Walpurgis Night

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC – APRIL 30, 2013: Participants of the costumed parade at the Witches Night carry a straw witch over the Charles Bridges in Prague, Czech Republic.

Walpurgis Night is the English translation of Walpurgisnacht, one of the Dutch and German names for the night of 30 April, so called because it is the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga, an 8th-century English missionary to the Franks. In Germanic folklore, Walpurgisnacht, also called Hexennacht, literally “Witches’ Night”, is believed to be the night of a witches’ meeting on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains, a range of wooded hills in central Germany between the rivers Weser and Elbe. May 1, also known as May Day and Beltane, was long celebrated in pre-Christian Europe as a highpoint of the magical year and many of the traditions and practices associated with it carried over into the celebration of Walpurga’s festival.

In much of Central Europe today, Walpurgis Night has become a holiday similar to Hallowe’en in the United States. People dress up as witches and go out to party — as in the photo above. There is often lots of drinking! In many places, a witch is burnt in effigy. In Prague, Walpurgis Night — Čarodějnice in Czech — is a very popular holiday. There are two Central European holidays that I would love to arrange to attend sometime… one is the Krampus parades in Salzburg in early December and the other is Walpurgis Night in Prague! (I guess another holiday I’d like to see sometime are the Midsummer bonfires in late June. Anybody want to join me? Maybe we can arrange a group to go together to one of these holidays!)

(A chapter of Come Hell or High Water, Part One: Wellspring happens on Čarodějnice.)

You can also read my 2014 post about Walpurgis Night if you want.

What Do I Write?

Evil and black magic lurk in the shadows of Prague beneath The Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Square. (photo by Joseph O’Neill, 2016)

What Do I Write?

What do the COME HELL OR HIGH WATER trilogy and the STORM WOLF novel have in common? They are supernatural/fantasy thrillers that straddle timelines and cultures.

The Come Hell or High Water trilogy alternates between 1350s Prague and contemporary Prague. A witch curses the city in the 1350s and the curse is reawakened in the modern city; the curse works its way through the life of the town in both time periods as a handful of people in each period race to stop it before Prague is destroyed.

Storm Wolf follows the adventures of Alexei, the last werewolf in 1880s Estonia who is driven to become a killer and frantically searches throughout Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Bohemia for a sorcerer who can save him from the wolf-magic.

All the fantastic or magickal aspects of my novels are based on authentic medieval and Renaissance occult beliefs or practices; these are the real deal! (You can use them as recipe books, if you want. This is what people actually did if they wanted to use the supernatural to achieve their goals.) The books also incorporate local legends and history so that you get a taste of what it was really like in Central Europe or the Baltic States in the Middle Ages, the late 19th century, or now.

I’m currently working on Earth to Earth, Ashes to Ashes which is a novel about an Irish female vampire and the ghost of a witch who have kidnapped three high school boys from Waterford in August, 2002; their uncle, a professor of Irish folklore, and a graduate student try to rescue them from the vampire and the witch before they are lost forever in the Otherworld.

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Step #5 – Be sure you mark your calendar! As a Blog Hop participant, you will be responsible for checking your link and the Blog Hop once it is live to confirm it works.

The goal is to create a kind of “daisy chain” that readers can follow from site to site to B2BCyCon.com to site.

“Is fiction, which makes fact alive, fact too?”

Alexandra Cheira, a scholar of fairy tales and mythology at the University of Lisbon, recently presented a paper about the Come Hell or High Water trilogy at a conference. Her paper examines the relationship between historical fact and legend in the books; she uses the question Robert Browning asks in The Ring and the Book as the title for her paper (and I use it for the title of this post). Alexandra says that the interplay of fact and fairy tale in trilogy presents “a whole picture of the city, in which well-done research is matched by believable story-telling, so much so that the realistic narrative is interspersed by supernatural occurrences which do not strike even the most skeptical reader as out of character.”

She also writes that “the narrative structure is also well-balanced between realism and fantasy, with the description of the conferences, the delegates and the general camaraderie that accompanies them acting as a down-to-earth catalyst for the supernatural parts. The narrative tone is informed – but never lecturing – and the reader does actually learn a lot on a variety of subjects without realizing it.”

Alexandra concludes, “All in all, Morris has managed to create an urban-historical fantasy which pairs fiction and fact and brings to question what is real and what is imagined. ‘Fiction’ is an aid to ‘fact,’ something that can better a story, so that Morris’s ‘fictional facts’ do indeed ring true in the wider context of the novels.”

I am very happy that Alexandra chose to discuss Come Hell or High Water in her paper at the conference. As with all good critiques, she taught ME something about the books that I had not realized as I was writing them!