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.
Beltane was one of four Gaelic seasonal festivals: Samhain (~1 November), Imbolc (~1 February), Beltane (~1 May) and Lughnasadh (~1 August). Beltane marked the beginning of the pastoral summer season, when livestock were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were held at that time to protect them from harm, both natural and supernatural, and this mainly involved the "symbolic use of fire". There were also rituals to protect crops, dairy products and people, and to encourage growth. The sí (often described as 'the spirits' or 'the fairies') were thought to be especially active at Beltane (as at Samhain) and the goal of many Beltane rituals was to appease the sí. Beltaine was a "spring time festival of optimism" during which "fertility ritual again was important, perhaps connecting with the waxing power of the sun".
Ways to celebrate the holiday:
Celebrate Beltane with a Maypole Dance -The Maypole is one of the traditional symbols of Beltane, and let's not kid ourselves about its purpose: it's a giant phallus.
Beltane Bonfire Ritual - a group ceremony-bonfire is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. The fire was more than a big pile of logs and some flame. It was a place where the entire community gathered around -- a place of music and magic and dancing and lovemaking. It was customary to light the fire on May Eve (the last night of April) and allow it to burn until the sun went down on May 1.
The bonfire was lit with a bundle made from nine different types of wood and wrapped with colorful ribbons. Once the fire was blazing, a piece of smoldering wood was taken to each home in the village, to ensure fertility throughout the summer months.
Hold a Family Abundance Rite for Beltane-Beltane is a celebration of fertility, and despite that it's a perfectly natural aspect of the human existence, let's face it -- some parents may not always be comfortable discussing the erect phallus of the god or the open womb of the goddess with their young children. However, in addition to sexual fertility, the Beltane sabbat is also about abundance, in many forms. Don't just focus on material gains -- it's about the growth of the earth and its bounty, and it's about increasing your own spiritual and emotional wealth.
It is also the pagan festival to the Lares, familial and communal spirits that watch over us all in our homes and our places of travel. This is a repeating holiday that flows throughout the year at many times of celebration, transition and days of honor. Call it ancestor worship, spirit magic or what you may, the Lares maintain a constant presence in our lives and must be acknowledged and shown affection so that they can protect and watch over our homes, places of worship and roads we travel both in this world and the supernatural one. So have a blessed day and have a safe and wonderful day of celebration.
If anyone wonders why Buddha sets at the altar at all times it is because he and his principles guide all I do in my spiritual dealings, daily affairs and balance. He is the godhead that anchors and balances all that I do. All my other gods and goddesses in my personal exploration of paganism set at his table. For me he is truly the wisest teacher and guide.