Knights of Walpurgis
An original editorial by Cindy Eric
Source of information: BBC Newsnight Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 19:05 GMT 20:05 UK
Transcript of JK Rowling: The Interview
"'...in here is the history of the Death Eaters and I don't know that I'll ever actually need it - but at some point - which were once called something different - they were called the Knights of Walpurgis...'" - J.K. Rowling.
Knights of Walpurgis is a play on the words Walpurgis Knight:
"Walpurgis Night (in German folklore) the night of April 30 (May Day's eve), when witches meet on the Brocken mountain and hold revels with the Devil..." (Oxford Phrase & Fable)
"Brocken the highest of the Harz Mountains of north central Germany. It is noted for the phenomenon of the Brocken spectre and for witches' revels which reputably took place there on Walpurgis night.
The Brocken Spectre is a magnified shadow of an observer, typically surrounded by rainbow-like bands, thrown onto a bank of cloud in high mountain areas when the sun is low. The phenomenon was first reported on the Brocken." (Oxford Phrase & Fable)
Dumbledore defeated the Dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, which coincides with the end of World War 2 in Muggle history. This is what makes the German connection to the Knights of Walpurgis interesting, because we know that J.K. Rowling has used it before, with Grindelwald. She has also stated in an interview that Lord Voldemort is like Hitler -
"The Dark Lord's zeal for Purebloods is like Hitler and the Aryan ideal, to which he did not conform at all himself. And so Voldemort is doing this. He takes his own inferiority, and turns it back on other people and attempts to exterminate in them what he hates in himself." (J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels by Philip Nel, pg. 44)
Another 'coincidence' connecting Pureblood wizards to Germany and World War 2 is the S.S. (the Nazi special police force), the initials of both Salazar Slytherin, founder of Slytherin house, and Severus Snape, Slytherins current Head of house.
What does Walpurgis night tell us about the Knights of Walpurgis? Exactly what we know about the Death Eaters. But when were the Knights of Walpurgis founded? Why were they created? And by whom? What made them join Lord Voldemort and take on a new name?
To even begin to formulate a plausable theory it is necessary to go right to the very beginning (that we know of) -
'You all know, of course, that Hogwarts was founded over a thousand years ago - the precise date is uncertain - by the four greatest witches and wizards of the age. The four school houses are named after them: Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin. They built this castle together, far from prying Muggle eyes, for it was an age when magic was feared by common people, and witches and wizards suffered much persecution...
A rift began to grow between Slytherin and the others. Slytherin wished to be more selective about the students admitted at Hogwarts. He believed that magical learning should be kept within all-magic families. He disliked taking students of Muggle parentage, believing them to be untrustworthy. After a while, there was a serious argument on the subject between Slytherin and Gryffindor, and Slytherin left the school...
Reliable historical sources tell us this much...' (Professor Binns, CoS, emphasis added).
Professor Binns, who is only interested in the honest facts, thank you very much, has given us quite a bit of information about Salazar Slytherin:
1. Salazar was one of the greatest wizards of the age, much like Lord Voldemort and Dumbledore now.
2. Salazar helped build a castle, far from Muggles. The castle symbolizes what the four founders were feeling at the time - defensive. It was built to shield its occupants from the persecution that witches and wizards were suffering from Muggles, as well as to educate them. Castles were also built for war, and perhaps we will get to see Hogwarts in use as a fortress in future books?
3. Salazar did not trust Muggle-borns, and his fears are not unfounded, considering that the Magical world was suffering at the hands of Muggles during his time. He most likely believed that Muggle-borns would stay true to their ancestry, working as spies inside Hogwarts, crumbling the foundations of the castle from within.
4. Salazar realized that he was fighting a losing battle, as none of the other three founders agreed with him, so he left.
Where did he go? What became of one of the greatest wizards of the age after that?
It is possible that Salazar Slytherin, after leaving Hogwarts rounded up other witches and wizards who shared his ideals, and banded them together to form the Knights of Walpurgis. Or, perhaps the Knights of Walpurgis already existed. But why the title of Knight?
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English cniht man-at-arms, boy, servant; akin to Old High German kneht youth, military follower
Date: before 12th century
1 a (1) : a mounted man-at-arms serving a feudal superior; especially : a man ceremonially inducted into special military rank usually after completing service as page and squire (2) : a man honored by a sovereign for merit and in Great Britain ranking below a baronet (3) : a person of antiquity equal to a knight in rank b : a man devoted to the service of a lady as her attendant or champion c : a member of an order or society" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
From this meaning, it is possible to theorize that the Knights of Walpurgis may have initially followed Salazar Slytherin, after his disappearance from Hogwarts. They probably also followed Grindelwald, and they are now following Lord Voldemort. This is important because, no matter what name they may take, they will always exist, and they will always find a powerful leader to serve, who shares their Pureblood ideology. The Knights of Walpurgis/Death Eaters will live on, even if Lord Voldemort does not.
It is also like the opposite side of the coin to the Order of the Phoenix - another society whose members also must be initiated. Though Professor Dumbledore founded the Order, to fight against Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters, but the Death Eaters as an order are much older then Professor Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix.
So here is my little theory, based on mere crumbs of evidence:
The Knights of Walpurgis were founded around one thousand years ago to protect witches and wizards from Muggle persecution. However, after a while Wizarding society managed to convince Muggles that magic does not exist, and the services of the Knights were no longer required.
The Knights did not share this belief, and feeling bitter and rejected, decided to continue their work by cleansing the Wizarding world of Muggle-borns (whom they did not trust, believing that Muggle-borns might still betray them), and by continuing their war with Muggles, who no longer believed in magic, but whose ancestors did, and were the cause of much suffering for witches and wizards. The Knights of Walpurgis know how to hold a grudge just like Professor Snape.
Professor Dumbledore defeats Grindelwald, the Knights go into hiding, just they did when Lord Voldemort disappeared. Meanwhile, Lord Voldemort, Heir of Salazar Slytherin is undergoing Dark transformations and most likely also knows about the Knights of Walpurgis, who are waiting for another powerful leader to lead them to victory. Lord Voldemort recruits the Knights to work for him, changes their title to Death Eaters (much more fitting for someone who wants to escape death, who wants to terrorize, and who is openly Dark), and brands them all with his own personal insignia - the Dark Mark.
I am also willing to bet 1000 Galleons that the Malfoys were all Knights of Walpurgis, and that is how Lucius Malfoy became such a prominent Death Eater (he led the battle at the Department of Mysteries in Book 5).
Why did the Death Eaters perform so atrociously at the Department of Mysteries?
1. They were not allowed to let the Prophecy break.
2. They were supremely over-confident, not believing that a group of children were capable of causing them any harm.
3. Dumbledore, and the Order arrived.
4. Lucius told them to kill if necessary, not to go on a murderous rampage.
To summarize, it was because they were fighting children, some of them have children of their own, and know that it is plain wrong to kill a child. Others, did not take the children seriously enough.
We know from what Moody told Harry when he showed him his old photo of the members of the Order of the Phoenix, that Death Eaters are capable of battling like Knights, when they are battling other Knights. We also saw this first-hand when they were fighting against the Order at the Department of Mysteries, prior to Dumbledore's arrival. Moody was defeated, Kingsley Shacklebolt was defeated, Tonks was defeated, and Sirius Black was killed.