Last night was the festival of Walpurgis Night, the other Halloween. Did you sense a little tug from the dark side? The holiday is celebrated across central and northern Europe and associated (incorrectly or not) with the Scottich Isles celebration of Beltane. Whether you call it May Day Eve or Walpurgis Night the thirtieth day of April represents the final chance for evil to torment humanity before the light of Spring arrives. People would celebrate by building huge bonfires and dancing through the night to keep away evil spirits and witches. It was believed witches would oil their bodies up and fly through the night sky and reveled with their gods in celebration of the coming spring, long before Harry was the boy who lived.
Silly superstitions from an older time? Perhaps, but we still have our superstitions and evil still plays a role in our lives. Granted the phrase, “the devil made me do it,” carries more weight when there is an actual devil. Still the idea that we can explain evil away as some unseen hidden but powerful force just waiting to lead us astray is quite a relief to the reality that we are all just as capable of evil acts as we are acts of kindness. I often write about monsters and I write about evil. Actions are never evil. Killing somone is an evil act, it is also a heroic one. It all depends on the context. As a writer you must convince your reader that the evil is real; that the monster is not a figment of the imagination. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it can be quite the devil, no pun intended, (well maybe a little). Either way the reader comes to your brand of evil not through the events in your story but the characters. At least they should.
All this talk of evil spirits forgets that many see the time as a celebration of the coming renewal of spring. The long dark days of winter are over and it is now time to purify the world for a new day. This day along with Halloween represent the mid points of the transformation between equinoxes. For an agrarian society the changing of the seasons holds special meaning. This is the time when the veil between this world and the spirit world is at it’s thinnest. Magic is afoot. Magic, you see, is an important part of the human condition. Whether you attribute all that you do not understand to magic or just the affirmation that there is a greater power looking over this world, magic fuels our imaginations. Transformative magic is the strongest of all. We experience this magic in many ways as the cold brown earth transforms to a sea of green. As the bare tree blossoms and the first flowers poke through the soil. Even our accepted religions have a tradition of magic in them. This all serves to remind us of the power inherent in transformation.
So to the survivors of another Walpurgisnacht, as it is known in Germany, I raise my morning glass in a toast. May evil have passed by your doorstep but not your pages. Just for fun today, since the dark days of winter have passed, write yourself a tale full of magic and evil. After all watching the good guy win all the time can be so boring. Rest assured in the fact that it is make believe but that Halloween is only six months away.
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