Burn the Witch

Nope, this is not a post to support or stoke the fires caused by the lunatics destroying our country, history, and businesses.

Instead, this is a tribute to what started as a Pagan event that tasks place in Northern Europe every year, where we celebrate the mid-summer solstice.  It’s normally around 21-24 June, and may wary across the Nordic countries.

Blond girls dance around in the fields in white dresses and flowers in their hairs.  The boys are throwing all kinds of stuff on a large bonfire while drinking unspecified quantities of beer and homemade alcohol.

Back in my ancestor’s time, I’m sure they enjoyed burning down a few villages, sink a few ships, and “reclaim” some lost property.  The Vikings visited water wells and held bonfires to ward off evil spirits.

The fire has always been an important tool, and often used in all kinds of rituals.

In Denmark, we call it Skt. Hans and we’ve added a little spice to the bonfire ritual, as we throw a witch on the fire.  Not a real witch of course, although I could think of some politicians who fit that categorization, a witch made of wood and/or paper.

As I mentioned, it may have started by Pagans, but it got taken over by the Christians and is now used to celebrate Skt. Hans, aka Saint John the Baptist.

It is a way to remember the witch burning of the 16th and 17th centuries.  As a child, we were told that when the witch is burnt, she flies to Bloksbjerg, Germany, where a witch-gathering was believed to be held.  I’ve never been to Bloksbjerg, so I cannot confirm if this is a fact or not.

It sounds like a great evening, right?  What else should we do to celebrate the mid-summer?  It is the longest day of the year and we should celebrate the light.

In fairness, it is a fascinating event to participate in.  In recent decades, many bonfires have moved closer to the open water, along the coast.  People will sail up the coast to see all these fires, and as the dusk sets in, it is a breathtaking image.

Just as the sun sets, and the sky is reddish, we break into singing.  It gives a sense of pride and togetherness.  The song of choice is from 1885 and is called “Vi Elsker Vort Land” (We Love Our Country) by Holger Drachmann.  In case you missed it, it is a patriotic anthem and is still sung today.

So, if you do visit Denmark, make sure to plan it for around 21-24 June, and participate in this event.  Many municipals also plan community events, so all you have to do is bring laughter, beer, blankets, and some snacks.  You will soon be engulfed in the famous Danish term ‘hygge’.


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