Easter Witches - Calendar of Revelry and Sacred Days

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Easter Witches
Calendar of Revelry and Sacred Days

The Easter season is when Swedish witches (and those in parts of Finland, too) traditionally join together in celebration. The Easter witches’ holiday begins on the night before Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday). Beginning then and continuing through Easter Eve, witches mounted on brooms fly up chimneys, together with their faithful cats. Easter witches typically don’t dress up in special clothing like pointy hats and cloaks. They wear regular ordinary clothing; flying on a broom is considered sufficient evidence to recognize them. Invariably the Swedish witch carries a coffee pot; that magical elixir is necessary for the long ride with its many reststops, as well as for the festivities once she arrives.

Not that long ago, people were scared of the Easter witches. Doors to homes and barns were locked during this time; chimney flues were closed, perhaps to keep those with wanderlust inside. Anything that could potentially be converted into a witch’s vehicle (brooms, pitchforks, rakes) was locked up, lest the neighbors accuse you of helping the witches have fun. Crosses were drawn on the door with chalk to let the witches know they were unwelcome. Fires were kept burning in the hearth to keep it from being used as a portal. Firecrackers were set off in hopes that witches would be startled and fall from their brooms. On a dare, young men would hide out overnight in church bell-towers waiting for the witches. When traveling by broomstick, frequent stops for rest and refueling are necessary. Allegedly grease from church bells is among the ingredients needed to fuel flying broomsticks and so church towers are where witches congregate on their way to festivities on remote mountain peaks.

Today, Holy Thursday or Easter Eve is when Swedish children, boys and girls both, dress up as Easter hags and witches. They parade in costume and pay social calls on neighbors begging treats. There’s no pretense of being scary or grotesque witches; instead these small children are very cute and completely unthreatening, dressed up as little old babushka-ladies with headscarves and old-fashioned dresses. Some children carry an empty coffee pot, which neighbors can fill with treats. Others leave small decorated cards, known as “Easter letters,” which include small poems and pictures of witches, their cats and broomsticks, similar to a Halloween card elsewhere. The identity of the sender is sometimes secret; unsigned cards are slipped into mailboxes or beneath doors. It is up to the recipient to figure out the giver’s identity and reciprocate with a small treat.