Cross Quarter Day May 1 - May Day is closely connected to the evening before it - the "Walpurgisnacht" or May Eve. Its roots can be found in pre-Christian Frühjahrsfests. Walpurgisnacht is situated directly opposite Halloween and is the end marker in the seasonal cycle which begins with Candlemas/Groundhog Day. Children play pranks on unsuspecting victims around midnight on April 30, similar to Halloween, and some even dress up as witches and evil spirits. The Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains, is known as the mythical meeting place of the witches. Witches' fires may burn in some places. Since noise was deemed the most effective way to drive off evil spirits many ways of making noise are known. On May Day earth spirits like fairies and elves (the ancient dead) would come out of the hills and barrows to dance on May Eve and well into the summer.
May 1 marks the final victory of Spring over Winter, but before departing, the witches and their cohorts have one last fling. The night from April 30 to May 1 is called "Walpurgisnacht", the night of Walpurgis or Walpurga. The festival is marked by numerous rituals to ward off evil. Legend has it that on Walpurgisnacht the witches would gather on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains. Because of the Walpurgisnacht scene in Goethe's Faust, in which Mephistopheles takes Faust to the Brocken and has him revel with the witches, the witches gathering became widely known.
Under Christian influence Walpurgisnacht became a fest to drive out evil spirits. Walpurgis derives its name from Walpurga or Walburga. Walburga, Abbess of Heidenheim near Eichstätt, a Catholic Saint, was known as the protectoress against witchcraft and sorcery. On the Eve of May 1, bells may toll in some areas and prayers may be said; there may be blessings with holy-water and blessed sprigs can be found in homes and barns. The most widespread remedy against evil spirits during Walpurgisnacht is noise. As soon as the sun sets, boys of all ages may make noise. Their equipment ranges from boards to beat onto the ground to pistols for firing shots.
In Bavaria the night from April 30 to May 1 is called a Freinacht or Drudennacht. For youth it is an opportunity to play tricks. They may stroll in groups through the streets and wind toilet-paper around cars, smear door-handles with tooth-paste, unhinge garden doors and carry them a few meters away, and they may displace shoe scrapers. It is said that at one time boys took a sparred-frame cart to pieces and reassembled it on the roof of the house of the owner.
|Witches in chorus|
The witches t'ward the Brocken strain
When the stubble yellow, green the grain.
The rabble rushes - as 'tis meet -
To Sir Urian's lordly seat.
O'er stick and stone we come, by jinks!
The witches f..., the he-goat s...
Chorus of Witches
The Other Half
Voice (from below)
Voice (from above)
Voice (from below)
|HEXEN (im Chor):|
Die Hexen zu dem Brocken ziehn,
Die Stoppel ist gelb, die Saat ist grün.
Dort sammelt sich der große Hauf,
Herr Urian sitzt oben auf.
So geht es über Stein und Stock,
Es farzt die Hexe, es stinkt der Bock.
HEXENMEISTER, HALBER CHOR:
STIMMEN (von unten):
STIMME (von unten):
STIMME (von unten):
Faust, Bilingual Edition, translated and edited by J.F.L. Raschen. Ithaca, NY: The Thrift Press (1949), pp 201-203
The festival is marked by numerous rituals to ward off evil. On the eve of May 1st the bells toll in Luxembourg and many prayers are said, there are blessings with holy-water and blessed-palms in the homes and barns. In Schmalkalden in Thueringen the little girls, dressed as Hexen themselves, chase out the Walpermännchen. They wear paper hats and sometimes carry sticks in their hands. Similarly, in the south Harz region, the young boys ride stick-horses and chase the Hexen out of the fields. The most widespread remedy against evil spirits during Walpurgisnacht is noise. The boys begin making noise as soon as the sun sets. In Bohemia boards are beaten onto the ground in front of the houses, accompanied by this chant: "Hex geh raus, 's brennt dei Haus." Whoever hears a pistol shot on that evening is supposed to say, "Schiess mei Hex a mit!" In Lippe the noise is referred to as "Maiklappen." A lot of noise is especially made in front of the houses of married couples who are childless, because it is believed that it is necessary to "further the blessings." In the Berner Jura the shephard boys, on the eve of May 1, stand atop the manure-piles and crack whips in order to drive away wolves. The wolf is the incarnation of evil, and symbolizes the departure of winter. The manure-pile symbolizes fertility of the fields and gardens, and therefore is often the locale where prayers are said. Farmers who don't have as many cattle help each other out in the summer. They make a pledge-group, which takes this form in Donaueschingen: they go to a nearby chapel and pray, then they climb together onto a manure-pile, hold hands, and say "Mir (=wir) gmaren miteinand," which means "we are helping each other to bring home hay and grain with our cattle." [i.e. they are sharing each other's manure-piles, which is sprayed onto the fields as fertilizer].
So, folks, there is a parable here -- when we lapse into slinging mud at each other, we should look at it from a higher perspective -- we are really fertilizing each other's fields!
Reference: Eugen Fehrle's Feste und Volksbraeuche.
"Roland M. Wagner"
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