Whilst you are painting hollowed out eggs and rolling them down hills, or hiding chocolate eggs and bunnies around your garden, out here in Finland we are gluing feathers and bits of crepe paper to twigs and hiding from handing out sweets and money to children dressed as witches, a la halloween.
Or rather the handing out money and sweets bit is like halloween but the dressing up like nothing I’ve seen before. Instead of masks, false noses and capes, these witches are dressed in old, outsized clothes; dresses, shawls and headscarves, with painted on freckles and rosy cheeks and a clutch of feathered and crepe papered birch twigs in their hands.
Once in your house, they recite a spell whilst waving one of the twigs and then swap you the decorated twig for some sweets or money which they collect in a copper pot. And then they leave, on to the next house whilst your young children rip the twig apart, shreading crepe paper and feathers around your living room and poking each othe rin the eye with the stick remains carefuly place your spell endowed twig in a vase to keep it safe.
This is all that was left of our stick by the time I manage to rescue it from my children to take its photo.
Not speaking brilliant Finnish I’ve never been sure what the spell entails but I am told that it is a good spell. Just as well, or I’d want want my mini eggs back.
For a fairly religious country, one where, certainly up here in the north, many don’t believe in contraception or premartial anything, having witches going door to door begging for treats at Easter seems pretty strange.
It stems back to an old belief, we’re talking back as far as the 1400’s here, about witches going to dance with the devil on the Saturday before Easter, which is when the witches usually come to visit. The giving of treats and subsequant spell recitation whilst waving a befeathered and crepe papered stick at you is to guarantee you are kept out of their evil plotting, apparently.
Another old tradition around these witches, one that isn’t carried out so much anymore, is to light bonlight fires the eve of Easter Sunday and keep them burning through to the morning to ward off the witches evil as they fly back from their visit with the devil.
It isn’t clear whether the fires are made by those that didn’t give sweets or money whilst the generous/corrupt rest safe in the knowledge that their gift/bribe will have left them unscathed, or whether it is done by all as an extra precaution because, lets face it, can you really trust a witch?
Now that I think about it, one of them did have an evil glint in her eye as she left. And I’m pretty sure there was a bit of cackling going on…
Where did I put those matches?
‘Come on children, time to help mummy gather some fire wood.’
Easter here is so much more stressfull than a good old Easter egg rolling contest.
Witch photo courtesy of riptheskull