July 21 2015
Discover Mythology Across Iceland
From the East to the Westfjords, Iceland is filled with interesting and often spooky folklore.
Iceland has a mythical history like no other place, filled with stories of elves, trolls, vikings, ghosts, and fortune tellers. Each region of Iceland has its own folklore. Some of the legends might even spook you a bit!
Every Christmas, thirteen Yule Lads come down from the northern mountains of Dimmuborgir and cause trouble for two weeks until December 25th. The Dimmuborgir lava fields, where the Yule Lads originate from, are one of the most visited natural wonders of Iceland. In Nordic Christian lore, it was said that Dimmuborgir was the place where Satan lived, known as the “Catacombs of Hell.” Don’t worry - Satan has not been spotted there. But the film crew of Game of Thrones has!
The area is also known to be an important place for elves in Iceland, with the monument Arctic Henge built in Raufarhöfn to commemorate dwarf folklore. The structure was built in 1996, which may be surprising as it looks like ruins out of ancient times. Today, 54% of Iceland’s population believes elves exist! Click here to learn more about Iceland’s elves.
The northern town of Skagaströnd is also home to the Museum of Prophecies. The museum focuses on Þórdís the fortune-teller, who was the first inhabitant of Skagaströnd and lived there in the late 10th century. Visitors can have their fortunes told and their palms read, as well as examine Þórdís's gold chest for hidden treasure. In a land with stories of trolls and stones harvesting energy, the Museum of Prophecies is like a library for all of Iceland’s folklore.
Ready to get spooked? In Hólmavík, in Iceland’s Westfjords, lies the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft. Though witches are primarily female in American tradition, most accused witches were men in Icelandic folklore. The museum boasts many artifacts and stories in Iceland’s fantastical history, but the most chilling thing you’ll find are the famous “necropants,” which are the actual dried skins of a man from the waist down. These terrifying skin-pants were apparently used in a 17th century spell to bring the conjuror more money, and they are still on display today!
Of all the myths and legends originating from Eastern Iceland, you must know the story of Volvuleidi in Hólmanes. At the top of Hólmaháls hill, just above the road, is the gravesite of the “völva”, a female seer in Icelandic mythology. The völva is said to have protected the villages Reyðarfjörður and Eskifjörður from outside attacks for centuries. Legend has it that as long as the prophetess’ bones remain in tact, her protective role of the land will continue. In fact, in 1627 it is said that she produced a fog so thick that the Algerian pirates who had infiltrated the land had to take to sea and abandon their massacre.
That’s not the only ghost story about East Iceland. In Viðfjörður, the fjord was apparently haunted by a ghost in the early 20th century. There was once a village there, but history claims that the fjord eventually emptied out because of ghosts. That sounds pretty serious…
Have you heard of any other Icelandic legends? Let us know and comment below!