Walpurgisnacht

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People in many parts of Germany and Sweden still celebrate Walpurgisnacht today. Image by Johner/Johner Images/Getty Images

In parts of Germanic Europe, Walpurgisnacht is celebrated each year around April 30 - right around the time of Beltane. The festival is named for Walpurga, a Christian saint, who spent a number of years as a missionary in the Frankish empire. Over time, the celebration of St. Walpurga blended with the Viking celebrations of spring, and Walpurgisnacht was born.

In Norse traditions - and many others - this night is the time when the boundary between our world and that of the spirits is a bit shaky.

Much like Samhain, six months later, Walpurgisnacht is a time to communicate with the spirit world and the fae. Bonfires are traditionally lit to keep away malevolent spirits or those who might do us mischief.

In some areas of Europe, Walpurgisnacht is known as a night on which witches and sorcerers gather together to do magic, although this tradition appears to be heavily influenced by 16th and 17th German writings.

Today, some Pagans in central and northern Europe still celebrate Walpurgisnacht as a precursor to Beltane. Although it is named for a martyred saint, many Germanic Pagans try to honor the celebrations of their ancestors by observing this traditional holiday each year. It is typically observed much like May Day celebrations - with lots of dancing, singing, music and ritual around the bonfire.