Hexennacht and Bealtaine are nearly here!
You’ve probably heard of the former festival as Walpurgisnacht – Walpurga’s Night – but I prefer Hexennacht – Witch’s Night. It’s a very witchy festival, I think! It falls on the last day of April, and is the night witches and elves are said to gather on mountain tops, particularly the Brocken mountain in Germany, to dance the snow away and to do all their mysterious magic…stuff. It’s also one of my favorite festivals – we celebrated it for the first time last year, and I loved it. To me, it feels really wild and powerful. I learnt about myself last year lol. But that’s a whole other story…
Walpurgisnacht is named for Saint Walpurga, a missionary nun from England whose feast day was the 1st of May – but like a lot of the saints, her legend is probably infused with memories of a pre-Christian Goddess. There’s a very interesting article about Hexen/Walpurgisnacht called ‘Waelburga and the Rites of Spring’ at http://www.friggasweb.org/walburga.html/ for anyone who would like more information.
We take it as a time to celebrate the year turning from death to life; a liminal time where, like at Winter Nights/Samhain, the veil is thinner and the other Worlds more palpable. We also celebrate the fertility and plenty of the land, sexuality, and passion. It’s a lot of fun! We’ll be away at a family gathering for most of the day, but at some point either before we go or after we get back we’ll put out some ankenschnitt for the Windhound. Traditionally ankenschnitt is bread with butter and honey, but in our case it’ll be bread with sunflower spread with date syrup (seriously, you have to try date syrup on toast, it’s the best thing *ever*). I’ll also read out the myths we chose for the day; Völundarkviða (or the Poem of Völundr), a myth about an elven Prince and artisan, and Skírnismál (or the Sayings of Skírnir), a myth which explains what happened when the Vanir God Freyr fell in love with the Jötunn Goddess Gerðr. Neither are entirely comfortable tales…but then, what myths are? I felt like they fitted in with the passionate yet dangerous feel of Hexennacht.
The next day, Bealtaine, is set to be much lighter in feel. It’s all the same stuff, I guess, but we’ll focus on a somewhat fluffier side of it – romance, growth, joy, all that sort of flowers-and-sunshine stuff. We’re going to stick a heap of flowers on the altar and shrines, especially yellow ones that remind us of flames, and small branches of hawthorn leaves too. Hawthorn blossom is traditional for Bealtaine – another name for it is May. But it doesn’t actually tend to flower in time for Bealtaine any more! I might put some apple or cherry blossoms out to kinda represent the may blossom – there are heaps of flowering trees in our area. We’re also going to read Svipsdagmál, a myth comprising two poems which chart the romance of Svipdagr and Menglöð (with the help of Svipdagr’s Mom), and go for a nature walk if I have enough energy. I have work on Tuesday though, so I can’t push it.
What are your plans for Hexennacht and/or Bealtaine? Any good ritual or craft ideas? It would be great to hear from you 🙂