The 30th of April is the feast day of St. Walpurgis, an English princess born in 710 AD. She lived with the nuns in Winborne Abbey, where she was also educated, for 26 years. She was the brought to Germany by Saint Boniface, her mother's brother who was also the Archbishop of Mainz, to help to make Christian the Germans. Once there she became a nun and later abbess of the monastery in Heidenheim where she lived until her death on February 25th, 779 AD. Canonized on May 1st 870 AD, by Pope Adrian II, (or it could also be the day when her body was moved or "translated" to lie next to the body of her brother), in Sweden we celebrate her on the eve of her Feast Day; Valborgsmässoafton - Walpurgis night. Her bones were, after her canonization, moved from Heidenheim to Eichstätt where they were placed in a rocky niche from which a miraculously therapeutic oil started sipping, drawing pilgrims from far and near.
In the Middle Ages a cult was developed in the memory of St. Walpurgis, which had as it's main objective to fight witches and evil forces.
Sir James Frazer wrote in The Golden Bough about St. Walpurgis' eve in Sweden; "The first of May is a great popular festival in the more midland and southern parts of Sweden. On the eve of the festival, huge bonfires, which should be lighted by striking two flints together, blaze on all the hills and knolls"
Valborgsmässoafton in Sweden is an evening when witches (or the good fight against them anyway) are central to the celebrations. We light fires to protect against them and some people dress up as witches. It's an eve where dark forces run wild, only to be warded off at the dawn of St. Walpurgis Day - May 1st.
April 30th is also celbrated by students "singing to the spring". There are student concerts in most cities, often outdoors, and people wear their student hats.
The Swedish student cap (studentmössa), used since the mid-19th century, normally has a white crown, a black or dark blue band and a black peak. At the front of the band is a cockade of blue and yellow, the colours of the Swedish flag. Walpurgis eve is the first day when new students are allowed to wear their caps.
Pilgrimage to Athlone -
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