Spring is well and truly upon us, and the flowers are starting to bloom. As the days grow longer and the nights begin to wane, our energy rises while the blossoms slowly unfurl. Around the world modern pagans officially celebrate this moment with festivals of fire on the 1st of May, known as Beltane which means ‘brilliant fire’ in Gaelic. The celebrations have their roots in the ancient druidic practices, but as we are currently experiencing an occult and pagan revival, more and more modern Beltane celebrations are taking part publicly around the world. From dancing around the Maypole to crowning the May Queen, these are celebrations of fertility, of frolicking around a fire, welcoming the coming of summer and the passing of spring.
In Germany however, the celebrations adopt a much darker and mysterious form. On the 30th of April, the night before Beltane, thousands of witches gather atop the largest mountain in Germany to hold a great Sabbat. They have done so for hundreds of years, and hopefully will continue to do so for hundreds more. For the 30th is Walpurgis Nacht, when the witches fly to the Brocken, to dance through the night and, according to local legend, commune with the devil.
But why has this time of year, in this part of the world, become associated with witches? For surely the time of the witch is Halloween. In this essay I wish to explore the connection between the arrival of summer with the Witches’ Sabbat, banish from it the darkness and reveal that it’s a celebration of light.
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