For those of you who have been following the All Us All the Time blog and web site, you may be thinking an Easter Witch sounds just like something we would come up with, and you would be right, it does sound like something we would come up with, but guess what? We did not. The Easter witch or Easter hag is a Scandinavian tradition mostly enacted in Sweden and Finland.
My sister first was first introduced to the Easter witch at a Scandinavian arts and craft festival where they were selling sewn versions of the hags. Intrigued by the concept of an Easter witch, she went home and began researching the subject, and she was not disappointed by what she found.
Mainly in Sweden and Finland on Easter Eve and in some regions in Sweden on Maundy Thursday, children dress up as Easter hags and much like the American Halloween, go door to door begging for treats which are placed in the copper kettles that they carry. The tradition of children dressing up in costume for Easter dates back to the early 1800’s in both Sweden and Finland; however, the association between Easter and witches began much earlier. In a Swedish church in Uppland, there is a painting from 1480 portraying three Easter witches holding out their drinking horns to be filled by the Devil with a magic potion. It was believed that on Maundy Thursday, witches flew off to Brocken Mountain for a rendezvous with the Devil. There they feasted and danced to the singing of magpies. On Sunday morning they would fly back arriving just in time for church services where they might accidentally reveal their identities by saying their prayers backwards.
It was also believed on the way back some of the Easter witches might get caught in chimneys. In order to prevent this, people fumigated their chimneys by burning nine types of deciduous trees. These fires were kept burning Maundy Thursday to Easter morning. People also painted crosses on the doors, and even on the noses of their livestock. They did not leave brooms or rakes standing outside, lest a witch use them to fly.
Bonfires were also lit and firearms shot into the sky to ward off the evil powers they believed to be at play. These superstitions have taken on a more cheerful legacy in modern times. On Maundy Thursday or Easter Eve, girls and boys dress up as hags and pay visits to their neighborhoods. Some leave a small decorated card, an “Easter letter”, hoping for a sweet or coin in return to place into their copper kettles. The custom of making “Easter letters” is especially widespread in western Sweden where it is also custom to slip the unsigned letter into the person’s mailbox or under their door without being seen.
We will leave it up to you to find your witch’s costume for this Easter, but we do have an “Easter letter” available on our site. The Easter witch greeting card is a reproduction from a watercolor painting by artist Pamela McCarville. Even if you don’t plan to celebrate the Scandinavian tradition, this is still a delightful and colorful greeting card to send this Easter. The beautiful witch in her red shawl with her faithful feline ride their broom flying off into the sky while Easter eggs fall from her copper cauldron. This is a unique and charming Easter greeting card for a unique and intriguing tradition.
You can find out more about Easter witches and other Scandinavian traditions from these following websites:
Lulea University, Sweden Traditions around Easter...
Cherryland Postcard Blog
School of the Seasons
Belweathers of the Cunningfire Blog