• Sweden edition
 
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
Updated: 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
National
Pupils find killer's rifle in Swedish sports lesson
The location of the hidden weapon. Photo: Polisen

Pupils find killer's rifle in Swedish sports lesson

Three teenage schoolgirls from southern Sweden were left gobsmacked after finding an AK-47 Kalashnikov that belonged to a convicted murderer, during a physical education class. READ  

International
'Non-existent' EU cooperation on refugees
Refugees in Lampedusa, Italy in 2013. Photo: TT

'Non-existent' EU cooperation on refugees

Sweden's EU commissioner Cecilia Malmström has criticized European Union countries for a lack of solidarity when it comes to taking in refugees. READ  

Politics
Stefan Löfven voted in as new Prime Minister
Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven. Photo: TT

Stefan Löfven voted in as new Prime Minister

Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven has been voted in as the new Prime Minister of Sweden. READ  

Politics
Reinfeldt's top team hold last meeting
Fredrik Reinfeldt is exiting Sweden's political stage. Photo: TT

Reinfeldt's top team hold last meeting

Sweden's outgoing centre-right cabinet have gathered for their last meeting, as Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven prepares to take over as Prime Minister. READ  

Interview
Geena Davis: 'I want to be in a Swedish movie'
Geena Davis. Photo: AP

Geena Davis: 'I want to be in a Swedish movie'

Oscar-winning Hollywood actress Geena Davis was an exchange student in Sweden in the seventies and was once engaged to a Swede. She chatted to the The Local's Natalia Brzezinski about how she'd love to star in a Swedish movie. READ  

Politics
Löfven in U-turn over restaurant sales tax hike
Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven. Photo: TT

Löfven in U-turn over restaurant sales tax hike

Incoming Prime Minister Stefan Löfven won't be increasing taxes in restaurants as promised, despite his strong criticism of the former government's tax cuts in 2012. READ  

Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 2nd - 9th
The Weeping is one of the works on sale this weekend. Photo: Stockholm's Affordable Art Fair

What's On in Sweden: October 2nd - 9th

Stockholm's Affordable Art Fair returns, British rocker Midge Ure is in Malmö and one of Gothenburg's most creative spaces is hosting a ten year anniversary party. READ  

Sport
Malmö beat Olympiacos in Champions clash
Rosenberg celebrates his second goal. Photo: TT

Malmö beat Olympiacos in Champions clash

Malmö became the first Swedish side to win a Champions League match in 14 years after beating Olympiacos 2-0 on Wednesday night. READ  

Education
Three Swedish unis in world's top 100
One of the buildings at the Karolinska Institute. Photo: TT

Three Swedish unis in world's top 100

Three Swedish universities were ranked among the top 100 in the world in the new Times Higher Education ranking, with another two featured in the top 200. READ  

What's next on Sweden's political stage?
Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven. Photo: TT

What's next on Sweden's political stage?

Upcoming Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced his new Red-Green coalition government on Friday, but what happens next? Here are all the important dates you need to know. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Try out your very own office in Stockholm - for free
Gallery
Stefan Löfven through the years
Gallery
People-watching: October 1st
Analysis
Should Sweden's school age be raised?
National
Top Swedish skier killed in Chile avalanche
Blog updates

01 October

Academy-Award Winning Actor Geena Davis on Changing the Way We View Women in Media (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"There are two moments in Geena Davis’s life that molded her into the powerful women’s advocate and founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media she is today: living in Sweden and starring in Thelma & Louise. The first part of her personal journey took flight in Sandviken, a small rocky town north of..." READ »

 

01 October

Future tense – ska or kommer att? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej igen! Karen had a question the following question on that about future tense: Explain when you use “komma att ” and “ska”. I’m running along forever here using “ska” and realize suddenly everyone uses “komma att” this and that all the time! In Swedish there are three different ways to express future tense and they are not..." READ »

 
 
 
National
JohannaN: Jewellery inspired by northern Sweden
National
Apology for Swedish model's stolen photos
Politics
New coalition agrees on defence and migration
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Botkyrka
Education
New government to make school compulsory to 18
Politics
Sweden Democrat wins Deputy Speaker spot
National
Swedish scientists sneak Bob Dylan lyrics into articles
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Gallery
People-watching: September 28th
National
When Italian style meets Swedish simplicity
Lifestyle
Review: Sweden's first alcohol-free nightclub
Gallery
In Pictures: The MS Estonia disaster
Lifestyle
Ten things expat women notice in Sweden
Politics
What's next on Sweden's political stage?
Gallery
Sweden's 2014 election: Most memorable moments
Society
What's on in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 24th
Seaman Oliver Gee with his first lobster
Lifestyle
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Gallery
In Pictures: Fredrik Reinfeldt through the years.
Sponsored Article
How to start a business 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

865
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
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:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN