Čarodějnice

All across Prague, bonfires would be lit up, and effigies of dark cloaked women would be set on fire and roasting, the wicked cackling of the winter would be driven away, welcoming in the spring time and warm weather. The evil spirits of winter would be burned and destroyed, the witch’s strength would be ebbed by the coming warm air.

It was Čarodějnice, or Witches’ Day, a Czech holiday celebrated every year on the day before May Day.

Also, I'll put in here quickly that I don't in any way advocate any burning of actual witches.

A Bit of History

Of course, it wasn’t always a day to burn effigies of witches. That innovation is somewhat more recent in regards to May Day celebrations. The transfer from paganism to Christianity doesn’t really follow a clear, sharp line. As people converted to Christianity in the middle ages, they weren’t so willing to part with their traditional ways (we see the same in modern Czech Republic, they’re atheist now but love to celebrate their long held Catholic traditions).

St. Vitus Cathedral at night

Many people were forcibly converted, yes, but a large part simply because it was an easier religion to follow and also that it was often not really that different (take Slavic and Germanic paganism, who already had an all-father, from which all lesser gods and spirits, read angels, were created). It was clear, and there were benefits. Humans wouldn’t be sacrificed, neither livestock, to principalities that only had remote and bizarre characters. Nobility were nothing that special, rather than god-men.

In the Roman lands, the peasantry was the first to convert, and it went bottom up, not top down. The Roman Emperors repeatedly tried to quell the growing faith, but were