Friday, April 30, 2021

Something About Saint Walpurga

May 1 have another.

I mentioned The Devil Rides Out, the 1968 movie staring Sir Christopher Lee and Charles Gray a few months ago in preparation for Halloween. Remember my comments on turnips, too? Those were the days. In a recent repeat viewing, I was reminded the film takes place a day or two before what Lee's character, the Duc de Richleau, calls "the grand sabbath of the year" - Walpurgis Night.

The blog has mentioned Walpurgis Night before:
The other Halloween - exactly six months from All Hallow's Eve - is known as May Eve. April 30 is also known as Walpurgis Night. Beltane, which also corresponds to April 30/May 1, is one of eight solar Sabbats observed by pagans. The holiday incorporates traditions from the Gaelic Bealtaine, such as the bonfire, but it bears more relation to the Germanic May Day festival.
So, who is this Saint Walpurga and what makes her May eve celebrations so special? I noted Halloween above and it and Walpurgisnacht both have their origins in pagan celebrations (i.e., Samhain and Beltane) marking the changing of the seasons, so explains Naina Pottamkulam at
These days were especially important because they were believed to be when the veil between the spirit worlds and ours was at its thinnest. Over time, as Europe was gradually Christianised, these pagan celebrations of seasonality and fertility became inexplicably intertwined with the legend of an English nun called Walpurga. Walpurga came to Germany in the late eighth century with the mission of Christianising the Saxons. Walpurga is traditionally associated with May 1 because of a medieval account of her canonization on that date. The date’s overlap with the pagan celebration is likely entirely coincidental, but it did serve a useful purpose for those still clinging onto beliefs that missionaries like Walpurga were anxious to dispel. By entwining the two customs, pagans could continue celebrating their spring festival without fear of reprisal.

Locals would therefore come together on April 30 to protect themselves from the witches. To keep away “evil spirits”, they would make loud noises, light huge bonfires and burn straw men and old belongings for good luck. What had originally been a celebration of spring morphed into a desperate attempt to protect oneself from evil.
All that said, I’m off to watch The Wicker Man.


Russ said...

I can't say I have seen the movie, but I did read the book about 20 years back when a copy came through the shop. I would guess that the movie is much changed from the book as that seems to be the way that they make movies. I liked the book, but that may just mean that I would not like the movie.

Anonymous said...

Christopher Lee said that the wicker man from the 1970s was his favorite movie that he had performed in and I do recommend it highly although it does have some objectionable moments not suitable for children. Edward Woodward gave an outstanding performance and the music and scenery are top notch