Sunday, April 03, 2011

Folklore - Easter

Monday before Easter was called Blue Monday. The communion table was in the Catholic period covered in a blue cloth. This was the quiet week with Shrove Tuesday (Hvide tirsdag) and Ash Wednesday (Askeonsdag) On Shrove Tuesday people eat hot milk and æggesøbe = eggs whipped with sugar and added beer, and with white bread or wheat buns. Ash Wednesday was both the day before the lent at Shrovetide, but also the Wednesday before Maundy Thursday. People had to meet in church with an ash cross painted on their forehead. The ash cross was abolished at the reformation, but the name is still used

Maundy Thursday (Skærtorsdag): The Danish name: skær means clean, referring to that Christ washed the feet of the disciples on that day. This act was copied by the monks, who as a sign of Christian humility washed the feet of the poor. Maundy Thursday had both dark and light sides, one of the light was that the day was for the founding of the Holy Communion, one of the dark that Christ was betrayed by Judas.


It was a good time for the  farmer to read signs from the holy  Easter period  in the old days for the coming field work and the harvest of the year. If the weather was mild on Maundy Thursay this would give a good harvest, and if it was raining this would mean gold for the farmer. In the western Jutland was a custom to carry clothes and linen out in the free to be aired, whatever the sun was shining or it was snowy weather. People meant this would free the clothes from fleas and moths for the year to come. There was a certain verse about the Ase-god Loke, who drove a sledge with the weight of so many fleas that the sledge went into pieces. Maundy Thursday was actually regarded as a dangerous day in the North. It was the big witch-day, where people had to take precautions against all magic from the witches. The witches were out flying the night before Maundy Thursday, but they always came back before the evening. They had to go to church!
The household had to eat nine cabbage at Maundy Thursday (see previous article Spring Equinox). And if it was too early in the year to get hold of all nine cabbages, it was okay to use the first spires of dandelion, goutweed, nettle and buds from trees. Nine was a holy number, probably because of the nine months from conception till birth. Nine has also a mathematic peculiarity; no matter which single number you multiply with nine, the sum of the digits will be nine. No other numbers are like that. And if people had eaten nine cabbages, they were protected against the evil magic of the witches.

Some people were afraid of going to church on the evening of Maundy Thursday - because the witches went to church that night. But if they wanted to find out which churchgoers were doing magic, they had to use the very first egg from a young hen. This gave them power to see the witches. People, who went to church with an egg like that in their pocket, could describe that the witches - who the rest of the year looked like everyone else - were dressed in the strangest head-wear: clay-pots, frying pans, vases and much else.

Good Friday  (Langfredag) was a quiet and sorrowful day, where people only had to go to church and remember Christ on the Cross. The superstitious people read their signs from Good Friday and said that he/she, who gets married on Good Friday, will be childless. If someone was sewing or spinning the wheel, they would get bad fingers -  or the horses would be limp. The weather of Good Friday influenced the rest of the year. If it was fog, then it would be necessary to ask God for help - but if it was a clear day, it would be a good and fertile year.

On Good Friday people had the most simple food. Rye flour-porridge was common, but if they put honey on the porridge, they would not have stomach ache the rest of the year

Easter Saturday (Påskelørdag) was called Skiden lørdag (Filthy Saturday) because it was a washing day, and people had for lunch Skiden æg ,boiled eggs in mustard sauce.  

Easter Sunday was the egg-day. Although we are not that superstitious anymore, many parents tell their children that the Easter bunny  is the deliverer of the delicious chocolate Easter eggs. But in the old days it was the chicken eggs, which owned the status as the real  Easter eggs. Superstition said that the more eggs you received, the more healthy you would be in the year to come. Another omen might stop the most eager egg-eaters from eating too many eggs, since the more Easter eggs you had eaten, the more snakes would you see in the year to come.

Source: Carsten Lingren, Hverdagens Overtro i det moderne Danmark, 2003.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Goodbye to King Winter..........

On the 19th of February was still snow everywhere and spring seemd to be far, far away. The small harbour of Norsminde south of Århus was ice-free though, and the sky and water had a lovely strong blue shade. A clear cold winter's day brings fine colours!

Skovmøllen on a foggy day.
 The next week-end was foggy and raw and the sun seemed so far, far away. It was nice to see that the people at the restaurant of  Skovmøllen (the old Water Mill-restauurant) saw to that the little birds were fed with Danish bread and fat-bowls. There was also morning bread with cinnamon and the birds seemed to like it!  Notice the little blue tit. It is so ruffled. I hope it will cope.
Great tit and a ruffled Blue tit eating Danish morning bread with cinnamon.

Mossø Lake

Torup Lake

dike at the army road (in the old days used for cattle-fence)
icy paths

A clear day on the 5th of March in the lake district in the middle of Jutland. There was a thin layer of ice on the big lake, Mossø, and a thicker layer on the small lake Torup, where we usually take a rest in summer. But the path along the meadows was icy and not advisable to walk on this time. The army road along the heath was better, but still lots of ice on the side-walks. How different it looks from the summer season. The colours are dark and brown, umbra and sienna. Not a sound from the birds, not an insect in the air.

winter aconite
a forest path!
icy feet

fresh kid

On the 6th of March my usual little walk down to the park between the sea and Marselisborg Castle. At the Donbæk cottages were still ice on the ponds, where the duck stood freezing- or are they freezing? I hope they don't feel the cold as much as we do. The first winter aconites. Still ice in the forest paths - and on the goldfish-pond. Where are the goldfish in winter? Probably well looked after in another warmer place.....

After a long unwilling pause I have reached the 24th of March on my daily walk, and suddenly I saw a fine spotted woodpecker in the Forst Botanical Garden. It was very busy and did not notice the disturber. Snowdrops and winter aconites en masse. The duck pond was almost ice free - only a small layer in the farthest corner. King Winter, get lost........

Mols Bjerge
Mols Bjerge
Mols Bjerge

snowy showers far away

And the last camera trip was to Mols Bjerge in the National Park on Djursland on the 26 of March. It was easy to see that the snow had covered the hills for a long time. The grass was yellow and withered, but soon the hills will be green again. It was very, very cold and windy that day, and there was snow in the air. Everywhere in the horizon we could see the snow showers fall over the landscape from dark clouds - and on our way home we drove through snowy weather. The last time this year I'm sure!

The next trip is to-morrow, the first Saturday of April, and the weather forecast says 20 degrees Celsius - a giant difference from the beginning of the week with 3 degrees Celsius. Welcome spring, oh! you don't know how welcome you are! The birds are singing - and I saw the first butterfly yesterday! Goodbye king Winter.     

photo in February and March 2011: grethe bachmann

This post was one of the recipients of the 2011 Prairie Sagebrush Awards, created by Jack Matthews, nature writer, historian, and creator of the truly fine blog Sage to Meadow.