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Burning of the Witches

Credit: Pixabay
April 30th is celebrated as Witches Night in Prague and all over the Czech Republic. Brooms symbolising witches are burnt throughout the Czech Republic. This night may seem like Halloween with sounds of witches or hags cackling or laughing resonate the air.

Traditionally, brooms are burnt to keep the witches at bay. Young couples leap through the fires of the dying embers. This can be termed as a fertility rite. Men leave fresh-cut branches on the doorsteps of the woman they love. While it is officially illegal to light a fire within the city limits, unofficial bonfires are lit up on Petrin Hill. 

Some Czechs believe that it originates from the Iron Age when Celts occupied Moravia and Bohemia. From this theory, it has its origins in Beltane, called Beltzine in Czech. It is still a celebrated holiday in the Isle of Man, Ireland, and Scotland. Yet others hold the belief that it has its roots in the Walpurgis Night, a traditional festival German and Scandinavian festival, descending from the Vikings itself. The name of the festival, on the other hand, suggests that it traces its origins in the witch trial where hundreds of women were burned at stake in the 16th and 17th century. Today, however, it is a lighthearted affair and a reason to celebrate.

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