We live over a canyon and on warm nights like tonight, we can hear the coyotes sing. It was so loud, it actually woke me up. These “barking dogs” as they are also called seem to be celebrating Walpurgis Night. It sounded a lot like a high pitched greeting which included low-frequency whines, ‘wow-oo-wows’, and group yip howls. It was a party all right, the night to say “good bye” to Winter and celebrate the arrival of Spring.
When I grew up in the 60’s in Northern Germany near the North Sea, my parents and all of us 6 children would gather around the “Osterfeuer” on Walpurgis Night in our little village, and every local would be there and watch this huge pile of wood being burned. The local music band was there to play, people would drink and dance and it was always a big spectacle for the village folks.
In German folklore, the night of 30 April (the day before May Day) is also known as “Witches night”.
The story goes that the witches would meet at the Brocken Mountain (near Hannover) and
hold revels with the Devil… The Brocken Spectre is a magnified shadow of an observer, typically
surrounded by rainbow-like bands, thrown onto a bank of cloud in high mountain areas when the sun is low. The phenomenon was first reported on this Brocken Mountain. As a child, I always imagined it to be a lightning show in the skies, just as I saw it many years decades later in Alaska, which is of course known as the Northern Lights.
Everyone who has been to Sweden knows about the importance of Walpurgis Night there. It seem that the whole country is up all night, partying, dancing, singing, drinking and celebrating. These celebrations are not so much a family occasion but rather a public event, and local groups often take responsibility for organizing them to encourage community spirit in the village or neighborhood. It normally includes the lighting of a bonfire, choral singing and a speech to honor the arrival of the spring, normally held by the mayor or a local celebrity.
As I listened to the coyotes sing down below us in the canyon, I could not help but think about those childhood years, when the Walpurgis Night was part of my little life in this tiny village I lived in, another tradition of getting together with the neighbors and the farmers who lived all around us, a big party, a reason to laugh, relax, dance and sing.
Yes, its a Pagan Ritual, but a tradition that lives on until today. And by the way. Don’t you think we should celebrate ALL holidays (Pagan or not) that we possibly can, so why shouldn’t the coyotes celebrate Walpurgis Night too?