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Why Saint Walpurgis was the patroness of a witch, and what happens on Walpurgis day
Why Saint Walpurgis was the patroness of a witch, and what happens on Walpurgis day

The night from April 30 to May 1 is called Walpurgis. For some people this is traditionally a terrible time, for others it is sacred, for others it is a curious refraction of the new year along the pre-Christian cycle from the angle of the Christian view, the fourth is simply interested in who Walpurga was.

Two Walpurgis

Walpurgis or Walpurgis, in fact, became famous for two. One, whose day of veneration falls on the first of May, was a saint. She lived in eighth century England and came from a holy family. In fact, the family was ordinary, but over time, Walpurga's father and two brothers became saints, and his mother was blessed. In addition, her uncle became a saint. Interestingly, Walpurg is revered not only by Catholics, but also by the Russian Orthodox Church - it is a locally revered saint for Orthodox Christians in Germany.

Saint Walpurga is also revered by the Orthodox

Walpurga has many functions. For example, she patronizes sailors, warding off storms, peasants, sick and women in labor, as well as those who care for women in labor. So she was the patron saint of the second Walpurga, named Hausman, a midwife who was executed as a witch.

In the sixteenth century, a witch-hunt broke out in Europe, and midwives were among the main victims - now it is assumed that doctors in this way eliminated a rival structure. At the time of her arrest, Walpurga Hausman was at least sixty years old, and before that, nothing bad had been heard about her. However, under torture, the woman confessed to killing forty-one babies and two women in labor, as well as nine cows, a horse and a large number of pigs and geese. All for the glory of Satan. Walpurga also confessed that she summoned hail to destroy crops, and indulged in carnal pleasures with a demon, participated in covens and blasphemed.

Confessions made under torture were considered the best evidence of guilt in the sixteenth century. Drawing by Nikolai Bessonov

Despite the fact that the poor woman confessed everything that the executioners wanted to hear from her, she was not repaid with an easy death. After being tortured, she could not walk, so they put her in a large basket and carried her down the street, stopping from time to time to rip or cut off some part of her body. Only after this terrible procession was the woman burned, and the ashes were scattered over the river.

Bonfires and round dances

Not everyone agrees on whether one of the most beloved witches, according to medieval believers, is called the night by the name of the poor midwife Walpurga or in honor of the day following her. In any case, it is generally accepted that it is on this night that witches gather for a great sabbath. Even in those countries where Walpurga is not even remembered, this night is called something like the Night of the Witches (in France) or the Witch's Bonfire (in the Czech Republic).

The witches loved to dance at the Sabbath

It is believed that witches celebrated this night like this. They flew to a bald mountain or to another suitable place with a devil-lover (perhaps the Gogol devil drove up to Solokha, including in order to have someone to appear on the Sabbath in the spring) and bowed to Satan, the host of the holiday. After a short report on the results of the year in the field of curses and atrocities, the witches gorged themselves on various dishes, but, moreover, there was no bread or salt on the table - according to beliefs still having pagan roots, the evil spirits do not like either one or the other. Finally, well-fed and drunk, witches with devils began to dance in a circle. At the same time, the musician always sat on a tree, and could play on a special violin (which in general was often considered a bit of a witch's instrument) or on a horse's head with a simple stick, and then music itself was witchcraft.

Of course, in case the witches want more entertainment, in many countries they were on the defensive that night: they lit fires and could even burn a stuffed witch in it.

It is interesting that one of the obscenities at the Sabbath was considered a demonstrative violation of the social hierarchy: witches from different social strata communicated on equal terms. Painting by Frans Francken

Very old new year

In fact, everything is the same as witches at night, traditionally done by good Christians later in the morning - only without Satan, of course. They danced in circles, laid the festive table, decorated everything around (and themselves too) with flowers. That is why scientists have suggested that initially Witch's night was a refraction of the view on the holiday, which we know by the Irish name Beltane, New Year's Eve of the pagans. Apparently, the church fought with the alternative calendar as an attribute of an alien cult and literally demonized many moments associated with this holiday, so that in the popular mind it was divided into two parts: a simple meeting of spring and Satanism, which is harmful to people. The daytime part is good, the nighttime part is bad.

Lusatian Serbs, Czechs, Slovaks, in the south of England, on the first of May, the maypole was traditionally installed. The British could also dress up as a tree man, and the Italians carried tree branches entwined with ribbons through the streets.


The Eastern Slavs also had a big holiday at this time. With Christianization, it turned into the day of Eremey the Harvester. On this day, among the Serbs, girls with bells walked through the streets of the villages, or young men ran screaming, scaring away snakes from the fields. The Bulgarians also drove out snakes that day - at least, they performed various "magic" rituals so that they would crawl away sooner. In the Voronezh region, they cooked May porridge on bonfires, and the Don Cossacks performed various ceremonies on the field, after which they began sowing.

Nowadays, Beltane or Walpurgis Night is fond of celebrating neo-pagans, Wiccans, esoteric lovers, Satanists and fans of Ireland, which causes outrage among the priests of literally all Christian denominations.

The topic of witchcraft is not limited to one night of the year. Why Europe was hunted for witches: Four diametrically opposed theories from religion to economics.

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