Your Danish friend may be a witch

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Witches in present-day Denmark keep their craft secret – and one in four of them is probably a man.

If you go to Denmark and mingle with the locals, chances are you’ll meet a witch. The country has hundreds of witches working in a variety of regular day jobs, such as carpentry, nursing, hairdressing, or accounting.  But in their spare time, they meet in witch circles and practice magic, an extensive anthropological study of present-day adult witches in Denmark reveals.  “It is quite possible that people are acquainted with a witch without knowing it,” says Anne Mia Steno, a research assistant at the Danish Folklore Archives, who authored the article Parallel Worlds – Magical Practice Among Modern Witches in Denmark.

The seven gates to the land of the dead can be marked by something as simple and common as jam jars. (Photo: Anne Mia Steno)

The seven gates to the land of the dead can be marked by something as simple and common as jam jars. (Photo: Anne Mia Steno)

“What has been interesting in this study was to see that witches can be men and women and that they come from a whole range of different lines of work.”

An underground society

Many of the witches keep their practice secret because they are worried that their friends will judge them.

The witches are well aware that performing magic rituals on moonlit execution hills is not generally perceived as normal behaviour.

Some witches are shamans

Steno’s study indicates that Danish witches are a highly diverse group. They are found in all age groups and each defines their own worldview. There are kitchen witches, herbal witches, eclectic witches and asatro witches, to name but a few.

In the 17th century, being called a witch was not desirable. The church believed that torturing suspected witches would reveal if they worshipped the devil. Today things have changed and witches are now self-proclaimed. (Drawing: unknown artist)

In the 17th century, being called a witch was not desirable. The church believed that torturing suspected witches would reveal if they worshipped the devil. Today things have changed and witches are now self-proclaimed. (Drawing: unknown artist)

They have also found their way to the witch environment via different routes:

  • Some witches are fascinated with the alternative – clairvoyance and healing – and even make a living by practising it.
  • Others attend the so-called Asa and Vanetrossamfundet, who believe in Odin, Thor and the rest of the gods from Norse mythology.
  • Many have previously been involved in natural religions and shamanism,
  • And finally, the largest group is made up of those who feel a special connection with nature.

The researcher says that it’s difficult to give a precise figure for how many witches are practising in Denmark. There is no official belief with a stable organisation. Because of this, an estimate can only be based on registrations of internet activities, summer camp attendance and interviews with contemporary witches.

“On that basis, I would say that there are currently around 500 witches in Denmark, about 20-30 percent of which are men,” says the researcher, who has immersed herself in the witch environment for six months in connection with the study.

Witches can change the world with the power of thought

Steno has focused her research on how modern witches use magic. Many witches believe they can use magic to influence their surroundings – and themselves. For example, they can:

  • Use love magic to bind another person to them – although this requires that the person in question is interested in being bound.
  • Influence the selection board at a place of work to hire a certain person.

There are currently around 500 witches in Denmark, about 20-30 percent of which are men.

“The witches believe that everything in our surroundings contains energy:  the ground, air, stones, etc. By using magic it is possible to ‘bend’, i.e. influence, the energy with a view to using it for a specific purpose,” she says.

Most witches believe they can bend the energy by the power of thought alone. This means that it’s not necessary to summon a god or perform a ritual for the magic to work.

“So when they perform rituals during a full moon, the idea is to focus their thoughts to make the magic stronger. The magic isn’t really in the ritual itself.”

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Niels Ebdrup, Your Danish friend may be a witch, Science Nordic, Monday 04. june 2012 – 06:51




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