In Germany, among witches and other occultists Walburgisnacht, or Walburgis Night, is one of the greatest sabbats celebrating fertility. Walburgisnacht is synonymous with Beltane or May Eve since it is celebrated on April 30 (see Sabbats). Walburgisnacht became associated with St. Walburga, a nun of the Benedictine Order in Wimbourne, England. In Germany, in 751 she entered a double monastery founded by her brothers according to Anglo-Saxon methods.

Upon their deaths she became the abbess. She favored the education of German women. She died in Heidenheim on February 25, 777. Between 870 and 879 her remains were taken to the convent of Eichstatt, which later was named St. Walburga.

Her veneration far exceeded the territory in which she lived and served, this was because she always cared for the hungry and victims of the plague. Her relics were sent to Monheim (Bavaria), and Furness, which became a center of her cult in Flanders, and to northern France. By the 9th century «Walburga’s oil» was already a sacramental, said capable of miraculous cures.

The oil, that is deposited on a stone slab by her relics, still flows yearly from October 12 to February 25, and is collected in small bottles and sent for healings to various parts of the world. Her feast day is May 1.

During the Middle Ages Walburgisnacht was thought to be the night of witch revelry throughout Germany, the Low Countries and Scandinavia. This was the one night when witches supposedly mounted their brooms and flew to mountaintops where they carried on wild feasting, dancing, and copulation with the Devil and his demons.

Montague Summers observed in The History of Witchcraft and Demonology (1926) «There 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.»

This was thought to be especially true on the Broken, in Germany, a dominant peak in the Harz Mountains, which was an infamous site for witch sabbats. The Harz Mountain range is located in a wild region of northern Germany, a suitable setting for witch sabbats, or so believed the local residents in the 18th century.

It is mysterious that a festival that became associated with diabolical activities would bear the name of a gentle woman of exceptional holiness. Although many modern Witches and pagans observe this holiday, they attach no diabolic activities to it. A.G.H.

Source: 4, 354; 34, 14, 769.