Witches, Easter and 'Blåkulla'

I have been busting some brain cells trying to figure out what to do
for Magaly's April blog assignment Witches in Fiction: To the Bone.
My writing vein is all dried up, and I haven't read about witches in a long time.
But then I thought; Why not talk a little about the Swedish Påskkärring?
- It's got witches, it's got fiction (and it's got some crazy Christians too)!

First a little background information for those who aren't in the loop:
Paganism is still often - erroneously - linked with worshiping the Devil.
The concept of Satan was introduced by the Christians.
One does not worship something that one doesn't even acknowledge to exist.
 In every country, through all ages, humans have performed rituals. Mostly fertility rituals
for the womb or for the land. Every people have their wise folk, but the word häxa (witch)
didn't exist before the introduction of Christianity. Hedendomen (Swedish Paganism)
had a lush lore full of supernatural beings and demi-gods - but no actual witches!

Now, like many other holidays, and like many other countries,
Easter in Sweden is a mish mash of Pagan and Christian beliefs and traditions.
The small seriously Christian crowd goes to church to remember Jesus's
sufferings and "resurrection". The rest of us just eat eggs and drink snaps,
give each other chocolate bunnies and decorate little Easter trees (shrubbery).
But in Sweden we also have a tradition of (mostly children) dressing up like
Påskkärringar ("Easter witches") and going on something akin to 'Trick or Treating'.


The traditional Swedish Påskkärring is more colorful than
the puritan-settler-looking witches one is used to seeing in the States.
She is plumb, freckled and red cheeked, usually wearing a scarf
and an apron over layers of bright colored skirts. She doesn't have a hat.
She does ride a broomstick though, and is usually accompanied by her cat.
And lore tells us that witches travel to Blåkulla ("Blue hill" or "hall") every Easter.

Swedes would like to think that these stories are part of our Pagan heritage, but they aren't.
All of it is a Christian idea (the focus on the Devil really should give that away...)
The stories actually stem from "witness acounts" from the persecution
of "witches" in Sweden during the 1600's. Patriarchal murderous crazyness,
where one forced testimony was enough to sentence any woman to death. 

Freely translated from Swedish Wiki:

A witch could fit through a hole as small as a pin, and when she left for Blåkulla,
to other people she would still appear to be at home, going about her business.
Which conveniently meant that it didn't matter if a woman
could produce an alibi - even from the entire village...

Witches kidnapped people, often children, and brought them to a party
at Blåkulla, over the fires of hell. Here everything was done backwards;
dancing with one's backs to each other, marrying several people,
having sex and participating in demon orgies resulting in the birth of frogs
- which were then churned in to butter... Can't you just imagine the priests
making this shit up themselves lapping up all of these obscene details?

Some prosecuted children talked of a place right next to Blåkulla,
sometimes called Vitkulla ("White hill" or "hall"), where God and the angels
(the Christian influences have become dropping anvils at this point...)
appeared as bird like creatures who cried for the lost souls, and told them things like:
Don't work on Thursday nights, don't use certain hats with certain shirts,
and don't overprice tobacco... Of course, these testimonies were mostly discarded.
Because where's the fun in letting someone live, right?

The last written accounts of 'witch hysteria' in Sweden are from 1858,
when between 80 and 90 people in a small area in the north of Sweden
all reported having been to Blåkulla. The text doesn't say if this also was
pure persecution, or a case of nobody wanting to be left out :)

Thanks to Magaly at Pagan Culture for hosting this assignment!

My Whiter and Lighter assignment for April is now up and running.
Click the image above for information on how to join!

14 kommentarer:

  1. It makes you wonder from where within their souls the writers of this kind of tales get their inspiration. I'm not talking about the actual theme, most people who have read a bit about the atrocities that took place during the Witch Trials know how women and some men were forced to confess nonsense about an evil that mostly lived in the souls of their torturers. But what kind of fear makes a man of this century (or the last) continue the feeding of this kind of ugliness?

    Sad, and as you said, "crazy" ;-)

    1. The fact that we learn about these traditions and "legends" in our schools is sad and uninformed, absolutely. Most Swedes don't have a clue what is Christian and what is Pagan. But we are a very modern and godless people (though we do love our traditions; Midsummer pole, påskkärringar, Santa Claus...) and since no-one here believes in the Devil, or even in magic anymore, these stories don't present much of a threat.

  2. What a Great post! I knew nothing about Påskkärring and love that I do now. I read a bit about Baba Yaga (Russian Witch) last year and that was very interesting. I will have to look more into Påskkärring.

    Thanks for teaching me something new.
    The Glitter Tart

    1. You are very welcome! I'm glad I could impart some new knowledge :)

  3. Great information and post!
    Thanks for sharing it, I learned something new.
    The illustrations were a wonderful touch, thanks again.

    1. Yes, aren't they sweet? Like old school "Technicolor" illustrations :)

  4. Wow, now see this is the kind of folk tale that I love to have in my arsenal. My brain is like a Trivial Pursuit brain and I will never forget your telling of Blue Hill and the Witches of Sweden. Thank you so much. What an interesting post. Oma Linda

    1. Ooo, you have one of those sponge-brains? Cool!

  5. Thank you for such a wonderful post. I had no idea about the Påskkärring and am enchanted by their history.


    1. You are very welcome! We are a very small people (only 9 million) so our traditions aren't that widely known :)

  6. It was a very interesting post! Påskkärringar look indeed very pleasing and cheerful :) Let's be like them too. You are right writing that all that Devil relation to Witches and vice versa was created artificially.
    Nice post once again, looking forward to read more.

    1. Thank you! It annoys me how we throw the word "Häxa" around nowadays, without knowing the correct history. We really should be instead talking of druids and wise women. "Häxa" has very bad connotations and was created purposefully to intimidate, ostracize and oppress.

  7. Påskkärring sounds like a lot of fun, despite its origins...who needs an excuse to dress up and "trick or treat". You are right though, to throw around terms & titles without proper knowledge is a common practice. Lately I've been reading a lot of the thoughts of http://www.chrysaliswoman.com/. She is so serene and in my view wise. She doesn't refer to her practices as "witchcraft". She calls it WomanCraft...I like that. Great post for Magaly's party!
    I'm working on my first post for Whiter and Lighter.

    1. "WomanCraft" - I like that! I'm gonna have to check out her site.
      Looking forward to your Whiter and Lighter post! I will post my first assignment update tomorrow, if you'd like to link then.


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