• Sweden's news in English
 
Swede(s) of the Week
Naked Swedish witches prepare to mount
A non-naked, non-Swedish witch. File photo: TT

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
Sweden Democrats blast election U-turn
The acting leader of the Sweden Democrats Mattias Karlsson. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Sweden Democrats blast election U-turn

The acting party leader of the Sweden Democrats has hit out at Stefan Löfven and the Alliance parties for backing out of next year's planned election, and stated the nationalist party are now the main opposition as a result. READ  

Sweden to scrap planned 2015 election
Stefan Löfven pictured with his parliamentary colleagues at the press conference on December 27th 2014. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Sweden to scrap planned 2015 election

Sweden's government has abandoned plans to run a snap election in 2015 after crisis talks between Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and the Alliance parties, which has been dubbed the 'December agreement.' READ  

Swedes rally against mosque arson attack
Protesters leave tributes near the scene of the mosque attack in Eskilstuna. Photo: Pontus Stenberg/TT

Swedes rally against mosque arson attack

Hundreds of Swedes took to the streets on Friday to denounce an arson attack on a mosque that injured five people, with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven branding the attack as "hateful violence." READ  

'High chance' of northern lights in Sweden skies
Photo: TT

'High chance' of northern lights in Sweden skies

A particularly active sun and clear cold nights are a combination which have dramatically raised the chances of experiencing the northern lights in Swedish skies this new year. READ  

South-East Asian tsunami: Ten years on
Swedes in Thai tsunami remembrance
Khao Lak beach in Thailand. File photo: TT

Swedes in Thai tsunami remembrance

The Swedish embassy and Swedish Church has organized a ceremony on the beach at Khao Lak in Thailand on Friday in remembrance of the devastating 2004 tsunami which claimed almost 228,000 lives, including over 500 Swedes. READ  

Five hurt in mosque arson attack
Photo: TT

Five hurt in mosque arson attack

An arsonist set fire to a mosque in central Sweden on Thursday injuring five people, police said, in the latest of a spate of attacks targeting Muslims. READ  

Fast wifi tops Swedes' holiday wish list
Dreaming of a faster wifi? Photo: TT

Fast wifi tops Swedes' holiday wish list

Nice views are all well and good but the item that Swedes prioritize above all when kicking back on holiday is the speed of their wifi connection, a new survey has shown. READ  

Princess Madeleine plans Europe move
Photo: The Royal Court

Princess Madeleine plans Europe move

Sweden's Princess Madeleine has said that she and her husband Chris O'Neil plan to soon leave the US and move to Europe as the couple await their second child. READ  

Teenager arrested over Malmö bomb
Photo: TT

Teenager arrested over Malmö bomb

A 15-year-old has been arrested after a series of new explosions rocked the Malmö suburb of Rosengård on Christmas Eve. READ  

Sweden's legal elite take ice bucket challenge
Photo: Screenshot Maria Melin

Sweden's legal elite take ice bucket challenge

A group of some of Sweden's top prosecutors, police officers and legal powerbrokers have joined the legions of people worldwide and subjected themselves to an icy shower to promote awareness of ALS. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Sweden's wild carnivore population on the rise
Gallery
Property of the week: Östermalm
Graeme Richardson/Swedish Lapland
Accelerated
ICE MUSIC: Why are Texans coming to Sweden to make music with ice?
National
Meet the Italian sketching a new Swedish future
Technology
Agency: Dream in vain of a white Christmas
Blog updates

23 December

Editor’s Blog, December 23rd (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, It’s time for the weekly news round up… on a Tuesday? Yes, on a Tuesday. Most of the..." READ »

 

22 December

A Tale of Three Cities (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Today I am pleased to welcome a guest blogger on my blog, Sir David King, The..." READ »

 
 
 
Society
Video: The best & worst of Swedish Christmas
National
Second baby on the way for Princess Madeleine
Gallery
People-watching: December 20th - 21st
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: December 18th to 25th
National
'Unprecedented' Russian activity: Armed Forces
Society
Interview: The Local chats with Melinda Gates
Society
VIDEO: Stockholmers try out some Swedish tongue twisters
Society
Eight things to do when it gets dark in Umeå
National
Inside Sweden's first 'light therapy' school
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching: December 17th
Estelle through the years
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Society
Why are there so many 100-year-olds in one Swedish town?
Society
Is it time to better celebrate Sweden's diverse identity?
Gallery
Property of the week: Huddinge
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
National
CATCH UP: Russian plane in Baltic near-miss drama
Lifestyle
How my compass drew me to Sweden
National
The man whose memory you need to remember
Gallery
People-watching: December 13th - 14th
Sponsored Article
How to get your own office anywhere in the world
Politics
'Our party will stand alone': Stefan Löfven
Society
The Local chats to Ruben Östlund, director of Golden Globe nominated Force Majeure
Lifestyle
Ten things to know before a Swedish party
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: December 12th to 19th
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The 2014 Nobel Banquet
National
The Local's guide to the Nobel Prizes 2014
Education
Introducing... Education in Stockholm
Society
The Swedish Christmas market with a twist
Lifestyle
Why do so many Swedes have tattoos?
Society
Get 20% off Swedish Christmas decorations
National
Dewani family: We only heard half the story
Business & Money
Business in Stockholm: 'efficiency is money'
Gallery
Property of the week: Östermalm
National
Meet the Swedes hosting festive feasts for 'lonely' guests
Gallery
TIMELINE: Swedish honeymoon killing murder trial
Gallery
People-watching: December 7th
Gallery
IN PICTURES: What's it like to fly planes in Sweden?
National
Submarine hunters 'robbed' of reward cash
National
The Local's Countdown to Christmas
Sponsored Article
SIS: the thinking behind globalised learning
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Family life in Stockholm
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

1,643
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
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Counselling and Psychotherapy in English
Sometimes living in another culture can cause stress, confusion and feelings of sadness and loneliness. Talking to a professional psychotherapist/counsellor might help you. I am a UKCP Reg. psychotherapist. My practice is in Södermalm, Stockholm.
Contact me to discuss your options