Walpurgisnacht, an enchanting festival steeped in the mystique of Germanic folklore, enthralls the hearts and minds of those who partake in its time-honored traditions. As the night comes alive with the flickering glow of bonfires and the rhythmic dance of joyous revelers, the veil between the earthly realm and the supernatural world grows thin, inviting a sense of wonder and magic. This celebration not only heralds the triumphant return of spring, but also unites communities in the shared appreciation of their rich cultural heritage. Through Walpurgisnacht, we bear witness to the enduring power of folklore and the human spirit, transcending the boundaries of time and space to create an unforgettable experience that resonates deeply within our collective consciousness.
San Diego Swordschool comes together for Walpurgisnacht to celebrate one who shares in the name Walpurgis, and who lends her name to one of the treatise's we study at this school. The Walpurgis Manuscript, more commonly known as the Royal Armouries I.33 or "Tower Fechtbuch," stands as a testament to the rich martial heritage of medieval Europe. As the oldest known European fencing manual, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the intricate art of sword and buckler combat during the late 13th or early 14th century. The vivid illustrations and accompanying Latin text serve as invaluable instructional guides for historians and practitioners of historical European martial arts. Perhaps most intriguing, however, is the enigmatic figure of Walpurgis, a female fencing master whose presence in the manuscript challenges conventional notions of gender roles in the medieval world and invites further exploration into the often overlooked contributions of women to the development and dissemination of martial arts knowledge.
Walpurgis' role in the treatise, arriving at the end of the text and teaching the priest who has been viewed as the instructor throughout, elevates Walpurgis above all others mentioned in the text. She proceeds to show a variation of plays done earlier in the text, in a way that challenges the earlier lessons with a flare for creativity and exploration. To us here at San Diego Swordschool this is a lesson in the divine feminine allowing room and emboldening us to challenge our lessons and preconceived notions. Yes, we should diligently study our plays and the concepts necessary to fight well. But we should never become so attached to them as to stop innovating, stop exploring, and stop playing with our techniques and styles.
Walpurgis is an unknown person in the text, much as "Lutger" the priest is unknown in true identity as well. Though there is speculation that Walpurgis is based on Saint Walpurga from the germanic tradition, who also is the namesake of Walpurgisnacht. Saint Walpurga, also spelled Walburga or Walburgh, was an 8th-century English Christian missionary and abbess who played a significant role in the Christianization of the Frankish Empire. Born around 710 AD in Devonshire, England, she belonged to a noble Anglo-Saxon family. Her parents, St. Richard and St. Wuna, raised her in a deeply religious environment.
Walpurga was educated at Wimborne Abbey in Dorset, where she became a nun. Later, at the request of her brother St. Willibald, who was a bishop in Germany, she traveled to the Frankish Empire to assist in missionary work. She joined her other brother, St. Winebald, in his religious work and eventually became the abbess of the double monastery (a monastery with both monks and nuns) at Heidenheim in present-day Germany.
Saint Walpurga was known for her piety, leadership, and numerous good works, including establishing several churches, schools, and monasteries. She died on February 25, 777 or 779, and her remains were later transferred to the Church of the Holy Cross in Eichstätt. She was canonized as a saint in the 9th century.
Have a great Walpurgisnacht and remember to allow your divine feminine energy to challenge your preconceived notions and help healthily push boundaries for the coming year!