection from the evil spirits that will be freely roaming throughout the night.
- If you sleep all night in a corn field and listen very carefully, you will be able to hear what will happen in the coming year.
- For children, Walpurgisnacht is a bit like Halloween. This is a one of the traditional Scandinavian holidays for kids to pull pranks.
- Dew is collected on May morning. Supposedly a "heavy" dew on May 1st morning is a good omen for the coming dairy season. (I don't know how to collect dew, any insight would be delightful.)
- Girls who listened for the call of a cuckoo on May Day morning will be told how many years until she'd find a husband.