Wednesday, April 15, 2009

(Oh is my Easter post late??? Pardon me, I was enjoying hanging out with SwedeDaddy over the four day Easter weekend everyone gets here in Sweden!!! And the 70 degree weather and sunny sunny sunshine!! And don't you just love holidays that involve eating chocolate in the morning?)

Spring Time Guises of the Wise Woman....
I love an old hag. So I am delighted to learn about the Swedish Easter witches, or Påskhäxa.

The word 'Hag' is derived from the Greek Hagios, which means holy one, or saint. This is why there are churches called the Hagia Sophia and the Hagia Demetrios. Translated into Latin, Hag becomes sanctus, the root of sanctuary and salvation. Variations of the words 'hag' have their roots in old associations with female wisdom.

Easter Lily and Pussy Willow on a shrine in Lund Cathedral
The kinda strange Puppetry Easter Scene set up in Lund's Old Cathedral
But now 'Hag' just means ugly old lady, witch. No one ever seems to know what to do about the funny old lady with cats down the road, the warty nosed neighbor picking nettles and brewing up stinky remedies with a twinkle in her eye and a cackly laugh. So the poor hag gets dismissed, feared, called a witch and burned at the stake.

Funny how the wisdom of an old woman, a hag, can become so darn scary. In the USA we evoke her at Day of the Dead at Halloween time, and her image is that of the death goddess like Kali. But even the goddess Kali is known as the creator AND destroyer. In Sweden the hag has her place in the bright sunny yellow newly sprung spring , when we celebrate the creative force of new life.

The story is that at Easter time, witches fly on their brooms overhead traveling to a gathering on the mythical island of Blue Hill. You are supposed to make bonfires from the fallen winter branches to so the witches will pass you by and make it to Blue Hill.

We find the hag image even in the mega grocery store ICA, where I found Easter witch decorations right next to the egg dyes, cutesy bunnies, and yeah, the witch costumes. We should have known there were witchy orgins of Easter, huh? It is the only christian holiday still observed based the lunar calendar. When you celebrate fertility it only makes sense to nod towards wise women and the cycles of the moon. In Sweden at Easter, children dress like witches and go door to door. Basically, they trick or treat at Easter! The specifics are that the Thursday before Good Friday, children dress like little witches in costumes of aprons, head scarves, and paint their faces with red cheeks and freckles, and carry a broom. They go door to door midday, delivering Easter cards and are given a treat or a coin. Swedegirl did not participate this year, as we were a bit foggy on how it really worked, and hated to send the poor girl out to participate in a tradition we did not get totally, lest we make some cultural faux pas.

Just when you thought the holiday melding of trick or treating with Easter was novel, how putting up an Easter tree? It's not at all like a Christmas tree, but decorating tree branches is another Swedish Easter tradition. Usually birch branches or pussy willow branches are placed in a vase and decorated with colorful Easter feathers. Sometimes, colored eggs are used to decorate the tree as well. We had fun painting small wooden eggs, and found some cool old feathered Easter eggs we put up on our 'Easter tree'. So we had witches, feathered eggs, and lots of lovely yellow daffodils decorating the house. A perfectly tacky immigrant's interpretation of Swedish Easter.

Another Swedish Tradition, honking big paper eggs filled with treats...Just the right size for the new baby! This one ended up in Swedegirls basket filled with the American Easter treats the Easter bunny, or my mom, brought from the USA

The Easter decorations just mimic mother nature, the original wise old crone, who is blessing us with lots of sunlight, yellow flowers, and feathers blowing around from molting birds who are tweeting and nesting all around us at this time of the year.We even have some very persistent magpies that are trying to nest in our chimney. Swedegirl sings up the chimney every time we hear them come around......

And of course we did the traditional American egg dying, too!


Mama Bird said...

Wow - What strange fun! I love the big egg with your little chick in it. And the Easter tree - we have a small one made from Crepe Myrtle branches from the yard and small wooden eggs I found at Goodwill. Next year, I'll know to add feathers. Hugs!

Liquid Pen said...

Wow...ask for some pictures and I guess you get them! Thanks for sharing. Perfect to live where they celebrate the wise woman....even if she does have a green face and warts sometimes. Thanks for sharing.

Heidi said...

Looks like fun! I think one of the reasons I love the smell of vinegar so much is that I associate it with Easter egg dyeing. Such fond memories...