From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In Germany, Walpurgisnacht (or Hexennacht, meaning Witches' Night), the night from April 30 to May 1, is the night when allegedly the witches hold a large celebration on the Blocksberg and await the arrival of Spring.
- Walpurgis Night (in German folklore) the night of April 30 (May Day's eve), when witches meet on the Brocken mountain and hold revels with their gods..."
- Brocken is the highest of the Harz Mountains of north central Germany. It is noted for the phenomenon of the Brocken spectre and for witches' revels which reputedly took place there on Walpurgis night.
- The Brocken Spectre is a magnified shadow of an observer, typically surrounded by rainbow-like bands, thrown onto a bank of cloud in high mountain areas when the sun is low. The phenomenon was first reported on the Brocken.
- —Taken from Oxford Phrase & Fable.
In some parts of northern coastal regions of Germany, the custom of lighting huge Beltane fires is still kept alive, to celebrate the coming of May, while most parts of Germany have a derived Christianized custom around Easter called "Easter fires".
In rural parts of southern Germany it is part of popular youth culture to play pranks on Walpurgisnacht, e.g. tampering with neighbors' gardens, hiding possessions, or spraying graffiti on private property. These pranks occasionally result in serious damage to property or bodily injury.
Curiously Adolf Hitler, with several members of his staff (including Joseph Goebbels), committed suicide on Walpurgisnacht, April 30/May 1, 1945. In the History Channel's documentary, Hitler and the Occult, author Dusty Sklar stated that "It's believed by some people that he chose April 30th deliberately because it coincided with Walpurgis Night, which is believed to be the most important date (along with Halloween) in Satanism . So according to one commentator he was giving himself up to the powers of darkness."
References in modern culture
- In XXXenophile Collection Volume 4, the last story has a book entitled "It's Walpurgis Night Charlie Brown".
Theatre and Ballet
- The second act of Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is titled "Walpurgisnacht."
- In Sight Unseen by Donald Margulies, Walpurgisnacht is the controversial painting by Jonathan Waxman of an interracial couple fornicating in a cemetery.
- Walpurgisnacht is the title of a Russian ballet, whose setting takes place on Walpurgisnacht. The ballet choreographed by Leonid Lavrovsky, with music by Gounod was performed by the Bolshoi Theatre's ballet Company. There exist film footage of some excerpts from it, danced by Maya Plisetskaya. There may also exist rather more footage of Raisa Struchkova dancing it.
- The Bram Stoker short story Dracula's Guest takes place on Walpurgisnacht: "Walpurgis Night was when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad – when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel."
- In the H. P. Lovecraft story The Dreams In the Witch House Walpurgis Night is referred to as "the Witches' Sabbath", when Hell's blackest evil roamed the earth and all the slaves of Satan gathered for nameless rites and deeds.
- The English novelist and journalist Angela Carter makes reference to Walpurgisnacht in a short story entitled The Werewolf from the compilation of short stories The Bloody Chamber.
- The last chapter of book 5 of Thomas Mann's novel The Magic Mountain is named "Walpurgis Night."
- Gustav Meyrink wrote a novel called Walpurgis Night in 1917, about a carnivalesque popular uprising in Prague against the city's longtime Germanic monarchs.
- In Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson, a key character observes Walpurgisnacht celebrations in 17th century Germany.
- In the second half of Roger Zelazny's The Chronicles of Amber series, Walpurgisnacht is the day on which yearly attempts are made on Merlin's (Son of Corwin) life, by the son of Brand.
- The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson makes repeated references to Walpurgisnacht.
- In the popular children's books Mr Majeika by English author Humphrey Carpenter, the Mr Majeika, a wizard, originally comes from the land of Walpergis, where all witches and wizards reside. Those who fail their exams, like Mr Majeika, are sent to Britland (England) to be teachers.
- In Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita (Мастер и Маргарита), Satan hosts a Grand Ball on Walpurgis Night.
- In JK Rowling's Harry Potter series, the group of Dark Wizards called Death Eaters were originally named the Knights of Walpurgis, an obvious pun on Walpurgis Night or Walpurgisnacht.<ref>JK Rowling interview in full BBC 19 June, 2003</ref>
- Thomas Pynchon's novel, Gravity's Rainbow, has several scenes set during Walpurgis Night 1945, and also makes references to such matters as the Brocken Spectre.
- The last major work of the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus was an anti-Nazi polemic titled Die dritte Walpurgisnacht ("The Third Walpurgis Night").
- Ogden Nash in his poem "The Tale of the Thirteenth Floor" referred to "this Walpurgis Night" for strange happenings in the hotel
- Songs whose titles include or make reference to Walpurgis Night include:
- "Angel Rebellion", By the German Power Metal band EDGUY (taken from Kingdom Of Madness)
- "Walpurga's Night", by the Italian Vampire/Black Metal band Theatres Des Vampires
- "Repent Walpurgis", by the English progressive rock band Procol Harum.
- "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath was originally titled "Walpurgis" (and while the music was the same, the lyrics were entirely different).
- "Wall Purges Night", an obvious pun on Walpurgisnacht, by the expatriate English musical group the Legendary Pink Dots.
- "Walpurgisnacht", by Schandmaul.
- "Walpurgis Night", by Running Wild (band).
- "Walpurgis Night",an album by Stormwitch.
- "Walpurgis Night Music", Matt Cameron's publishing name while in Soundgarden
- "Under The Spell"' by Mercyful Fate (about a man who by accident witnesses the walpurgis night rituals and is caught by them and placed under a spell)
- The album They Were Wrong, So We Drowned by the rock group Liars (band), is a concept album based on the legends of Walpurgis Night
- "Born in A Burial Gown" by Cradle of Filth. The video also suggests a Walpurgis celebration.
- "Night on Brocken", by Fates Warning from the album of the same name, sings about a black mass held on Walpurgis Night. On the next day, the singer recognises the priest at his church as the one holding the black mass the previous night.
- "Walpurgis" is a rare 1969 prog psych record by the Swiss group Shiver. The cover features early art by H.R.Giger.
- A German group named "Walpurgis" released a Krautrock album called "Queen of Sheba" in 1972.
- Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn composed a dramatic choral oratorio, Die Erste Walpurgisnacht, in 1831, based on the Goethe poem.
Film and television
- The closing sequence of Fantasia (1940) is intended to portray Walpurgisnacht and not Halloween, as is popularly supposed.
- In the 1931 film Dracula, a Romanian peasant describes the night on which the film begins as Walpurgis Night.
- In the 1986 fantasy/horror movie Troll, a witch named Eunice St Claire (June Lockhart) describes to Harry Potter Jr. (Noah Hathaway), that Walpurgis Night is a witches' sabbath, where the "denizens of the unknown cavort (party hearty)".
- The Campus Loop, a nationally syndicated TV show from the University of Texas at Austin's student television channel, KVR-TV, had a set of episodes entitled "The Maltese Pumpkin" that were set on Walpurgis Night.
- The television show Lexx had an episode called "Walpurgis Night" that originally aired on 24 August 2001.
- La Noche de Walpurgis (translated as Walpurgis Night) is a 1971 Spanish horror movie, the fourth in a series about the werewolf Count Waldemar Daninsky.