Illustration of a witch being burned at the stake, sent off to Bloksbjerg on The Eve of Sankt Hans (St. John's Eve). Artwork by Kiri Østergaard Leonard, 2014 -

Personal work: Bloksbjerg Descent

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Happy Summer Solstice everyone!

My latest piece is based on the Danish tradition of the Summer Solstice celebration named Sankt Hans. It is a dedication to the memory of all the women who lost their lives during the witch hunts of the church, with an added touch of deliberate phoenix symbolism. I hope you like it.

“In Denmark, the solstitial celebration is called Sankt Hans or Sankt Hans Aften (“St. John’s Eve”). It was an official holiday until 1770, and in accordance with the Danish tradition of celebrating a holiday on the evening before the actual day, it takes place on the evening of 23 June. It is the day where the medieval wise men and women (the doctors of that time) would gather special herbs that they needed for the rest of the year to cure people.

It has been celebrated since the times of the Vikings by visiting healing water wells and making a large bonfire to ward away evil spirits. Today the water well tradition is gone. Bonfires on the beach, speeches, picnics and songs are traditional. In the 1920s a tradition of putting a witch made of straw and cloth (probably made by the elder women of the family) on the bonfire emerged as a remembrance of the church’s witch burnings from 1540 to 1693. This burning sends the “witch” away to Bloksbjerg, the Brocken mountain in the Harz region of Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held on this day. Some Danes regard the relatively new symbolic witch burning as inappropriate.”

– Wikipedia

Illustration Process of Bloksbjerg's Descent
Illustration Process of Bloksbjerg's Descent

Thank you for reading, I hope you like the artwork and tidbit of information of a part of Danish culture. If you do please share with your friends!

Kiri Østergaard Leonard

Kiri Østergaard Leonard is an award winning illustrator and artist from Denmark, currently living in Austin, Texas. She enjoys working on projects within the fantasy and children's illustration genre.

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