Swedish Easter Witches, 1902-50
In Sweden, the Easter week (Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday) is the time of year associated with witches. As Joakim Hansson writes (here): “People believed that witches were especially active and their black magic especially powerful during this week…On Maundy Thursday they were thought to fly off on brooms to consort with the devil at some place called ‘blåkulla’, returning the following Saturday”.
According to Frederik Skott (here), since at least the beginning of the nineteenth century Swedish youths have dressed themselves as ‘påskkäringar’ (Easter witches) or ‘påsktroll’ (Easter trolls). Some ‘mummers’ would visit neighbours, leaving a small decorated card, with a verse inviting the recipient to participate in the witches’ Sabbath. (By the 1890s these Easter cards could be bought from stationer’s shops). Others would “walk around villages, trying to frighten people, primarily children or old folks…they might put stones down chimneys…[or] bang the corners of the houses with their brooms, or overturn carts…they also visited houses with the purpose of obtaining cookies, candy or, perhaps more commonly, schnapps. If the hosts dared to try unmasking the Easter witches, the visitors would defend themselves with their brooms or poles”.
During the twentieth century Easter witches have become “sweeter and consequently less and less frightening”. Every Easter witch decorates their faces “with cute little freckles and red cheeks” and generally does her best to be a “cute witch”. Easter parades began in the 1930s and are still regularly arranged in Swedish cities. Today a “common feature of the proceedings is a kind of beauty contest, judges being chosen in some cities to select the sweetest Easter witch, who is then awarded some sort of prize”.
The following sexy Easter Witch cards cover the first half of the twentieth century. For more information on Swedish Easter traditions see the essays by Hansson and Skott. For my post on Germany’s Walpurgisnacht Witches, see here.