Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Witch

Witches: they're not just for Halloween! 

At least not in Scandinavian countries where from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday the week is associated with witches. Witches are thought to be particularly powerful during this spring time period and it's thought they gather in groups to work their magic.

People burn the branches of evergreens in their fireplaces to keep them from coming down the chimney and crosses are painted on doors and livestock to prevent evil spells from working.

Housewives hide their brooms so the witches will not ride off on them.

On Easter Eve bonfires are built to keep people safe while preparing for Easter services.

One of the more popular traditions is for little girls (and sometimes big girls) to dress up as witches. This usually involves head scarfs, brooms, long skirts, aprons and painted on freckles. The little witch girls go about on Palm Sunday holding pussy willow branches, birch twigs with feathers or bunches of daffodils and lightly hit people (usually family and neighbors) with their "wands" reciting:

❀I touch you with my magic branch
That will refresh you and keep you well.
You get the branch, I get a reward.❀
(Virvon, varvon tuoreeks, terveeks,
Sinuelle vihta, minuelle lahja.)

A week later on Easter Sunday the little witches return to the people who they swatted and hold out a cooper pot, basket or kettle so the person can drop a treat in it.
Glad Påsk! (Happy Easter)   Text and image from here.

This was on one of my FB friend's Timeline.  It's something I didn't know about; another one of the many, many interesting things that occur on Planet Earth that never cease to delight or repulse me.

This one delights me because I love witches.  I have since I was a child.  I have a small collection of them.  I never believed the stories that portrayed them as evil, cruel, old and ugly.  Even back then, I thought that there was a vendetta against witches, particularly in the Catholic religion of my childhood.  I never knew what that vendetta was until I started researching Earth based religions in my 30s.

I find the text above interesting with respect to fearing the witches - burning evergreens, painting crosses, hiding brooms and building bonfires to keep them away.  And yet...yet, the young girls are dressed up as witches and sent out to give a blessing to family and friends.   A blessing and not a curse.  And really, how does a witch dress?  Do they actually dress any differently from any other woman?  Do women of any patriarchal culture, then and now, really have the luxury of dressing any way they want - outside of the prescribed rules of how a woman should dress, act, talk?

The use of the words "lightly hit people" and "swatted" highlight the negative way in which language is used to describe witches or any of their rituals.  Even the first paragraph hints at malevolence with witches being powerful at this time of year and gathering in groups to work their magic.  Nothing more frightening than a group of non conformist women meeting and doing rituals that fly in the face of patriarchal religions!

Two words - power and magic - how do you experience them when used in conjunction with women?  Do they bring up fear or exhilaration? Leave you flat? Make you angry?  Do you even think about them at all?  Just curious.

When reading more about the Easter Witches, their cavorting on the mountain usually has a mention of the devil or Satan.  More association of witches with evil. Of course, the fact that witches don't "worship" a devil or believe in the Christian one, gets forgotten in all of the fear mongering.  I think it was Starhawk who said something like, "It's not the word Witch that should provoke fear; perhaps it should be Christian - after all, who burned who?"

All in all, I'm happy to see witches at Easter.  They're also mentioned at Walpurgisnacht, Beltane Eve, but more on that in a later post.

In proofreading this, I realized that I typed Santa instead of Satan - perhaps that's the real identity of Satan!

1 comment:

  1. I love this post, Delphyne. I noticed the dichotomy as well - fear/keep them away yet the "witches" give blessings.


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