VIII. Siljan spring: Witches riding goats


The  small Swedes light big fires on the last day of April (pictured from left are Vansbro  residents Herman, Joel, Rasmus, and Oskar).  With the fire, they are trying  to  convince winter to leave their land.  The  fires are enormous;  when  I  was in Sweden in  1981 I witnessed one and it  was impressive.  They called it the  “Majbrasa” (May  bonfire).   Here is  a picture of this  year’s Majbrasa in  Vansbro, the town  that’ll be my  base camp  when  I  go  to  Sweden  to  swim  the  lake.

Majbrasa occurs each year on the 30th of April; this date also has the Christian  title of  Walpurgis Night (in Swedish it is called Valborg).  Like many religious holidays in the world, the origins of Walpurgis Night are largely “pagan”, and  then  over time religions lay their claims, superimposing their agendas on traditional celebrations.

Once upon a time, an  English  missionary named Walpurga sailed across the Englishwalburga  Channel,  and plied her trade among tribal Germans; she was canonized for her successful Christian mythology-spreading efforts.  The canonization  is  said to have happened on May 1,  around  the  year 870 AD,  and her name became  associated with this date in the Swedish, German,  and  Finnish  calendars.  However April 30 was, and still  is, associated with other, more nefarious, activities.  It is  the “other Halloween”,  exactly 6 months  from All Hallow’s Eve, which I am more familiar  with.  Beware: on the night of April  30, witches ride broomsticks and billy goats, to the old high  places….

(Alternatively, as Anders puts it: “And the reason we really make this fire i guess it’s only to velcome the summer and say godbye to the winter. At the same time we can burn garbage from our gardens when we cleaned up after the winter.”)

See  the big fires and explain it as you wish: a melding of  Christianity  and  paganism, an  evening of brief convergence with fearsome black magic,  or maybe just an opportunity  to burn  up the leaves that were raked up the previous fall.

Here are a couple more pictures of this year’s Majbrasa in Vansbro:



On May 2 Anders sent me the following picture of Lake Siljan, and he  had  this  to  say about it:

“I found this picture in the newspaper today and it stand Siljan get free from ice today 2 may. So now it will be warmer and warmer in the water.”

This picture  is encouraging.   Whether  it was Saint Walpurga, the hundreds of fires lit across Sweden, or perhaps simply the tilt of the Earth’s axis in combination with the Earth revolving around the sun, changes are happening. The days are lengthening  in Sweden; heat from the  sun  is inserting itself into Lake Siljan.  The  summer solstice is only six weeks out.

Siljan free from ice
lndeed my old friend, the cat-with-the-fish-latched-onto-its-back, has repositioned itself, and is springing to life:
Spring movement



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