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Burning of Witches

 
photo:  (wikimedia.org)
 

Burning of Witches, Walpurgis Night or Beltaine are the names used for the last night of April in the Czech Republic, traditionally connected with the practise of "burning witches". The long tradition is celebrated both in the Czech Republic and in many other European countries.

 
 
The tradition of burning witches is a reminder of the pagan ritual. There are many legends about the origin of the ritual. According to ethnologists, the beginnings of the tradition can be seen in pre-Christian shepherds, who considered May 1st as the beginning of a new half-year. It was the time of transition from the cold to the warm period of the year. Therefore, people would set fires in the belief that it will help them to remove any evil powers that had gathered inside them during the dark, winter times, celebrating the oncoming spring and summer period. Later, the habit developed into the burning of witches.

The ritual of burning witches is very popular in the Czech Republic. An ancient legend says that on the magic Walpurgis Night 30 April / 1 May, evil powers are at their peak of strength, and people must protect themselves, their households and cattle. In ancient times, people believed that crowds of witches flying on broomsticks travelled to a witches’ assembly on that night. As such people would light fires on the hills, throwing burning brooms up into the air in order to weaken the witches’ powers and get rid of them.

Nowadays, the burning of witches is fun. Throughout the country, thousands of fires are set on the last April evening in order to burn a witch – an effigy of a witch made of straw and old clothes. When the fire is roaring people roast sausages on sticks, dance, play music and sing. Hardly anybody would now connect the celebration with magic rituals.
 
Author: Petra Hubálková
 
Added: 26.04.2011
 
 
 

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