Sunday was Palm Sunday - also known here as Palmusunnuntai, Virposunnuntai or Virpomissunnuntai and on that day, many Finns practice Virpominen.
Virpominen was originally an old Karelian Easter tradition, which later absorbed into the Finnish Easter Witch tradition.
During Virpomissunnuntai, one can expect that little Witches will appear at the front door, offering the blessings of good health and prosperity for the year ahead - for a small fee of course!
The Witches carry with them - often in a wicker basket - an array of decorated branches of budding Willow. They will have twisted, tied or glued on to these all manner of colourful dyed feathers, pipe-cleaners (to look like caterpillars), strips of tissue paper or crepe paper, little chicks and little eggs.
They will first ask if you would like your home to receive a blessing. Once you say yes, they recite their 'Virpomisloruja' blessing and as all Witches know, blessings and spells are best said in rhyme! This is no different.
Depending on the region of Finland that you are in and whether you are male or female, the version will subtly change. There are many many versions. Some rhymes are very, very old.. some are very long, with much poetry - colourfully wishing you a bigger home, prosperity, God in your soul, forthcoming easter eggs and some really old rhymes even mention something for about your cow!
Today, as it is generally young children who visit in the guise of Witches, the rhyme is more brief. This is what the Witches have said to me all the past six Easters that I have been here. It's the shorter version and I believe, the most popular:
Virvon, Varvon! (These words indicate the Witch is waving their willow switch!) Tuoreeks, Terveeks (Fresh, Healthy -) Tulevaks, Vuodeks! (- Forthcoming Year!) Vitsa sulle! (Twig for you!) Palkka mulle? (Reward for me?)
Compare that loru to this much older one... I showed this to my friend Minna and she asked "Where did you find this? This is certainly a much older fashioned one. I know only the shorter version!" This gives a little credence to my opinion that much older historical and 'flouncy' Finnish cultural texts are being gradually lost. A shame really... She helped fully translate it for me.. as some parts were rather weird!
Virvon, varvon! (These words indicate the Witch is waving their willow switch!) tuoreeks, terveeks (Fresh Healthy -) tulevaks! Sunntaiks muna. (- Future! Sunday Egg) Vitsat teille! (Twig for you) Muna meille? (Egg for us) Voilusikka lehmästäis, (Butter spoon for your cow) Kaakkutaikinastais! (for your Cake pastry!) Virvon varvon vitsasella (Waving, waving of the twig) Rikkaaks, rakkaaks, (May you be rich, loved -) Ison talon isännäks.(- the landlord of a big house) Viikoksi velkaa, (The weekly debts -). Vuuveksi vappaata, (- be yearly free of) Sinulle vitsa! Minulle palkka! (Twig for you, reward for me) Annotko munan vai markan? (Do you give egg or Markka?) (the old currency) Kilteiksi pienet piimäsuut! (Small buttermilk mouths (kids!) be nice or well behaved).
Funny eh ... how things change!
I always make up small bags of treats for my visitors. These are the main sweets I put in, but I add others too.
Some people give a small egg, some give biscuits or make some small cakes. It's become so that sometimes people offer money... but I prefer not to do that. I'll put the blessing twigs I have 'paid for' in water and a few weeks later, I'll have lovely willow catkins in my kitchen! :D
We had lots of snow overnight on Saturday... about six or seven inches.. (the car had to be dug out again!) The weather had been appalling, literally chucking it down most of the day. Here is Mark during a brief respite of snowstorm.. during just one dig out that day!
Whether this was the reason for less Witchy callers this year or not, I don't know. (One would imagine snow would be the one thing that Finns were used to.. but it was horrid out there!) Perhaps the previous Witches have grown up and out of the tradition or just moved locality. I only had the door bell ring three times on sunday with a total of six Witches (normally it is more than double that!) My friend Minna was late getting back from out of town because of the snow, so could not call by with her daughter, who is four this year. It was to be her first ever Virvon Varvon. Oh well.. I shalln't complain that some sweets are left over... (Wicked Witchy Grin!)
My first Witch this year, was another little darling, who was taking part in Virpominen for the very first time. She is only a little over two years old. She is a real sweetie! She came dressed as a puppy dog apparently because she told Mummy that the Witchy headscarf was itchy. Bless!
You can see how bad the snow was behind her in this picture! She is holding her palkka/reward. I made a special bag for her, with softer sweets as she is so young.
She had made 'with Mummy' a lovely vitsa, covered with feathers, little chicks and eggs....I don't normally get something so well decorated!
The other Witchy visitors, were two boys.. one was a Witch and the other was Batman I thought.. but I guess he could have been a Witches black cat! :D
Then there were two more Witches and a cute Easter bunny.
Today, Minna's daughter visited to do her Virvon Varvon after playschool. She was, this year, the only one in the traditional style, wearing a shawl and headscarf. The local Tiimari store is now selling Witchy black hats..so there are more of those now. In some ways thats a little sad, but its a sign of the times I guess. I got TWO willow twigs from her... so I am doubly blessed! She was funny, as she wanted to say the phrase inside the house.. rather than on the doorstep. Really, what she wanted to do was to say hello to my huge Husky Dexter! :D I still managed to get a photo of her on the doorstep, before crossing over my threshold!
As you might be able to see, her twig already has some blooming catkins! Yaaay! Spring!
I have a few blogs to leave this week, with regards to Easter or Pääsiäinen so keep do come back soon!
I am British but have lived in the Lapland region of Finland since 2004. I moved here with my husband and two teenage sons after following a long held dream. I am certain that I have lived in this land before..a long, long time ago.
I am a Reiki therapist, Tarot reader and light worker. I work honestly to assist others. I truly love the shamanic elements of Lapland and the symbolism of the Noitarumpu ..aka the Witches drum.