People in the Czech Republic still burn witches today as a part of the several Czech traditions. That’s right, the rituals that were famous in the Dark Ages still reside in the practices of everyday Czech people. The Walpurgis Night, also known as Beltaine, is the night where all Denizens of the locale gather together to feast on “witches”.
The Czech Feast of Burning Witches celebration takes place on the 30th of April every year, as a celebration of the end of a long, cold winter and a joyful welcome to warmer, nicer days. No witches are actually burned, which is why human rights organizations have not really spoken much about the matter. People gather together and create great bonfires with burning rags, straw witches or even simply broomsticks and fry some sausage to go with the party; pretty much similar to the Guy Fawkes celebration in America.
According to ethnologists, the Walpurgis Night comes from pagan beliefs. The term “pálení čarodějnic”, can be simply translated as the “burning of witches”, and it originates from Pre-Christian era pagans. Pagan shepherds used to consider the 1st of May to be the mark of the new half year, and hence, they celebrated it by making fires.
Further study also shows that the pagans used to believe that the night of 30th April and 1st May to be the height of evil powers. Folktales reveal people to believe that it was during this time that the witches assembled with their broomsticks to cause distress and disaster to the innocent and very superstitious locals. Great, blazing fires would keep these vile spirits at bay, as witches of those times were obviously not impervious to this element. Beliefs also state that these fires would remove all the darkness and evil powers gathered inside people, during the dark, dreary winter days.
Today’s celebration of burning witches, is not quite so dire or so closely constituted to evil spirits. Children are encouraged to create straw versions of witches to throw into the bonfire, and adults come armed with brooms to feed the flames. If you ever happen to be in the Czech Republic during this time, you can be sure to have a wonderful time toasting marshmallows in the fire.