In the Circle of the Sun at Cross Quarter Day: this Week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Apr 24, 2017

Geocentrism as rendered by Andres Celarius, c 1660

We typically associate ghosts and witches with Autumn and the season of the dead, but did you know that there are traditions for observing the same thing during the last week of April when life is springing up from the Earth?

All of these traditions are rooted in the positions of the Sun and the Earth when we are half way through the season. This is known as the cross quarter day and it happens on May 1st in the Spring. To find the traditions tied to this, it helps to imagine the Earth at the center of our system, with the Sun circling around it, rhythmically rising and falling along the horizon. When the Sun appears halfway to its highest or lowest point~like it will be this week ~ it’s like a door opens and this supernatural mischief is unleashed.

So here are two traditions connected to this:

First, there’s the eve of St. Mark’s Day, Monday, April 24th.  This was practiced mainly in England until the 19th century, where it was believed that if you sat on the church porch on April 24th and kept silent vigil between 11 pm and 1 am, then you would see the ghosts of those who were to die during the year, entering into the church.

The other tradition happens on May Eve, April 30th and comes from Germany. Here it was believed that every year on May Eve the witches were allowed to freely frolic and cavort with their master, the Devil. This tradition was made famous through Goethe’s 18th century tragic play Faust, where he described how Mephistopheles took Faust to the Harz Mountains on May Eve and the chorus sang:

The wind is hushed, the stars grow pale,
The pensive moon her light doth veil;
And whirling on, the magic choir
Sputters forth sparks of drizzling fire.

So why unleash mischief in this season? Consider it like a great celestial detox, taking place right before the Earth peaks in fertility. The way to protect yourself from the mischievous ghosts and witches, is to know that you stand protected in the circle of the Sun.

May Eve, from Goethe's Faust: http://www.online-literature.com/goethe/faust-part-1/9/

John Keats' poem "The Eve of St. Mark": http://www.keats-shelley-house.org/en/works/works-john-keats/john-keats-the-eve-of-st-mark

"Circle of the Sun by Sweet Water Warblers: