Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Resources for article on Walpurgis Night

Research in prep for article on Walpurgisnacht/Beltane. Content will change as research progresses.

Who was St. Walburg

St. Walpurga on Wikipedia
which is mainly a copy of
The Catholic Encyclopedia
Walburg at Patron Saint Index at Catholic Forum

Breviary for her feast day Feb 25.

Peter Paul Reubens' Antwerp Altar painting with St. Walpurga 1610
The left panel at wikicommons

Walpurgis Night

Mention in
M. Johannis Coleri Calendarium Perpetuum, Et Libri Oeconomici: Das ist, Ein stetswerender Calender, darzu sehr nützliche und nötige Haußbücher 1603 book, page.

Popular Culture on wikipedia

Frazer, James George. 1961. The new Golden bough; a new abridgment of the classic work. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.  p. 356.

Rosemary Ellen Guiley's The Encyclopedia of Witches and Wiutchcraft, 2nd Edition, Checkmark Books, New York, 1999.

Guiley writes:
"Walpurgisnacht  In German witch lore, the greatest of the pagan festivals celebrating fertility and one of the major SABBATS observed by witches. Walpurgisnacht is the same as Beltanwe or May Eve and is celebrated on the night of April 30 in observance of the burgeoning spring. Walpurgisnacht became associated with Saint Walburga, a nun of Wimbourne, England, who went to Germany in 748 to found a monastery. She died at Heidenheim on February 25, 777. She was enormously popular, and cults dedicated to her quickly sprang into existence. In Roman martyrology (sic), her feast day is May 1.
In the Middle Ages, Walpurgisnacht, or Walpurgis Night, was believed to be a night of witch revelry throughout Germany, the Low Countries and Scandinavia. Witches mounted their BROOMS and flew to mountaintops, where they carried on with wild feastings, dancing and copulation with DEMONS and the DEVIL. MONTAGUE SUMMERS observes in The History of Witchcraft and Demonology (1926), "Ther was not a hill-top in Finland, so the peasant believed, which at midnight on the last day of April was not thronged by demons and sorcerers."
In Germany, the Brocken, a dominant peak in the Harz Mountains, was the most infamous site of the witch sabbats. The Harz Mountains are in a wild region of northern Germany (now part of the German Democratic Republic), a fitting locale for the reputed witch gatherings. So common was the belief in the sabbats that maps of the Harz drawn in the 18th century almost always depicted witches on broomsticks converging upon Brocken.
St. Walpurga was a gentle woman who lived a life of exceptional holiness. Yet the festival that carries her name, like other sabbats celebrated by witches, became associated with diabolic activities.
Contemporary Pagans and Witches observe the holiday with traditional festivities of dancint, rituals and feasting, none of which are associated with the Devil." (p. 374)


Wikipedia article

 There is a definition of Beltain from a ninth century Irish glossary called Sanas Cormaic (or "Cormac's Glossary"). The basis for the modern text is the An Leabar Breac manuscript dating from the 15th century.  A translation can be found in Whitley Stokes 1868 version of John O'Donovan's translation on page 19:

Citation reads p.19:
BELLTAINE 'May-day' i.e. bil-tene i.e. lucky fire, i.e. two fires which Druids used to make with great incantations, and they used to bring the cattle [as a safeguard] against the diseases of each year to those fires [in marg.] they used to drive the cattle between them.
beltene indiu .i. for cetain 'May-day today, i.e. on a Wednesday', Southampton Psalter (Goidilica p. 44). now bealltaine, a fem ia-stem --Ed. 
 The actual manuscript is Royal Irish Academy Ms 23 P 16 (Leabhar Breac), cat. no. 1230, pp 263-72, which reads:
Belltaine .i. bil tene .i. tene shoinmech .i. dáthene dognítis
druidhe triathaircedlu (no cotinchetlaib) móraib combertis
nacethrai arthedmannaib cacha bliadna cusnaténdtibsin
[l]eictis nacethra etarru.
What is apparent in this citation is that "May-day" is not part of the original Irish but an interpretive note by O'Donovan. Also, the smaller print at the bottom of the citation is a note from the editor, which seems to imply that the term 'May-day' did not mean the first of May, but what we call 'Wednesday'

  Three Irish glossaries : Cormac's glossary, codex A, (from a manuscript in the library of the Royal Irish Academy), O'Davoren's glossary (from a manuscript in the library of the British Museum) and A glossary to the calendar of Oengus the Culdec (from a manuscript in the library of Triity College, Dublin)

Goidilica; or, Notes on the Gaelic manuscripts preserved at Turin, Milan, Berne, Leyden, the monastery of S. Paul, Carinthia, and Cambridge, with eight hymns from the Liber hymnorum, and the Old-Irish notes in the Book of Armagh (1866)
by Whitley Stokes. Found at Internet Archive,

The referred to section is
St. John's College, Cambridge. 
I am indebted to Mr, Bradshaw, of King's College, Cambridge, for directing my attention to the so-called Southampton Psalter, which, according to a scribe ia fo. 6, is " glosatum in idiomate incognito," i.e. hibernico. The MS. appears to be of the eleventh century, and the glosses seem of that date or perhaps a little later. The date might possibly be fixed by an entry in fo. 39a : "Beltene indiu for cetain. miserere nobis domine, miserere nobis." When in the 11th century was the 1st of May (Beltene) on a Wednesday (cedain)? (p. 44)
This shows us that in 1866, when this work was written, that Beltane was considered to be May 1, and that the author believed that the same was thought in the 11th century.

Hislop (Two Babylons) had Beltane on May 1.
The worship of Bel and Astarte was very early introduced into Britain, along with the Druids, "the priests of the groves." Some have imagined that the Druidical worship was first introduced by the Phoenicians, who, centuries before the Christian era, traded to the tin-mines of Cornwall. But the unequivocal traces of that worship are found in regions of the British islands where the Phoenicians never penetrated, and it has everywhere left indelible marks of the strong hold which it must have had on the early British mind. From Bel, the 1st of May is still called Beltane in the Almanac; and we have customs still lingering at this day among us, which prove how exactly the worship of Bel or Moloch (for both titles belonged to the same god) had been observed even in the northern parts of this island. (p. 103)
Hislop refers to the Edinburgh Almanac of 1860 by Oliver & Boyd.

Guiley wrote as part of her article on "The Wheel of the Year":
Beltane Eve (also Beltain). One of the great Celtic solar festivals, celebrated in earlier times with bonfires. It is observed April 30. Beltane is an Irish term meaning "great fire." Beltane rites celebrate birth, fertility and the blossoming of all life, personified by the union of the Goddess and Sun God, also known in Christianized lore3 as King Winter and Queen May. Celebrants jump over broom-sticks and dance around maypoles, both symbols of fertility. Great bonfires are lit. Offerings are left for FAIRIES. 
Beltane bonfires were believed to bring fertilitiy to crops, homes and livestock. People danced deosil, or clockwise, around the fires or crept between fires for good luck and protection against illness. Cattle were driven through fires for protection against illness. In Druidic times, the Druids lit the fires on hillsides as they uttered incantations. Beltane was Christianized by the church, which replaced Pagan rites with a church service and processional to the fields, where a priest lit the fires. (TEWAW p. 357)
But there are some very big problems with this summary of the Wheel of the Year and the dates for Beltane and Samhain and other Celtic/"Pagan" holy days. In J. A. MacCulloc's 1911 The Religion of the Ancient Celts we find that the Celtic holy days were not determined originally (whenever that was) by lunar or solar calendar, and that only later (whenever that was) they were tied to the lunar calendar and then later again (whenever that was) to the solar calendar.
None of the four festivals is connected with the times of equinox and solstice. This points to the fact that originally the Celtic year was independent of these. But Midsummer day was also observed not only by the Celts, but by most European folk, the ritual resembling that of Beltane.
The festivals of Beltane and Midsummer may have arisen independently, and entered into competition with each other. Or Beltane may have been an early pastoral festival marking the beginning of summer when the herds went out to pasture, and Midsummer a more purely agricultural festival. And since their ritual aspect and purpose as seen in folk-custom are similar, they may eventually have borrowed each from the other. Or they may be later separate fixed dates of an earlier movable summer festival. For our purpose we may here consider them as twin halves of such a festival. Where Midsummer was already observed, the influence of the Roman calendar would confirm that observance. The festivals of the Christian year also affected the older observances. Some of the ritual was transferred to saints' days within the range of the pagan festival days...(MacCulloch 1911:257-8)
 In Cormac's Glossary and other texts, "Beltane" is derived from bel-tene, "a goodly fire," or from bel-dine, because newly-born (dine) cattle were offered to Bel, an idol-god.  The latter is followed by those who believe in a Celtic Belus, connected with Baal. No such god is known, however, and the god Belenos is in no way connected with the Semitic divinity. M. D'Arbois assumes an unknown god of death, Beltene (from beltu, "to die"), whose festival Beltane was. But Beltane was a festival of life, of the sun shining in his strength. Dr. Stokes gives a more acceptable explanation of the word. Its primitive form was belo-te[p]niâ, from belo-s, "clear," "shining," the root of the names Belenos and Belisama, and te[p]nos, "fire." Thus the word would mean something like "bright fire," perhaps the sun or the bonfire, or both. (MacCulloch 1911:265)

"Calendar (Celtic)" in Hastings' Encyclopædia of Rel. and Ethics, iii. 78 f.
--All 13 Volumes at Internet Archive
--Volume 3 at Internet Archive

The Religion of the Ancient Celts By J. A. MacCulloch [1911]
<html presentation> <Internet Archive> <Project Guttenberg>

The Book of rights (1847). Author: O'Donovan, John, 1809-1861 ed. and tr. Publisher: Dublin, Printed for the Celtic society. <Archive>
-- Leabhar Na G-ceart, Or, The Book of Rights 1847 <Archive>

 May Day

May Pole


festival of Flora, Apr 28-May3, depending...
Her temple dedicated Apr 28 (does this imply celebration on the 27th?) But Ovid dates to May 2.

Flora seems to have not been widely known in the ancient world until

Floralia, covered somewhat in Pentecost article:
  • Ovid, Fasti V.193-212
    Ovid has Floralia under May 2nd in Fasti V.
  • Macrobius, Saturnalia I.10.11-14

     11 Decimo Kalendas feriae sunt Iovis quae appellantur Larentinalia: de quibus, quia fabulari libet, hae fere opiniones sunt. 12 Ferunt enim regnante Anco aedituum Herculis per ferias otiantem deum tesseris provocasse ipso utriusque manum tuente, adiecta conditione, ut victus coena scortoque multaretur. 13 Victore itaque Hercule illam Accam Larentiam, nobilissimum id temporis scortum, intra aedem inclusisse cum coena, eamque postero die distulisse rumorem, quod post concubitum dei accepisset munus, ne commodum primae occasionis, cum se domum reciperet, offerendae aspernaretur. 14 Evenisse itaque, ut egressa templo mox a Carutio capto eius pulchritudine conpellaretur: cuius voluntatem secuta adsumptaque nuptiis post obitum viri omnium bonorum eius facta compos, cum decederet, populum Romanum nuncupavit heredem. 

  • Lactantius (c. 250 -c. 325), (works) Divinae institutions I.20.6-10

    Nor is she the only harlot whom the Romans worship, but also Faula, who was, as Verrius writes, the paramour of Hercules. Now how great must that immortality be thought which is attained even by harlots! Flora, having obtained great wealth by this practice, made the people her heir, and left a fixed sum of money, from the annual proceeds of which her birthday might be celebrated by public games, which they called Floralia. And because this appeared disgraceful to the senate, in order that a kind of dignity might be given to a shameful matter, they resolved that an argument should be taken from the name itself. They pretended that she was the goddess who presides over flowers, and that she must be appeased, that the crops, together with the trees or vines, might produce a good and abundant blossom. The poet followed up this idea in his Fasti, and related that there was a nymph, by no means obscure, who was called Chloris, and that, on her marriage with Zephyrus, she received from her husband as a wedding gift the control over all flowers. These things are spoken with propriety, but to believe them is unbecoming and shameful. And when the truth is in question, ought disguises of this kind to deceive us? Those games, therefore, are celebrated with all wantonness, as is suitable to the memory of a harlot. For besides licentiousness of words, in which all lewdness is poured forth, women are also stripped of their garments at the demand of the people, and then perform the office of mimeplayers, and are detained in the sight of the people with indecent gestures, even to the satiating of unchaste eyes.