This week’s Shades of Black falls on May Day, the morning after Walpurgisnacht. That night, which of course has a significance that long pre-dates the German name, falls halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, and in old pagan traditions it was celebrated to mark the changing of the seasons, just as Samhain does six months later. And in the ancient folklore traditions, as on Samhain, the veil between the material world and the spirit world was thought to be at its thinnest.
Of course, in northern Europe the Church co-opted the pagan May Day, turning it into the feast day of Saint Walpurga, a German abbess honored for her success in putting an end to pagan sorcery (among other achievements), and on the night before it — Walpurgisnacht — bonfires were built to ward off witches and evil spirits in her name. Continue reading »