In some european countries it is Holda who rules the skies this night, as she files over the spring fields in the company of a horde of unbaptized children.
Many tales and traditions point to the figure of Walburga who bears a crown and shoes of fire. It is said that she hides among the newly growing things in the fields or even within the small grains of wheat. In the days leading up to Walpurgisnacht, the spectral riders of the Wild Hunt have been seen pursuing her.
In France, there is Dame Blanche, accompanied by her entourage of cats and owls. This white lady haunts bridges, thorn filled ditches and smaller waterways. Incur her wrath and she will push you over a cliff, adorn your flesh with thorns, or simply allow her kitties to devour you.
Through the years, many Springtime festivals have contributed and influenced Walpurgisnacht, such as the Roman's Floralia - a Medieval forest battle that waged between King Winter and the May Queen. As dawn approached, the queen was triumphant and as legend has it, human sacrifices were burned. In later years, effigies crafted from straw are thrown into the flames. Such rituals were practiced as a guarantee of wealth, health and prosperity. To forego them would mean certain doom for you, your family, your livestock, and crops.
Livestock were painted with crosses and adorned with bouquets of herbs in hopes of repelling mischievous fairy folk and witches who would often enchant the beasts and fly to their meeting place at the Brocken on their backs. Exits and entryways were protected in a similar vein - sometimes with crosses fashioned from the magical rowan or hawthorn tree.
In parts of Eastern Europe pitchforks of hay were set ablaze and waved about to frighten unwelcome spirits. Meanwhile, in Scotland great bonfires were set in each village. Here, people gathered to dance around the fire commanding the flames to rise high enough to burn the witches flying overhead.