A midsummer ritual of witch burning in Denmark

Share this post Copenhagen, Denmark | Chirag Virani | Hetal Virani

As a part of our MBA exchange program from Ryerson University, we went on a summer exchange program to Copenhagen Business School (CBS). We planned our trip in such a way that we could travel around Denmark as well as across Europe during the weekends and complete our academic credits during the weekdays

One of the first things we noticed after moving to Copenhagen was that almost everyone rode bicycles. Since we were there to experience the Danish culture, we also rented bicycle for the entire period of our exchange program. We felt like locals as rode bicycles to Copenhagen Business School every day to attend our lectures.

We were lucky enough to be in Denmark in the third week of June. Apparently, June 23 is celebrated as Sankt Hans Eve which is a midsummer witch burning ritual that takes place in many Nordic countries. We were casually strolling around in one of the parks in Copenhagen and heard some people singing near a small pond. Out of curiosity we walked towards the pond and saw big crowds gathered around a witch doll made out of old clothes, straws and firecrackers.

After asking a few people about what exactly we were witnessing, we found out that it was a midsummer celebration of light overcoming darkness. In fact, different people gave different reasons for the celebration, but all explanations included burning of a witch doll on a broomstick. It turns out that the Vikings held a mid-summer ritual to scare off evil spirits which was later combined with the celebration of John the Baptist.

Whatever the reason for the celebration may be, the festival was a lot of fun. I mean who doesn’t enjoy singing and dancing around a large bonfire?

Related stories