Where witches go to roam

In May of 2017, I accompanied an archaeological excavation to the island Blue Maiden to take photo and video for the public presentation. We, Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay, Anna-Karin Andersson, Kenneth Alexandersson and I, arrived on stormy seas on the northern part of the island, having hitched a ride with Sjöräddningssällskapet (the sea rescue fellowship). A provosional dock was made where we could unload our gear on the rocky shoreline.

After having waved goodbye to the rescue boat we were all alone on the island, except for the birds and ghosts. The rumours of the island being haunted goes back a long time. The legend of Blåkulla (≈blue mound) is a part of Swedish tradition where once a year the kids dress up as witches with broomes that, according to the legend, takes them to Blåkulla to celebrate the coming of spring.

When the little boat had disapeared behind the horizon we started the hauling. Every piece of gear was to be carried all across the island to the southern part, where a small ranger cottage was awaiting us. Apart from all the archaeological tools, the packing consisted mostly of food and water, except for my bringing half a photo studio along for the ride.

Blue Maiden Ludvig, Kenneth and Anna-Karin

We had all been looking forward to this day for a long time and now we were finally here, the adventure had begun. The other fellas had been here before on an excavation a couple of years prior. This was the follow-up excavation with a clearly stated mission that, in normal-speak, was to find traces of human interaction on the island.

The island sits between the mainland of Sweden and the long and narrow island of Öland, on the east coast. To get to the island you’ll need a boat if you can’t wait for the summer season where a small ferry takes you to the island on day trips. No camping is allowed as it is one of Swedens 29 national parks. But, if you book in advance there are shelters to sleep in during the high season.

Having reached the cabin we realised that we’d forgotten to bring the key that’s in a bag still on the shore. So away we go. On our way back the rain sets in and were all pleased to enter what is a most luxurious cabin. There’s seperate bedrooms with bunk beds, a kitchen and a cosy living area with a fireplace that is set to work at once.

Between the rain coming down in buckets, the view of the ocean in front of the cabin and the fresh memory of an adventurous boat trip, it makes for a great first impression of the island. At night we lay awake trying to hear the infamous ghosts of the island and sure enough, there’s some definite howling going on in the dark. Spookey.

The following days consisted of great hikes in splendid weather while the archaeologists dug squares found a ton of quartz, indicating human interaction from times past. One star filled night we searched for rock carvings by the torch light. Later in that evening I captured a couple of starry sky’s above the mysterious labyrinth by the shoreline. A magical experience and a great way to end the adventure.

After four nights on the island we carried our gear to the much closer natural dock on the south side where the rescue boat came to pick us up.

The island is a treasure trove of glorious hikes and a great way to spend the day if one has the oportunity to catch a ride out there. The many secrets contained on and in the red rock are there, yet  to be uncovered. To get a glimpse into the archaeological results there’s a great article written by the expedition team that can be found in the magazine Populär Arkeologi, issue 5-2017.