• Sweden's news in English
 

Naked Swedish witches prepare to mount

Published: 30 Apr 2014 15:28 GMT+02:00

The witches didn't used to be evil, explains Johan Egerkrans, author of Fairy Creatures of the North (Nordiska Väsen), an anthology of Nordic mythical creatures that explains everything from hobgoblins to milk-hares.

"Magic permeated the old peasant society, it was something everyone dabbled in, even though the church didn't much like it," Egerkrans says.

Many old traditions live on - throwing salt over your shoulder to prevent bad luck, staying clear of black cats - but it's become routine, rather than ritual.

"All our superstitions come from old beliefs, and originally witches were seen as wise old men and women, who knew what herbs to pick for healing," he says. 

Being good at gardening would soon turn sour, however, as the witch hunt reached Sweden. 

"The only permissible magic tricks where the ones performed in church," Egerkrans says. "Everything else had to do with the devil."

So anyone who tinkered with magic was all of a sudden a bad person.

Walpurgis Night, meant to welcome spring, became the night that the witches travel to Blue Mountain, or Blåkulla, to fraternize with the devil. Fraternize is a rather weak word for what they actually did up there. Once the witch hunt reached Sweden, suspects told the tribunals in rather fine detail what they would get up to with the devil.

"Mass orgies," says Egerkrans, before bursting into laughter recounting some of the rather disturbing descriptions of what sex with the devil felt like (scales and clamminess are involved). 

But how did the witches get there? On a regular old broom? Yup, but back to front.

"And what you might notice straight off is that they travel there naked," Egerkrans says. "It's not Harry Potter-style broom riding, as it's back to front, and you could also travel in a milk pail."

"The ritual on the mountain was also back to front and upside-down, because everything had to be the opposite (to how the church did things)," he explains.

"There was a very dualistic world view back then, which actually stayed with us in some ways until the 1960s. Before then left-handed Swedish children weren't allowed to write with their left hand in school, because the left side was associated with evil." 

Egerkrans did not include the Swedish witch in his latest book - "They deserve their own book, not a page" - but did include several black magic creatures.
 
A witch could craft a bjära or mjölkhare (literally, milk hare), for example. A creature spun from nine types of wool, the witch's own blood, and the bone of an unbaptized infant, the milk hare would creep into the neighbour's barn, suck the cows' teets, then return to vomit up the milk for its owner.
 
And there's the magical insect - the Spiritus - that would bring you luck in life, but shunt you straight into hell if you still owned it when you died. 
 
Egerkrans says that since the book came out, people have told him, for example, that they've seen hobgoblins (vättar) on their land.
 
"They're often seen in the north," Egerkrans says. "I don't think these creatures are as forgotten as you may think." 
 

The Local/at (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Christian Democrats elect first female leader
Photo: TT

Christian Democrats elect first female leader

Sweden’s Christian Democrats on Saturday unanimously elected Ebba Busch Thor as the party’s leader, replacing Göran Hägglund. At 28, she’s the youngest person to ever lead a Swedish party in parliament. READ  

Municipal interpreters spoke wrong language
Most migrants from Romania speak Romanian, not Romany. Photo: TT

Municipal interpreters spoke wrong language

The municipality of Helsingborg hired interpreters to communicate with migrants from Romania. Problem was, the interpreters spoke a language the Romanians didn’t know at all. READ  

Swede wins world boxing title
Badou, left, connects with Anthony Dirrell during the fight in Chicago. Photo: AFP

Swede wins world boxing title

Sweden's Badou Jack claimed the World Boxing Council's super middleweight title as he outpointed previously unbeaten Anthony Dirrell in Chicago on Friday night. READ  

Swedish police officers praised by New Yorkers
The Swedish police heroes meet with NYPD heads. Photo: New York Police Department/TT

Swedish police officers praised by New Yorkers

A video has emerged of Swedish off-duty police officers breaking up a violent fight on the New York subway. READ  

Eighth happiest: why are the Swedes not pleased?
Swedes are the eighth happiest people in the world. Photo: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

Eighth happiest: why are the Swedes not pleased?

Sweden is the eighth happiest country in the world, according to the UN. But the result has not gone down well in the Nordic country. The Local caught up with an expert to find out why. READ  

Löfven: Palestine move was done by the book
Stefan Löfven gets a grilling from the powerful Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Swedish parliament. Photo. Henrik Montgomery/Scanpix

Löfven: Palestine move was done by the book

Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has denied that he bypassed parliament when the country recognized Palestine last year. READ  

Early summer sweeps in across much of Sweden
Swedes enjoying the sunshine in Stockholm. Photo: The Local

Early summer sweeps in across much of Sweden

Get the barbeque out and your swim suit ready – summer is here. In fact, western and parts of central Sweden have been able to enjoy the year's warmest season for the past seven days. READ  

Defence giant Saab sees surprise fall in profits
Saab chief executive Håkan Buskhe at a press conference on Friday. Photo: Sören Andersson/TT

Defence giant Saab sees surprise fall in profits

Swedish defence giant Saab announced a surprise drop in first-quarter operating profits on Friday, while the company took a 3.8 percent tumble on the Stockholm stock market. READ  

Need more space? Check out Sweden's priciest flat
An artist's impression of the sitting room of Sweden's most expensive apartment. Image: Sivkraft

Need more space? Check out Sweden's priciest flat

Is money burning a hole in your pocket? Sweden's most expensive apartment in history could help you offload some cash. READ  

Thieves crash loader into store in Stockholm raid
Thieves crashed a loader through the walls of a Swedish electronics store. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Thieves crash loader into store in Stockholm raid

Swedish police are investigating after thieves carried out an advanced smash and grab heist on an electronics store in Stockholm on Friday morning. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
What's on in Sweden: April 23rd - 30th
Features
My bizarre Swedish habits that foreigners just don't understand
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
How the Stockholm School of Economics changes expat lives
National
Brits in Sweden face NHS black hole
Swedish Hasbeens
Sponsored Article
Is the world wrong to connect Sweden with sex?
Blog updates

24 April

Editor’s blog, April 24th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Spring has well and truly arrived, as evidenced by the start of strawberry season. The..." READ »

 

15 April

Gång, timme, tid & dags (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! In this article I will talk about “gång”, “timmar”, “dags” and “tid”, because they all translate..." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
The Swedish regions where you're least likely to stay jobless
Gallery
People-watching: April 22nd
Sport
Sweden's Eriksson joins row over foreign England player quotas
National
MEP says ignoring migrant crisis like 'Sweden's Holocaust appeasement'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The Swedish mining town that's being moved
National
How much would you pay for first Swedish strawberries of 2015?
Gallery
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Want to study in Sweden? Read why Stockholm is the best choice
Photo: TT
National
Get set for a sunny week in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Does far-north Sweden have to punch above its weight?
National
Refugees in Sweden fear for families lost at sea
National
Syria claims ‘most dangerous’ Isis leaders are Scandinavian
Gallery
People-watching: April 18th
National
Swedish researchers pore over link between coffee and cancer
Features
What you can buy in Sweden for the price of a London shed
National
What's on in Sweden this week
National
Swedes launch first donut into space
Politics
Is Sweden returning to 1990s social democratic welfare politics?
National
Mamma Mia! Abba entertainment venue set to open in Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching: April 15th
National
Why Sweden is top place in the world for expats to raise children
National
Swedish 'submarine' was civilian boat
National
Why has a US town got pulled into a Swedish spelling row?
Gallery
Property of the week: Hovås, Gothenburg
National
What does Zlatan think of his ban?
National
Swedish teenagers help rebuild Breivik massacre island
National
Would you live in a steel box?
National
How an act of kindness by one Syrian immigrant went viral
Gallery
People-watching: April 8th
National
Swedish bids for Billboard fame
National
Swedish monkeys denied Saudi visas
National
Sunny spring weather predicted
Sponsored Article
'Impossible' to run Skanska without Bromma Airport
National
Half of Swedes want begging ban
Gallery
Property of the week: Gotland
National
Why are expats less likely to settle down with Swedes?
Sport
What does Sweden think of Zlatan's recent outburst?
Society
Get to grips with Sweden's most bizarre Easter traditions
Gallery
People-watching: April 1st
National
The Local's best April Fools' gags
National
US spy agency to feature in new 'Stieg Larsson' book sequel
National
Beaver bite at Swedish bus stop
Gallery
Property of the week: Åreda
Sponsored Article
'Sweden must embrace openness and diversity'
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

3,331
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se