Monday, April 11, 2016

Pentecost in 16th Century's Scandinavia

An ancient tradition says that if you go out of your house and sweep towards the door on Pentecost morning , then you'll gather happiness for the rest of the year. 

feast in Sweden
Pentecost was in its natural form a feast of gladness with not very special customs, but since the Pentecost-period arrived in connection to the coming of summer it was born to absorb parts of the traditional spring and summer celebrations. The Catholic church had from the beginning favored this and the consequence was that no May-feast in the North in the 16th century was in its original form. The old traditions had been given up one by one. 

shooting birds
The second and * third day of Pentecost - where people had to rest -  were suitable for the traditional May-ride, the feast of the May-count or Parrot-shooting. 

If people had no old traditions the Pentecost days were celebrated with a special Pentecost drink.

* Until 1770 a third Pentecost day was celebrated, but it was abolished by the reform, which was carried through by Struensee.

Pentecost was an ecclesial spring feast, marked by numerous feast     customs, borrowed from many places - and they fitted perfectly well in the North, where no one asked from where they came. On Pentecost morning the sun was dancing like on Easter Saturday. The morning dew of Pentecost inherited the miracolous power of the May-day. At the high mass the church was decorated like in the homes on Valpurgis day. The May-countess and the street lamb became a Pentecost bride. In the Catholic period the church had observed in a tolerant way that the parrot king or the May-count on Pentecost day came to the church to be sprinkled with holy water or bring a sacrifice.

Fanefjord church, island Møn, DK.
Pentecost Sunday was named Hvide Søndag (White Sunday), and the whole week  was named Den Hvide Uge (The White Week). It was a natural thing to have a baby baptized at this feast, but there was however a strong counterweight, people did not like to let several days pass between birth and baptismal.

In a later period of Pentecost it was a custom in the town Odense and possibly also in other Danish towns that the blacksmiths on the third Pentecost day moved their guild sign.

The Pentecost Wolf in Norway

The belief in the blessing power of Pentecost caused a strange custom in Norway. It was assumed that the most dangerous of all Norse predators, the wolf, on Pentecost night had to obey the higher powers and give themselves up to human power. It is told in 1599:  "the night before Pentecost Sunday the peasants are out in the woods where they know the wolf lies with her cubs, and the peasants howl like wolves, and when the mother wolf hear people howl then her nature forces her to give an answer, she will howl and they will find her cubs, and so it happened that the peasants got both the mother wolf and her cubs because she would not leave them ". The hunters told that since the mother wolf knows that the human howling means that she cannot help answering, she will put her nose down into the ground to pretend that her howling comes from far away in order to mislead the humans, and then they cannot find her. 

Both the hunters and the peasants had a very solid opinion about this - if it was a natural thing or why it happened like this ? Everyone must judge for himself. They claimed that many wolf cubs were found and caught in that way.

source: Runeberg, Dagligt liv i Norden i det sekstende Århundrede. 
photo: wikipedia  
photo Fanefjord: gb

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