Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Walpurgisnacht - 30 April

Image from here.

WITCHES  (in chorus)

    Now to the Brocken the witches hie,
    The stubble is yellow, the corn is green;        3745
    Thither the gathering legions fly,
    And sitting aloft is Sir Urian seen:
    O’er stick and o’er stone they go whirling along,
    Witches and he-goats, a motley throng,

    Alone old Baubo’s coming now;
    She rides upon a farrow sow.

    Honour to her, to whom honour is due!
    Forward, Dame Baubo! Honour to you!
    A goodly sow and mother thereon,
    The whole witch chorus follows anon.        3755
                                     From Goethe's Faust.

Walburga's Symbols and Domains of Action

Of Walburga's symbols or attributes, the bundle of grain is obviously a fertility symbol and is typical of the germanic matron goddesses or demi-goddesses once worshipped all over Europe, including Nehalennia, as well as a being a symbol of goddesses in other Indo-European pantheons, such as Demeter and Ceres. The three-cornered mirror seems clearly related to the Norns and the Well of Wyrd: we can see the three corners of the foreseeing mirror as the three Norns, the mirror as the well itself with the three Norns standing around it. The mirror is particularly a "give-away:" who ever heard of, or would want to make or use, a triangular mirror? It is not a convenient shape for viewing one's face, in the normal usage of mirrors!

Neither the dog nor the shock of grain, the magical mirror or the spindle, are likely attributes of the abbess of a christian nunnery, nor is an abbess likely to have been wandering around the countryside having adventures! On the other hand these symbols or attributes are highly typical of Heathen germanic matrons, goddesses, and holy women. The spindle is the attribute before all others of the norns, wise-women, idises, and other womanly wights associated with fate and fortune in the continental Germanic countries. The use of the spindle and hand-spun thread for May-even spells of women's magic is described by Rochholz and by Grimm. Love-oracles using the spindle and thread, and other means, were said to be sent by Walburga herself. Walpurgistide was also the time to shame lazy farmers into working harder, by making a straw doll named Walburga and presenting it to any farmer who had not yet ploughed his land by that day (Rochholz, p. 40). This is quite reminiscent of the well-known chidings women receive from Heathen goddesses such as Berchta and Holda during Yuletide, if their own work has been skimped.

None of these attributes, activities and symbols can be argued to have anything to do with a christian abbess and saint, but have everything to do with Heathen goddesses and holy women, who have always concerned themselves with fertility and food, love, life, death, and hidden knowledge. Thus it is in the highest degree likely that attributes associated with a goddess celebrated at May-even during Heathen times were later grafted onto Walburga, the christian saint whose holy day is celebrated on the first of May.

You can read the entire article on Walpurgisnacht, excerpted above, by clicking here.

A blog post on Baubo can be found here.

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