Ring-a-ring-a Widdershins: It’s Walpurgis Night and Halfway to Hallowe’en!


It’s Walpurgis Night  (Walpurgisnacht or Valborgsmässoafton),  the night that marks the transition from winter to spring, falling on the eve of the first of May. It’s also halfway to Halloween!! Kaja will like that!  In folk tradition, witches and devils would gather on the Brocken, the highest of the Harz Mountains, to perform rituals and indulge in revelry for one night. The festivities are based on ancient folklore and witches are believed to fly on their brooms to the Brocken mountain on the eve of May Day. It is called Walpurgis Night because it is the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga, an eighth-century abbess in Germany.

Here’s something to get you reeling. It’s a song that the North Berwick witches sang as they danced. A ‘cummer’ is an olde Scottish dialect word for woman/witch. ‘widdershins’ means to go anti-clockwise contrary to the course of nature. Legend holds that demons always approached the devil widdershins. Not surprisingly, such a path was considered evil.

‘The Witches Reel’

Ring- a- ring- a widdershins
Linkin’ lithely widdershins
Cummer carlin crone and queen
Roun’ go we!

Ring- a- ring- a widdershins
Loupin’ lightly widdershins
Kilted coats and fleeing hair
Three times three.

Ring- a- ring- a widdershins
Whirlin’ skirlin widdershins
And deil take the hindermost
Who’er she be!

(from Book of Witches, ed. Jacynth Hope Simpson, 1966).  




About Sam George

Associate Professor of Research, School of Humanities, University of Hertfordshire Co-convenor OGOM Project
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3 Responses to Ring-a-ring-a Widdershins: It’s Walpurgis Night and Halfway to Hallowe’en!

  1. firekrank says:

    I’m so excited about Halloween already! I had a quiet one last year but I will have to go big this year. I was out celebrating Beltane yesterday. I’ll pop the pictures up shortly!

    • Bill says:

      How do you celebrate Beltane? I hope no virgins or naive policemen were sacrificed. Sounds fab–do post the pics!

  2. yes, do post them I have posted one or two of Merrie England in St Albans. There was a crow mummer that was really scary!!

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