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Most people in North America and heavily influence by it's culture, associate witches with just one popular North American holiday, Halloween. However, witches have also been associated with Easter, more so in the past, and more so in Scandinavia, predominantly Sweden and Finland, but with some in other countries also following this tradition. In Sweden, the Easter week, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, is the time of year associated with witches. That witches were especially active and their black magic especially powerful during this week. On Thursday they were thought to fly off on brooms to consort with the devil at some place called ‘blåkulla’, returning the following Saturday. (Note the blåkulla street sign in the vintage card below) Much like the North American Halloween tradition, children go door to door in costume, mostly witches, begging for treats, which are placed in the copper witches kettle they carry. This usually takes place on the Saturday before Easter, Easter Eve, but in some regions of Sweden it takes place on 'Pink Thursday', before Good Friday. Children dressing as witches for Easter in Sweden, give a clear indication that the Swedish Easter Holiday Påsk origins predate those of Christianity. Where ancient folklore alleges that witches flew off on broomsticks to dance with the devil. This tradition of children dressed as Easter witches dates to the early 1800s in both Sweden and Finland. But the association between Easter and witches began much earlier. In a Swedish church there exists a painting dated 1480 that portrays three Easter witches holding drinking horns out to be filled by the Devil serving a magical brew. It was commonly held that on Pink Thursday (Maundy Thursday) witches (häxor) flew away on their brooms to rendezvous with the Devil on a secret mountain, the Brocken, that served as their destination. At this Sabbat they would feast and dance to the singing of magpies/crows, flying back just in time to arrive for church on Sunday morning, where it was believed that their secret identity as pagan witches might be revealed, lest their prayers come out backwards. It was also thought that the Easter witches sometimes got caught in chimneys on their return flights home after their heavy partying. In order to deter them from catching a witch nap in their chimneys, people burned special branches from nine varieties of evergreen trees. These protective fires were kept burning Maundy Thursday to Easter morning to keep people safe from the witches. People also painted crosses on their doors, and even on the noses of livestock. Also it was not thought wise to leave brooms laying around outside, since a witch might be likely to literally take off with one! It seems there's a spectrum of belief of Easter witches where some are good witches, who are beautiful and rosy cheeked and hand out flowers and sweet treats, and others are dangerous sinister hags. In Finland, it was felt that the sinister witches (Rullit) flew on Good Friday night. They flew not only on brooms, but also on cows, pigs, goats, cats, etc. For this reason, animals were also securely locked up during this time. What was called Maundy Thursday in Sweden, was called Kiiras to the Finns. On that Thursday, it was believed it was also possible to foretell the future by taking a sauna in silence and listening for the Kiiri witches. If music from the coming witches was heard, this predicted a wedding but if it were only the ringing of the cowbells, that the cattle would be in danger. Bonfires were also lit on Saturday night, Easter Eve in both Sweden and Finland, in an effort to scare away the evil that was assumed to be afoot. However, over time, similar as in American history, the superstitions regarding witchcraft and witches as evil adversaries of good Christian folk coming out of the dark ages, gave way to a more benign image of witches. As helpful, kind, and nature loving. Handing out daffodils and good wishes. One of the beautiful traditions related to this is that children make switches from pussy willows, a favorite holiday decoration for Easter. On Palm Sunday, they would lightly hit a person with this bundle of willows (the virpomavihta) As this is being done, the children recite: I touch you with my magic branch That will refresh you and keep you well. You get the branch, I get a reward. (Virvon, varvon tuoreeks, terveeks, Sinuelle vihta, minuelle lahja.) The young Easter witch would then return a week later on Easter Sunday, to collect a treat in the copper pot before heading off to the next home!