Walpurgis - Festival of the witches
Tuesday 29, March 2011
The paradise called Harz Mountains, today still untouched nature, is 2000 square kilometres large.
There are woods and wild romantic valleys, lonesome highland moors and bizarre caves, quiet streams and roaring waterfalls that delighted famous poets such as Goethe and Heine. There are lakes, dams and small hill towns with narrow streets and splendid half-timbered houses as well as cities with important cultural attractions.
The Harz is also an area with an eventful history, with sagas and legends shrouded in mistery. The Brocken is the highest mountain in the Harz and notorious creatures live on the Brocken peak – witches. In Germanic history witches were once women or goddesses of the woods, later priestesses, female doctors and marvellous women of the night who were first worshiped, then gazed at timidly and finally damned.
In the Harz Mountains the night of the witches, the “Walpurgisnacht”, is a big event. In popular Christian beliefs, the Walpurgisnacht belongs to the witches and women who can perform magic. It falls on the eve of May 1st, the feast day of St. Walpurga. She came to Germany from England in the 8th century to spread the Christian word and performed many miracles. According to popular beliefs, St. Walpurga is pursued by mean spirits, demons and witches riding on brooms in the Walpurgis night. Anyone who helps her shall be rewarded with gold, the tales goes.
In the Harz Mountains the Walpurgis night is always a happy festival. Witches with pointed noses and hats, with twig brooms between their legs and wearing a colourful scarf around their necks hang in the streets. In the Harz villages, especially those near the Brocken peak, people have a good time celebrating. For example in Thale the witches whirl on their dance floor high above the town and the Bode valley, one of Germany´s prettiest valleys. According to old folk beliefs, the witches began their wild rides to the Brocken peak from here. In 1901 an “old Germanic” Walpurgis hall was built on the site.
The Walpurgis night is celebrated in almost all villages in the Harz on 30th April. In several towns even more than 20.000 guests are visiting the celebration.
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