Clarissa Johal: #FolkloreThursday - Icelandic #Ghosts

Thursday, September 29, 2016

#FolkloreThursday - Icelandic #Ghosts

Lately, I've been thinking about taking a writing trip to Iceland. I have no idea why, but I can't seem to get the idea out of my head. I know it's expensive and remote, but perhaps a story awaits...

Because of that, my folklore today is on Icelandic ghosts.

Ghost folktales and beliefs are very popular within the Icelandic community. What sets Icelandic ghosts apart from others is that they usually carry weapons, come in many different forms, and have difficulties assimilating in other countries. It is believed that ghosts who immigrated with Icelanders to Canada in the late 1800's, didn't survive very long due to difficulties of being accepted by the native ghosts. But on the home front, Icelandic ghosts are "alive" and well. Talking skeletons, ghosts disguised as animals, male, female and infant ghosts - all of these can be found across Iceland.

Móri - The Male Ghost

The most talk-about ghosts in Iceland are the móri, or male ghosts. The name originates from their clothing; a brownish or red sweater and farmer's hood. This is not unlike the clothing worn by the people of Iceland, centuries ago. Some móri were the spirits of drowned sailors whose sole purpose was to harm the living.

Skotta - The Female Ghost

Icelandic female ghosts are called skotta. The name also originates from their clothing; a brownish dress/skirt, red socks or shirt, and a headdress turned backwards. It is mentioned that skotta often suck on their fingers. They cause death and insanity, and may follow the same family for generations. 

Infant Ghosts

An infant who was not baptized before its death was doomed to haunt. Murdered infants would also transform into ghosts, enacting vengeance toward their mother. Since infants lack language, they can only cry disturbingly in their cribs.

Not a ghost, but this Icelandic horse is gorgeous!
Ghosts in Animal Disguises

Icelandic ghosts can appear in all living shapes or forms. They may choose to transform and appear as a dog, grey mare, or whatever animal strikes their fancy.

Mountainside Ghosts

These ghosts live in mountain shacks or caves. They may lead travelers astray, and are often seen by shepherds.

Stable Ghosts 

These are the spirits of farmers who have passed away. 

Nude Ghosts 

These ghosts are a premonition of approaching death. Stories tell of people who have seen the nude form of familiar person, who then disappears. Several days later, the person who appeared naked died. 

Talking Skeletons

A story about a talking skeleton goes like this:

In the 18th century, an intact and complete skeleton of a woman was found in a grave. She was later placed in the basement of a church. Several schoolboys challenged a servant maid to steal the skeleton, which she did. On her way back, the skeleton told the maid a story of how she had died. Apparently, the woman couldn't rot completely in her grave due to a dispute with the bishop's wife. The servant relayed the situation to the bishop's wife, the dispute was settled, and the skeleton turned to dust.


Debbie Christiana said...

We looked into going last year. January through April Icelandia (spelling?) had a deal for 4 nights/3 days. It's dark and cold those months, but you can see the Northern Lights the best, there were glaciers you could hike, and sit in the hot mineral springs.

Didn't work out for us but it's still on our agenda in the next couple years. I hope you get there. It's supposed to be gorgeous.

Great post, BTW :)

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Thanks! It's in the back of my mind, we'll see if I can manage it in the next few years. :) If I manage it - I'll post lots of pictures, and you can be sure a book will come of it!