Author Archives: Thomas Canon

Blåkulla, Easter Witches (Sweden)

And then we have our holidays…like over Easter for instance, obviously not being a Christian nation to begin with, now Easter celebration is very much a Christian celebration because once we got Christianized in….15…35? Maybe? We obviously started celebrating Easter for the death of Christ and all that.


So for us it’s basically the night…(and this still goes on today)…it’s the night where all the witches go to their um, Blåkulla, which is called in Swedish, like the Blue Hills, would be the translation. Where they dance around the fire with Satan. Every year. They would get on their broomsticks and fly there. And do that.


Is that an actual geographical place?


It’s not an actual place, but it’s…like they all go there, to do this. So around Easter, much like trick-or-treaters here, during Halloween, kids will dress up as these witches, which is basically old ladies, with a shawl around their head, all that stuff, a broomstick, and a little basket. With Happy Easter cards in it. And they get candy. It’s very much like trick-or-treating. So they say Happy Easter and you give them candy. And if you’re a guy you can go as a…as it’s called…..the actual translation I guess is…Easter Old Lady or Easter Bitch. It’s kind of a combination of the two. Or you can go as a man, as well. Like an Easter Old Man. It’s very rare, but like if you refuse to get in drag as a kid, as a boy, you would go as a Man. Like with a plum hat? Is that what it’s called? And a coat. But a lot of kids go as witches.


Do all the kids do it?


Pretty much everyone does it. It’s getting less and less, like in the big cities now. In smaller groups, like in the villages, it still goes on. Like I did it growing up. So it’s not a Tradition that’s dying off. So we do that at Easter.


So Sunday night?


No no no, this is usually on the Thursday. Before Easter. During the afternoon. Before Easter, for all the kids in school, the Thursday’s only a half day, ever. Because Good Friday is off.


And then what happens on Easter Sunday?


Easter Sunday, then we’re Christians again.


Do you know why this happens on Thursday? Is there something significant about having it three days before Easter?


Well it’s…the Thursday’s obviously the night before Jesus was killed, right? So it’s the night of when he got betrayed, and I don’t know if it’s just happen to coincide? Or if they’re like, oh this is perfect, we’re just gonna put it right there cause it makes sense.


Do you know what the symbolism is of having the kids go around dressed up as witches?


If I’m not mistaken, I think it is to sort of, scare off the other witches to come there. So they dress up as witches so the real witches will stay away.



This is a prime example of a pagan holiday / festival that has taken on a Christian holiday on top of it – it is clear that Easter in Sweden is now an amalgamation of pagan and Christian celebrations. The children are in a sense reenacting the folk belief, and perhaps they are the ones who believe most firmly in the witches. If the witches are dancing with Satan, and the children dress up to keep the real witches away, this seems like a superstition and ritual to keep bad luck away from the household and harvest. According to published authorship, this festival or custom also involves people building their own fires and throwing old wood into it, for example old wooden furniture, or anything old from the past year. This is sort of like a spring cleaning, or burning and cleansing the household of the old year and making way for the new season.

Midsummer (Sweden)

And then we have our Midsummer…which is the biggest drinking holiday in the world I would say. It’s the Friday of, that’s the closest to the summer solstice. And the origin is, that way back when we were pagan, we would pray to the gods for a good harvest. So…we would raise a maypole…which is a big penis…directed into the ground, to fertilize the ground to have a good harvest. And we would dance around this penis, you know, it’s a big thing you have to do. And that night, if you’re a woman, you have to pick seven different types of flower, out in the wild, not in the store. You have to go out in the wild and pick them from a field, seven different ones, put em under your pillow, when you sleep that night you’re gonna dream about the person you’re gonna marry. It’s all about fertility! It really is.


So you danced around the maypole?


Oh yeah! We do it every year.


What was that like?


It’s, I mean now it’s more of a fun, family, keeping the tradition…it’s not so much a pagan ritual anymore. But the actual like, you carry the maypole in, all the men in the village or society help raise it. And the women have spent the whole day decorating it with small flowers. And then traditional music is still playing…


And everyone’s drinking during this?


Everyone is drinking all day. So this is the progression. Usually you have lunch, where you eat herring, herring and potatoes, that’s when you start drinking, you have some schnapps. And beer obviously with your lunch. Then you go to the area where the maypole is. And usually it’s organized, your society or village, if you’re a bigger community there are several spots so you can walk there close from your house. And there’s musicians, that play music so that you can dance to… There’s usually games of different sorts… and you know, if you’re too drunk at this point you just enjoy coffee, and you know. So it’s basically sort of desserts, but like thicker desserts, so you have coffee, you have cinnamon rolls, that kinda stuff. And you sit on the ground, on blankets, everyone brings there own blankets around this pole. So everyone dances, and then they’ll take a break, there’s some raffle stuff… And then after that you go home, and if you’re a bigger society you go home and then you have games, like seven or ten different games that you compete in against each other. And usually it’s by teams, and if you’re fewer people it’s individual. So you do that closer to where your home is, and then there’s a barbecue, and you keep drinking. And I mean you keep drinking throughout the whole day, like you start drinking at 11am in the morning, and then you keep drinking. And because it’s in the middle of summer the sun never sets, so you’re up all night. So you have your barbeque, you keep drinking, and then 2am, the sun is still up, you go skinny dipping…and then…you know……and then you pass out. And then you have sex in a bush. Everyone has sex, nine months after Midsummer there’s a lot of babies being born. Because everyone has sex, outside, you just pick a bush and have at it. You would love it. And that’s how you end your night. You easily drink…..probably a liter of schnapps per person. And probably uh….depending on how much of a beer drinker you are but let’s say you’re going with beer…probably drink about 3 gallons of beer? You know. So it’s a fun holiday.


So when specifically does it happen?


End of June. Cause harvest is in the fall for us.


What is the age group of people that are dancing around the pole?


Anything from one year olds that can hardly walk, to 85-year-olds. It’s a whole family thing. Usually what happens is, eventually after the barbeque, if you’re still a young teenager, you celebrate with your family, and then you head out to a party somewhere. But once you get old enough, like if you’re past 18, like you can still do it with your family during the day, you’ll have lunch and the celebration around the maypole with your family, and then you’ll hit the barbeque party, you’ll have dinner with your friends. And then party all night long. And if you’re doing it extra special, if you’re out in archipelago, you might leave…because everyone is off Friday, except like, firemen, policemen, hospital people. Everyone else is getting fucked up. So Friday’s always off, you’ll start Thursday, you’ll fill your car up with alcohol and food, take your boat out to your summer place which is out in the archipelago on an island, and you stay there the whole weekend. And midsummer’s on the Friday, on Saturday you wake up and…start drinking again! And then Sunday, you have a couple of beers just to…mellow out. And then you go home. It’s a lotta fun. And I mean, it’s a pagan ritual. That’s what it’s from. So that’s one of the ones that’s not gonna go away…ever. That one will definitely stay around.



This is a common spring festival throughout Europe, traditionally occurring in Germany, England, and Sweden, according to The Festival Book by Jennette Lincoln. This is a spring fertility festival, both about fertilizing the ground for a good harvest, and also about the young generation reproducing and starting a new generation. There are many rituals with symbolic (phallic) imagery, and games and celebrations in which families come together and also young people from different families. Flowers are a big symbol, as the pole is decorated with flowers, the girls have to collect flowers and put them under their pillows, etc. Girls both ‘come into bloom’ in this liminal pre-adulthood stage in which they become able to bear children, and are also ‘deflowered’, two symbolic meanings in relation to flowers. Alcohol is clearly a big part of the festival, both in celebration of plenty and abundance, and probably also as a way for the young people to loosen up, party, and “interact” – which seems to be expected and even condoned by the adults and families. People copulating outside in nature also has a connotation of fertilizing the earth for a good harvest.

The Sunporch Ghost

So my dad was in the military and we moved around a lot, and we moved to Key West Florida when I was in…first grade. And we couldn’t find a place to live so we lived in a little island in a trailor called Stock Island. And then my parents finally found a house on Key West Island, and so we moved into this old house, and it had been converted into three apartments – one was the downstairs, and the two apartments on the upstairs. And back then, really old houses were called Conch Houses, like a conch shell. And so we moved into this really old conch house on Newton Avenue in Key West Florida. And it was only two bedrooms, we had the whole downstairs, and there was this, kind of an inclosed-in sun porch that had a built-in cupboard and some built-in high shelves, and it was barely enough room for a twin bed up against the wall. And it had, it was all screened in and it had windows all along the other two sides, and a door to the outside. And my older brother was too scared to sleep down there, he refused to sleep down there, we called it the dungeon. Cause the house was so old, to get down to it, you know the master bedroom was here sort of in the center of the house, and my brother’s bedroom was here and the kitchen was here, and you had to walk down this creaky hall to get to the dungeon, and it was really slanted down, cause it was such an old house, it wasn’t level. There were two steps down to it, it was way down at the end of the house. So I had to sleep there because my older brother was too scared. So I would sleep down there, and often, um, I would wake up and there would be a man standing at the door. To the outside, the screen door to the outside. And he was just wearing like an overcoat, with a, like one of those big felt hats, and would just stand there at the door. (What was he doing?) Just standing there, at the door. (Was he on the inside or the outside?) I don’t really remember, I guess just sort of in the doorway. So I guess inside. And I would tell my parents, and yeah yeah yeah, well and maybe that’s why my brother refused to sleep down there. And, um, I’m not sure anybody, you know took me seriously, and one day my mom was telling the old lady – she was, gosh, in her 90’s, she had lived there forever, in the conch house across the street – and for some reason this topic of conversation came up and that I would say I’d seen this man standing in the doorway. And the lady, who had lived there forever, says “oh, well that’s the guy that used to live there, he died, and that was his sun porch, and he would sit out on his sun porch all the time.” And I had described him exactly how he was. So maybe they believed me after that, I’m not sure. But it was a pretty cool house. Old, old house.



The informant had a firsthand experience, which she then related to her mother. Then an outside party who knew the history of the house and its past residents confirmed the appearance of the man that used to live there and who specifically loved and spent time in the part of the house where the informant reported seeing him. This confirmation reinforced and categorized the informant’s belief of what she had experienced, and also, as she reports, made her mother and her family believe her account (or, we could say, legend) because of the ‘evidence’ provided by the old lady that matched up with the informant’s story. It is worth noting that the informant experienced this in a new state, in a new house, in a liminal and impressionable stage in her growing up.

The Jaguar: bad luck in Venezuela

Okay, so in the Oronoco Delta, which is in the Eastern part of Venezuela that borders Guyana, there’s um, it’s hard to pronounce but it’s the Juaguaro Indians, and they’re this indigenous people that live in basically like stilted houses above the river, and navigate around the channels in canoes, they’re very untouched by what’s going on in the rest of Venezuela and western culture. There’s huge amounts of jungle there. And one of their superstitions is that it’s bad luck to see or to have a jaguar living near them. And they call them tigers, well, “tigres,” but they’re actually jaguars. So as it goes, whenever they see a jaguar they have to kill it, otherwise they’ll have bad luck and bad karma, or there will be sickness and death. So whenever they see a jaguar it’s like part of their culture to kill it. And the way that I heard about this was, there was this Sirian guy that was raised in America after the age of 9, so I guess I’ll just call him American…he moved down there and he had a camp type thing where tourists would come and stay and camp in the jungle. And there weren’t really any other foreigners living there at the time, so people would bring him animals from the jungle, to raise them, if they got separated from their mother or were sick or something. He had all kinds of bizarre animals over the years, like monkeys, and otters, and caiman or crocodile, and when I saw him he had a mountain lion, but before that he had a jaguar. And he got it as a tiny baby kitten, and raised it himself, and his children grew up with it, and it was really tame because it was used to being around people. And he said one day, some indigenous guys came over, and took his jaguar cause they said it was bringing them bad luck. So they killed it, and one guy wore the skin, the bloody skin around for 3 days to clear the area of bad luck. And he went to the officials but it’s this thing that’s so rooted in their culture that even the Venezuelan officials can’t really do anything about it.


How long ago was this? When the incident happened?


Probably about, I’d say 10 years ago. So it’s still going on.



This is a folk belief / superstition / custom that has clearly very established and embedded in this society’s culture, that even the government is aware that it is still practiced but can’t or wont do anything about it. This shows that it is a very strong and seriously considered belief. It seems as though this society is largely isolated from other societies, but clearly clashes with other Venezuelan’s beliefs, especially the subject of the informant’s story. The act of donning the skin of the “enemy” or the threat to their society is a kind of empowerment, or domination, and shows the rest of that community that they can rest assured they are safe from bad luck and that they have triumphed over the enemy. Taking away the enemy’s skin is like taking their identity away, disembodying them from their power.

The Surfer Who Lived in a Cave

I bet being a surfer you know some local surfing legends or stories that get passed around?


Yeah. So there’s this old surfer, he was one of the best surfers in Southern California back in the 60’s, and he lived in the Newport Harbor jetty, like in a cave, in the rocks. And he had one suit, and he would paddle over from his cave in the jetty to go dancing in the clubs in Newport. And since he always wore this one suit, everyone always knew it was this one guy that lived in the cave in the jetty. And I don’t even think he worked, but uh, the story goes that he was just this great surfer that lived in the Newport jetty and would go dancing and be really classy with that one suit, and he would paddle it over, so like the funny thing is, when he was done with his night you’d see him like paddling across the harbor channel back to his cave, and I just think that’s hilarious.


Do you know what the guy’s name was?


I don’t remember his name, I could look it up.


Where’d you hear that story?


I read in a history of surfing book. Well actually the first time I heard it was through, hmm…my neighbor is like this old surfer guy, and it came up one time when we were talking about a surfboard company, and he told me the story. Apparently his dad knew the guy, they were in the same friend group and they’d all surf together. But this guy was the only one who could surf all those tough spots cause he lived right there in the cave. Yeah I hadn’t thought of it for a while until I read the story in this history of surfing book, and I was like oh my gosh that’s totally the same guy. From my understanding he only lived in the cave for like 4 or 5 years, and then went back to living in a normal house.


Why did he decide to live in a cave?


I mean it was the 60’s, and back then surf culture was really about not conforming to society, and kind of saying ‘fuck you’ to society. So the cool thing was that he was this total homeless hippie, but then he would pretend to be all classy and go dancing with all the other people, just because he could.


Do a lot of people know that story?


People who know a lot about the history of surfing, and I guess like, the roots of surfing in California would know it, and I guess people from older generations would probably know it.



This legend seems to be passed around largely among surfers – the surfer in the story seems to be a sort of historical hero in the surfing community. He embodies what surfers idealize: a great surfer, at one with nature and the waves, isolated from society, but still a little notorious and able to mingle with the rest of society while still being recognized as an outsider, a ‘hippie’, a person who does their own thing and isn’t tied down by material possessions.