Category Archives: Walpurgis Night

Ascending

April comes to a close and as it does, we reach the next spoke in the wheel of the year, as this evening brings Walpurgis Night, named for St. Walpurga, whose feast day is the First of May. In the Celtic tradition, the day is known as Beltane. It is the cross quarter day that helps us spring to summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the direct opposite spoke of the cross quarter day that helps us fall to winter, which is Samhain, or Halloween. The fall to winter brings descent, life burrowing down beneath the earth, while the spring to summer brings ascent, life springing forth from the earth. It is an aspect of the everlasting mysteries of the planet and its place in the universe: we know these things so well, for we witness them each year with the planet’s revolution around the sun, and yet how these things have all come to pass still has the power to leave us breathless. The very names given to these days are shrouded in mystery, too, for their pronunciations are, for most of us, not of our tongue, and what seems apparent is not: Beltane is pronounced bowl-tan-a; Samhain is pronounced sah-win. Like the names of angels in ancient tongues, to speak the names connects us to a long forgotten past whose embers still smolder.

As such, a fire is appropriate for tonight. In Sweden, there will be bonfires, as well as gravlax and sparkling wine, all through the night. There are traditional songs, like “Maj vare välkommen” (May Be Welcome). We don’t do much celebrating of Walpurgis Night here in the States, but in a place where the extremes between winter and summer are keenly felt, May surely is welcome.

Tomorrow, I will write again with your Convivio Book of Days calendar for May. May be welcome. Summer be welcome. We wish you peace.

Nighttime mysteries abound: our image today is of a Guyana Chestnut blossom in our yard. The blossoms burst forth in spring and summer at about 9 PM in small explosions from pods that are about 4 inches long. There may be one on the tree or there may be ten, but they all tend to pop open at about the same time, filling the night with a spicy air that is most definitely a fragrance of spring and summer, most definitely of this ascending time of year.

 

 

Welcome May

April draws to a close, and as it does, we welcome May. This is the whole premise behind this evening’s celebration: it is Walpurgis Night, the Eve of May. If we have it in us to follow the old ways, we mark this evening with an outdoor fire. In Sweden, they’ll be enjoying sparkling wine and gravlax, too, and here, we’ve got all those things at the ready: the sparkling wine and the gravlax are in the fridge; the copper fire bowl out back is empty and waiting for a stack of wood. There are places where folks stay out all night tonight, so as to properly bring in the May in the morning. The celebration is an old one, and an important one, for we find ourselves now at one of the year’s junctures––the cross quarter day halfway between spring equinox and summer solstice. By traditional reckoning of time, we reach now the very start of summer.

And where Hallowe’en last October brought us the next day to November, Walpurgis Night––named for St. Walpurga, whose feast day comes tomorrow––brings us to the opposite spoke of the wheel of the year. Six months ago we began our descent down, into the earth. That juncture in late October in the Celtic tradition is known as Samhain (pronounced sah-win), the cross quarter day that marks the descent into winter, and the time of year when growth occurs below ground, in roots. But now we come to Beltane (pronounced bowl-tan-a), a time of emergence, the ascent into summer. Growth is more apparent, for it is visible and happening all around us in every budding tree and blooming flower and growing blade of grass.

It was a few years ago on Walpurgis Night that Convivio Book of Days reader (and fellow letterpress printer) Leonard Seastone gave us a pointer in the blog comments about a good song for this night. It’s a traditional Swedish song called “Maj vare välkommen” (May Be Welcome), and that song will be part of our quiet celebration tonight, too, even if it’s just playing in my head. Leonard signed off on that Walpurgis Night using his proper Swedish name––Lennart Einar Sjösten––so he seems to me a good authority on these matters. I hope he’ll be celebrating tonight as Seth and I will be, and I hope you will, too, in some way, grand or small.

I’ll be back tomorrow with your Convivio Book of Days calendar for May. For tonight, though, we wish you a good and warm Walpurgis Night. Welcome May!

Image: Valborgsmässoeld i Boden (Walpurgis Night in Boden [Sweden]) by M. Thorgren. Photograph, 2015 [Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons].

 

Spring into Summer

April is ending, May beginning, and we reach the opposite spoke of the year that we were at last fall when October was ending. We step lightly into summer with the start of May, not by the almanac, but by traditional reckoning of time.

The Celts called this time Beltane (pronounced bowl-tan-a). Nowadays, this night is known best as May Eve and Walpurgis Night, named for St. Walpurga. In Germany, it is Walpurgisnacht, famed for being a night when witches gather. Gathering, however, is not in the cards this Walpurgis Night for anyone, save perhaps the occasional mob protesting social distancing and the temporary closure of hair salons. They can do what they want (and they will, with little regard for others), but for the more logical amongst you, may I suggest marking this night of transition simply, peacefully, at home, and with great respect for each other and the planet. It is a night of higher vibration, after all, for with it, we reach the halfway point between spring equinox and summer solstice. So why not distill the essence of the traditional celebrations and welcome them into our homes?

So. Here are my suggestions: First, it is traditionally a night to spend outdoors. May I suggest the backyard? Bonfires are traditional, so maybe light a candle, taking the best care with it, of course. In Scandinavia sparkling wine is traditional, as is gravlax, a smoked cured salmon. We happen to have the sparkling wine and the smoked salmon on hand. Perhaps your pantry holds some, as well. And if not, well, hopefully there is something celebratory to be found there.

These are days, for sure, where we do the best we can. There is nothing at all wrong with that. Traditions are wonderful, but what counts most is what’s in the heart. If social distancing means you are celebrating alone tonight, know that we are celebrating with you. Stare up at the moon, stare up at the stars; we’re looking at them, too.

Image: The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh. Oil on canvas, 1889. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.