International Workers' Day, Walpurgis Night and Beltane Have Nothing to Do with Satanism!

Slavic Rodnovers in Russia raising an idol
(i.e. a "kumir") for George's Day (
May Day (May 1) has always been celebrated in Paganism as the day of fertility and the culmination of spring. All of my loved ones know that I celebrate this date under the name of Beltane. And so I received a link on Facebook from a local newspaper (or rather a national one) which was written by a Zrinka K. and is entitled (in translation) "THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT INTERNATIONAL WORKERS' DAY: Do not be deceived, on this day everyone bows down to Lucifer by celebrating Walpurgis Night, the most demonic holiday of the year" (you can read the full article here, but it is in Croatian). I have tried to find similar articles in English but didn't manage to, so I hope you will take my word for what is said in the articles I will mention in this post. Anyway, the title isn't the least bit practical because of its length, but it will catch a lot of looks. I couldn't resist reading the article and by the time I came to the end, I was beside myself with anger. I didn't know whether I should laugh or cry. Of course, I knew that my friends had sent me the link as a joke, but I was also aware that many people would take it seriously.

I have to admit that I was very sad to find out that I was right. Only two days after reading the article, I was talking to a few colleagues of mine and we came upon the topic of International Workers' Day. They are all Catholic (I know this because we are also friends). One of them said that May Day and Walpurgis Night are Satanistic celebrations. It was clear that she really meant what she was saying so I interrupted her to explain where Walpurgis Night even got its name, although I didn't go into too many details.

Inspired by the aforementioned discussion, I decided to write this post in the hopes that everyone that read this and similar articles will stop blindly believing everything they read in them and so that those that have not heard the other side of the story yet will finally get a chance to hear it. 

I found similar articles to the one by Zrinka K. all over the Internet simply by Google searching the key words, so you can feel free to search for yourself. In any case, all of the articles I came across (most of them in Croatian, admittedly) say the same things:
  1. That International Workers' Day is a cover-up for the Pagan and/or Satanistic holidays of Beltane and/or Walpurgis Night
  2. That Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, is directly connected to these celebrations
  3. That the Illuminati (and I will directly translate what Zrinka K. said in her article) "organized the protest in Chicago and the conflict between the workers and the police on May 1, 1886" (this is a typical conspiracy theory if you ask me, and the author could have at least written the correct date of this protest which was on May 4).
The inconsistency of these authors throughout their articles particularly bothered me because they say that Beltane is a Pagan celebration, and then they call it Satanistic. They also claim that Beltane and Walpurgis Night are the same thing and later on differentiate them. Thus, I would like to explain that neither Beltane nor Walpurgis Night are Satanistic celebrations and that they aren't even the same holiday.

This specific new website additionally disappointed me because they obviously allow copy-pasting entire paragraphs of text from one article to another. I remember that I read a similar article last year, but I simply decided to ignore it at the time. The article I am referring to was written by Mladen Prenc in 2013 and is entitled (in translation) "International Workers' Day: Did you know that it is the birthday of the Illuminati and also a Satanistic celebration?" (original link here). It is evident that Ms Zrinka took the easiest route and simply copied a few whole paragraphs from this article and used them in her own text. This is extremely unprofessional behavior which is reason alone why this article should not be taken seriously. I am obviously not well-informed about how the media functions because, in the academic world, plagiarism is harshly punished.

I also find it disturbing when these sorts of "professional" websites neglect to check their spelling. It is expected that any respectable website will check grammar and spelling of all articles before publishing them, but this site obviously does not wish to be taken seriously and does not care for itself as I found large amounts of mistakes in both articles. In the Croatian version, even Walpurgis Night is misspelled (throughout the articles and even in the titles!). 

The History and Meaning of Walpurgis Night

Walpurgis Night was named after Saint Walburga (or Walpurga), a nun from Wimbourne in England who lived in the 8th century. She devoted her life to missionary work in Germany where she established a monastery and was well-known for her good deeds. Given her background, the original name of this holiday is in German - Walpurgisnacht. As is expected of a saint, she was pure, enlightened and mild-mannered. According to the Roman Catholic calendar, May 1 is dedicated to her because she was canonized on this date. Walpurgis Night is simply the eve of this day (i.e. the night of April 30 to May 1). But in 1955, Pope Pius XII dedicated this day to Saint Joseph the Worker thus supporting all workmen and creating a counterpoise for a communist holiday which was celebrated on the same date (as he was strongly opposed to communism). 

The main question that has to be asked now is how Saint Walpurga was connected to witches, Pagan celebrations and even Satanistic practices? This connection fascinates me so I will try to explain it.

Medieval Misapprehensions

As is the case with most delusions regarding witches, this one too has roots in the Middle Ages and the witch persecutions.

During the numerous tortures that happened during this period in time, Inquisitors were able to get the "truth" out of the many poor souls they tortured. These "truths" were actually the prejudices and speculations the Church had of heretic celebrations (keep in mind that anyone who wasn't a Christian back them was a heretic). Those being tortured were forced to confirm all of these beliefs and confess to all sorts of ridiculous claims simply because they endured horrible pain throughout the whole "questioning" process. The tortures included breaking bones, cutting meat all kinds of torture devices that caused inhumane pain and psychological traumas that no normal person could endure. Simply put, the Inquisitors got the affirmation they needed by putting people in situations they could not get out of alive; they just had to confess to everything they were told. They were "let go" only after they confessed to everything, but this just meant that the torture was put to an end. They were still sentenced to death either by hanging or by burning at the stake.

Countless testimonies exist for these tortures and not to mention the numerous technical drawings for torture devices, the descriptions of the trials and tortures themselves and so on. Surely, the most famous work related to these topics is the Malleus Maleficarum which you can read about in this post. Of course, these testimonies cannot be taken as certifications of verity because they were gained through torture, that is by force. People will admit to anything when they are in such pain. In addition to this, the theories that the Church represented were absurd, at least from our perspective. Theories such as those that witches ride brooms, have intercourse with the Devil himself, eat newborn children etc. were widely accepted. Today, they are only proof of the misunderstanding of older beliefs and practices that were heretic in the eyes of the Church.

In this witch craze, many prejudices and misconceptions were formed...enough to fill an entire book. But I would like to mention only one at the moment; the preconception regarding sabbats. In the Middle Ages, witches' sabbats were synonyms for orgies, Satan worship and many other unconventional things to say the least, some of which can truly be called disgusting. The first time the term sabbat (or sabbath) was found in an inquisition document was in 1335 in Toulouse (France). Despite this, the word itself goes back to the Hebrew word shabbat which means "to rest" (or rather "to cease form work") and which refers to the Jewish day of rest (Saturday). This term was accepted as the name for any heretic celebration or holiday since, back then, Jews were also seen as heretics in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church. It wasn't until the 15th century that the phrase was more widely accepted and used only in the context of witches as well as all of the stereotypes and misconceptions that go with it.

It was believed that these witches' sabbats were held in hidden places - in forest openings, mountains or caves and only during the night. In time, maps were dotted with "notorious" locations of witches' celebrations and among them was Brocken (a.k.a. Blocksberg) in the Harz mountain in Germany. Some sort of synchronicity occurred because the German tradition of celebrating Walpurgisnacht was connected to the belief that Brocken is a traditional place for witch gatherings. The basis for this synchronicity was a certain date and a document from 1591.

German folk tales (I cannot emphasize folk tales enough) say that Brocken is a very mysterious place where witches (Hexen) used to gather from very ancient times. These stories were fused with popular celebrations of spring which were also held at the beginning of May. The most famous of these vernal celebrations is May Day which was celebrated throughout the world, and thus also in Germany.

It is worth noting that the witch hunts didn't get to Germany until the 16th century, which is quite late in comparison to the rest of Europe. But this delay was more than compensated for with the sheer brutality of the tortures that were conducted and by the number of accused that were burnt at the stake. One notable author on the subject of German witchcraft (and a strict opponent of the same), Johann Georg Godelmann, wrote an important work in 1951 entitled De Magis, Veneficis Et Lamiis, Recte Cognoscendis & Puniendis in which he said the following:
"It is widely believed that all German witches are carried, on the night of the first of May, in the shortest time imaginable, to the mountain called Blocksberg and Heinberg, in the Brusteri region, having first anointed themselves . . . . They spend the whole night in feasting and jollity, dancing with their lovers."
If nothing else, Godelmann affirmed and possible even prompted the beliefs about Brocken. They just continued to develop until they reached their famous culmination in Goethe's Doctor Faustus. In his article, Prenc mentions that Goethe describes "Satanistic" gatherings on Brocken, but we have to take into consideration the intention with which this work was written. The main point of this play is Christian; any soul can return to God because God will forgive all of our sins, but it cannot expect salvation if it completely gives in to Satan (which is what Faustus does in the end). The demon Mephistopheles leads Faustus throughout the play and shows him the many manifestations of Satan on Earth and urges him to do all sorts of immoral things. These scenes were intended to frighten the reader and thus turn him/her away from Satan and back on the right path to God. This tragedy has a nice moral message, but it still accepts certain stereotypes and misconceptions in order to prove the verity of its main point.

The conclusion of this part of the post is as follows: Brocken is not a gathering place for Satanists nor is Walpurgis Night a Satanistic celebration. Satanism and Walpurgis Night have nothing to do with one another because Walpurgis Night is essentially a Christian holiday. The celebrations that occur on Brocken are very modern and are the product of the aforementioned legends and beliefs. Such modern celebrations are only marked by people dressing up as witches, devils and similar things while any deeper religious meaning is found lacking. Still, this does not mean that gatherings on Brocken did not occur because this soon became an almost traditional place for vernal celebrations. If people sometimes went there to celebrate the coming of spring, this does not mean that they worshiped Satan. This also does not imply that they were Pagans, or followers of any faith at that. Maybe they were just non-religious people who went there with their families to have a nice picnic and enjoy nature. Not firm estimate can be made of how many gatherings have been held on Brocken. In fact ,this cannot be said for any place on Earth. One thing that can be claimed is that not all of these gatherings were either witch meetings or Satanistic ones. Such generalizations would be insubstantial.

You have probably notices that I differentiate the terms "Pagan" and "Satanistic". The authors of the above mentioned articles do not and I strongly object to this. In addition to this, they connect Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, to Walpurgis Night. But since many people do not know the background and the proper meanings of these terms, I feel obliged to elaborate.

Why Walpurgis Night and Beltane Are Not Satanistic Celebrations

As I have already emphasized, Walpurgis Night is dedicated to Saint Walpurga. I take my hat off to anyone that manages to connect this Christian saint with Satanism which didn't even exist (at least not in the form that we know it to have today) until 1966 when Anton LaVey established his Church of Satan.

Also, Walpurgis Night and Beltane are not the same celebration, as you might have concluded up to now, although they are celebrated at almost the same time. Beltane is marked on May 1, while Walpurgis Night occurs on the night of April 30 to May 1. In addition to this, Beltane is a Pagan celebration and Walpurgis Night is originally a Christian holiday which was later distorted.

What I am left with now is the task of explaining why Beltane is not connected to Paganism. This is a very old discussion which we one always stumbles onto because of misconceptions. Namely, Beltane is a Pagan holiday which celebrates nature, the spring, the fertility of the earth and also fertility in general (for more information, please read this post). But it seems as though Mladen Prenc has his own opinions on the subject which he clearly states in his article. He says the following (translated from Croatian):
"On this occasion [for Beltane], fires were lit and games and dances were held at the base of a pole around which colorful ribbons were tied. This pole represented the male reproductive organ. In these ritualistic games, there is mention of ancient demonic gods such as Vaal, the Green Man, Pan, Green George etc.

When they had fallen in a trance overtaken by demons, they held orgies until sunrise. As an extension of Beltane, Pagans also continued to celebrate Walpurgis Night . . . Walpurgis Night is one of the most important Satanistic holidays and often implies ritual human sacrifices to Lucifer!"
In Croatian: "Tom prilikom [za Beltane] su palili vatre, igrali i plesali oko stupa oko kojeg su vezivali trake raznih boja, a koji je simbolizirao muški spolni organ. U tim ritualnim igrama spominjali su i drevna demonska božanstva Vaala, Zelenog čovjeka, Pana, Zelenog Juraja itd…
Kada bi pali u trans obuzeti demonima, orgijali su do zore. U produžetku Beltana pogani su nastavljali slaviti Valpurgijsku noć. (...) Valpurgijska noć je jedan od najvažnijih sotonističkih praznika i redovno podrazumijeva ritual prinošenja ljudskih žrtava Luciferu!"

He correctly noticed that Beltane traditions do include lighting a fire (also known as a balefire), dancing and making the Maypole (which really is a phallic symbol and thus fertility which is the focus of this holiday), but the second part of the quote is completely negligible. First of all, the phrase "demonic gods" is pure nonsense. All mythologies of the world differentiate demons and gods and the fact that some of these gods are Pagan by nature (i.e. they have ancient roots and were celebrated in the context of fertility worship) does not make them evil, "demonic" or Satanistic. Even the first deity that Prenc mentions is misnamed. The god "Vaal" is actually the Celtic god of light, fire, warmth and the Sun whose real name is Baal. The Green Man is more of an archetype than a god as he has many other names around the world. The Green Man is the very embodiment of nature in spring which truly is green as green can be, in bloom and lit by the Sun's warm rays. This is why the Green Man is depicted as a man with a green beard, or wearing a mask of foliage and flowers. Pan is surely the most famous of the gods on the list. He is the Greek god of the wild, nature, hunting etc. He was depicted with goat's legs and horns precisely because of his connection to the wild but also to shepherds and their flocks. Just because he had horns, he was equated with Satan with whom he doesn't have any connection whatsoever; neither in their iconography, characteristics or mythology. Green George is another name for the Slavic god Jarilo; the god of fertility, spring and vegetation. He is celebrated on Jurjevo (April 23...rather close to both Walpurgis Night and Beltane, don't you think?).

No proof of demon possession or the existence of orgies is stated in either article. Beltane celebrations were your usual festivity. People would eat, drink a few glasses of wine, dance and have fun. As with every party, there is definitely a chance of someone going home with someone else, but this does not mean that any orgies were held. And if these people were possessed by demons then every person on any birthday party, wedding feast or concert should be exorcised.

The most drastic claim in the whole text is surely that human sacrifices are offered to Lucifer on Walpurgis Night. I would kindly ask Mr. Prenc to show me proof of this. Personally, I have not taken part in a Walpurgis Night celebration, but I have taken part in Beltane celebrations. Speaking from experience, I can firmly say that no human sacrifices are performed as I didn't witness any nor was I the sacrifice.
But just so that I don't come off as nonobjective, I have to mention that the anthropologist James Frazer talks about this subject in his work entitled The Golden Bough. He leaves the possibility of human sacrifices open but clearly states that if they ever were performed, that this was in pre-Christian times in Scotland. Nevertheless, this practice is obsolete and brutal. Reminiscences of such sacrifices have been preserved in other, metaphorical versions of the sacrificial rite. So in Scotland, there is a tradition that includes the "person being sacrificed" jumping over/through the balefire three times. The other participants then act as if the person is deceased, but things soon return back to normal. In other cultures, a symbolic sacrifice is offered to the fire - small pieces of paper with things written on them, woven figurines (often human in form) made from various dried herbs and so on.

Undoubtedly, all sacrifices that are performed at Beltane are not given to Lucifer or Satan. They are not blood sacrifices; they are metaphorical sacrifices (like I said - papers, dried herbs, some plant seeds in the earth as a gift/sacrifice to nature etc.) and nobody is harmed in the process. They were/are performed as a token of gratitude to the spring for returning once again but also to feed the Beltane fire. The Beltane fire needed to be kept lit as it symbolized the growing strength of the Sun during this time of year.

Still, I would like to make a few more distinctions between Paganism and Satanism just to elaborate more on the topic.

Paganism is an umbrella term that covers all the faiths and spiritual paths of the past which are based on celebrating the fertility of the land and the cycles of nature. The very etymology of the word "Pagan" gives indications to the roots of this spirituality which can be found in the countryside and in rural areas where the people were primarily concerned with agriculture. In this sense, the religions of ancient Greece, Rome and many other ancient civilizations can be called Pagan. Neo-Pagan faiths also exist. They are simply the reconstruction or perhaps adaptation of these old customs and the general mentality of celebrating the earth and nature.

Paganism existed long before Satanism. In addition to this, Satanism is a by-product of the Church, or rather a reaction of the many dissatisfied individuals with the austerity of the Roman Catholic Church. To elaborate, the Church forbade many things during the Middle Ages, including sexual intercourse, or more precisely, sexual satisfaction. It believed that sex was to be performed only for procreation. Taking satisfaction in it was strictly forbidden. In order for this idea to be enforced, the Church introduced prohibitions for sexual intercourse. And so it came to be that sex was forbidden on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 40 days before Christmas and Easter, three days before confessions or receiving any sacrament (and it was mandatory to do both on a regular basis), during pregnancy, 40 days after giving birth and so on. In short, medieval people were allowed to have sex only two months in the year. This resulted with general discontent and people starting turning to God's rival - Satan. This is why I say that Satanism is a by-product of the Church and Christianity.

Also, Satan is a Christian concept which Pagans do not believe in. Another idea that is alien to Pagans is the notion of ultimate evil and ultimate good such as Satan and God in Christianity. In this spiritual path, it s very widely accepted that everyone and everything has good and bad aspects and that the ratio of these aspects can vary. Nature itself is neither completely good nor completely bad, the same can be said of people. Even Pagan gods aren't seen as manifestations of pure good or pure evil because they are very anthropomorphic. This results in them also having good and bad characteristics.

Although, this turning of medieval people to Satan isn't Satanism in the real sense of the word, or at least not in the modern sense. Back then, Satanism was not organized and it was more often than not simply an expression of resistance rather than actual Satan worship.

When one says "Satanism" today, they are usually referring to the officially organized Satanism which arose when Anton LaVey established the First Church of Satan. This happened on April 30 (that is Walpurgis Night) in 1966 in San Francisco. Zrinka K. and Mladen Prenc notice this correctly, but they say it as a strong claim and not as a concrete, profound conclusion. They basically manipulate the reader into coming to the conclusion that Walpurgis Night is Satanistic simply by stating a fact or two in such a context, yet they do not give any proof to confirm this conclusion.

Paganism cannot be the same thing as Satanism because it is not centered around Satan (who is a Christian concept anyway) and it was not "established" even remotely at the same time (although Paganism was never formally established because it is not an institution such as LaVey's church; it is a spiritual path, a phenomenon, a way of life and a series of ancient beliefs). The fact that the word "Paganism" has been pejorized over time and came to be connected to heretics or ungodly practices is a very relative thing. Pagan practices are heretical only in the eyes of the Christian Church anyway. Then again, any other religion of the world is deemed as heretical from their standpoint. The word "Pagan" can be taken as a synonym for the word "non-Christian", but this does not imply Satan worship.

Non-Christian faiths and religions include Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Sikhism, but also Neopaganism and many others. Should all these faiths be equated with Satanism just because they are not Christina?

Therefore, Walpurgis Night and Beltane are not the same holiday. Paganism and Satanism are not the same faiths; in fact, they have nothing to do with one another.

May Day as International Workers' Day

International Workers' Day is essentially a commemoration of the revolt that occurred on May 4, 1886 on Haymarket Square in Chicago (NOT May 1 as both of the articles claim). Workers demanded eight-hour workdays, but the police reacted with gunfire. The affair, of course, caused many deaths and suffering, but it also inspired other protests which managed to achieve their goals in the end.

May 1 was set as the date for the International Workers' Day celebration in Paris, 1889 on the first congress of the communist Second International. This congress actually invited all workers to demonstrate in 1890 on the anniversary of the Haymarket Affair. It wasn't until 1904 that the International Socialist Conference invited all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions to cease work on May 1 in order to legally establish the eight-hour workday. They were obviously successful and May 1 was pronounced a national holiday in most countries of Europe and on other continents.

The authors of both of the articles claim that the "Illuminati . . . using their great influence in America, organized the workers' demonstration and their confrontation with the police in Chicago, on May 1 1886" (as I have mentioned, this did not happen on May 1, but on May 4 of the same year). This is just another conspiracy theory. Of course, I cannot forbid anyone to believe in it, but I have to emphasize that the authors to not give any proof of this theory.

Mladen Prenc says the following (freely translated from Croatian):
"The roots of this theory can be found in the life of Adam Weishaupt, a Roman Catholic priest, Jesuit and professor of Canon law at the University of Ingolstadt, who was born on May 1, 1748..."
Adam Weishaupt is known to be the founder of the Illuminati. First of all, he was not born on May 1, but he did found this organization on May 1, 1776. In addition to this, he WAS NOT a Roman Catholic priest, although he was educated and raised in a Jesuit school. I believe that the authors got this information from sources in a foreign language that they did not understand all that well and simply misunderstood what was said. All in all, they are propagating disinformation or are intentionally making things up in an attempt to prove their theories.

Prenc also says that Weishaupt "strayed from the ecclesiastical path and started engaging with witchcraft and Satanism". He did not stray from the ecclesiastical path because he was not a priest and he was not occupied with either witchcraft or Satanism. Weishaupt really was a firm opponent of the Roman Catholic Church mainly because he though to be intolerant and bigoted. This caused conflicts him and Church members, but this does not imply that he practiced witchcraft or was a Satanist. In addition to this, the authors' claims that the Illuminati are a Satanistic organization is absurd.

The Illuminati were opposed to the Roman Catholic Church, but they did not worship Satan. They were not a religious group but rather a socially-political one. Their main goal was to enlighten people (hence their name; Illuminati = the enlightened) in the sense that they wished to show them that they can and should think for themselves. They were opposed to the Church because they believed it abused its power and controlled people. In addition to this, they were also against the government's abuse of its power and, among other things, they advocated equality of all people and equality of the sexes.

This theory about the Illuminati is similar to the numerous conspiracy theories which exist in connection to them and I have to admit that I did not find any proof of it whatsoever. But I believe that my task is not to find proof. This is the task of the proponents of this theory such as Zrinka K. and Mladen Prenc.

I suggest all of the readers of these and similar articles to completely disregard them because their authors just spread misinformation and use (or rather contort) those correct facts that they have to their own advantage. And just to be clear, there aren't that many correct facts in these articles. Thus, the authors do not provide the reader with a full picture and lead them to make the wrong conclusions simply by manipulating words. I sincerely hope that I have given sufficient information in this post to back my opinions as well as enough arguments to explain why I am so opposed to these articles. In case you feel that I have not given enough arguments/proof, feel free to contact me via the contact form or by leaving a comment on this post.

Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat

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