Monday, December 29, 2014

HGB Podcast 18 - Haunted Iceland And Its Folklore


Moment in Oddity - Energy Addicts Jewelry

Israeli jewelry designer Naomi Kizhner has created a new line of jewelry for her graduation project at
Jerusalem's Hadassah College.  The jewelry line has been named "Energy Addicts" and it certainly is odd.  The jewelry is designed to generate electricity that turns a golden wheel inside the jewelry that generates electricity through kinetic energy that is enough to light up LEDs and possibly even charge mobile devices.  It sounds innovative and useful until you find out how that kinetic energy is generated.  The jewelry looks to us like torture implements.  There are golden spikes on each end that are inserted into the wearer's veins and then the flow of blood is directed through the jewelry piece generating kinetic energy.  The collection has three pieces: the Blood Bridge, the Blinker and the E-Pulse Conductor.  The jewelry is meant to wake people up to their use of energy and whether they would be willing to sacrifice their bodies to create energy.  Naomi said, "I wanted to explore the post-humanistic approach that sees the human body as a resource."  The human body already makes a pretty good resource, we think, upon death when organs can be transplanted and our body returns to the dust of the earth.  While we agree that finding alternative forms of energy is a good idea, sticking golden spikes into our veins via jewelry is not only odd, but terrifying!

This Day in History - The Trouble with Tribbles

On this date, December 29th, in 1967, an episode of Star Trek introduced us all to Tribbles in an episode titled, "The Trouble with Tribbles."  It was Star Trek's 44th episode and debuted during its second season.  The show finds the Enterprise at the Deep Space Station K7 with orders to guard a grain shipment.  While there, Lt. Uhara, played by Nichelle Nichols, is given a tribble by a trader.  Tribbles appeared to be cute furballs and they are initially treated like pets.  The idea for the form of the tribble was taken from a furry keychain.  1,500 tribbles were created for the episode.  The Enterprise crew is unaware just how quickly tribbles multiply.  And tribbles eat, so great concern arises that the tribbles will eat all the ship's food.  Not to mention that the little creatures are getting inside of the ship's systems.  And finally, the tribbles find the grain that the crew is guarding and they gourge on it.  The tribbles begin to die, solving one problem, but then the crew realizes that the grain is poisoned because it is killing the tribbles.  The Klingons have poisoned the grain.  The Klingon responsible is arrested and the trader is ordered to get rid of all the tribbles.  The Enterprise transports its tribbles onto a nearby Klingon ship where Scotty says, "They will be no tribble at all."  This episode was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.  This episode has been described as "the most celebrated episode of the whole series" and has been the most watched episode reaching outside the bounds of Trekkies.  

Haunted Iceland And Its Folklore


Iceland is a gorgeous country with a rich history.  Irish monks settled in Iceland in the 8th century.  In the 860s, Norsemen "discovered" Iceland.  The first Viking who tried to settle in Iceland was a Norweigian named Floki Vilgeroason, but his animals were killed in the deadly cold and he returned to Norway calling this new land Iceland.  A noble Norseman by the name of Ingólfur Arnarsson, settled in Reykjavík in 871 and he is the one who gave the city that name. Iceland was broadly settled in the 9th and 10th centuries by Norsemen from Scandinavia and by Celts from the British Isles and the Irish monks were driven out.  By 930 there were 60,000 people living in Iceland.  Today Iceland has a population of around 320,000.  Iceland has become known as a beautiful destination with hot springs, glaciers and volcanoes that occasionally disrupt air travel, but there is far more to Iceland than just pretty pictures.

When speaking about the supernatural in the country of Iceland, one must always start with the lore about elves, which are a big deal in Iceland much like the fairy people are in Europe.  Superstition is a part of Iceland's history that continues on today.  The people of Iceland believe they share their land with elves, trolls and a group of little people like dwarfs.  The lore behind elves dates back to the beginning of time and starts where many people believe life started, with Adam and Eve.  Adam and Eve had had several children and God came to visit them one day and asked to see the children.  Now as we know, God knows everything and sees everything and so he knew that when the first couple presented their children, not all of their children were present.  Eve had not been able to wash up all the children, so she had hidden the unclean children.  God was angry with this deception and so He said, "What man hides from God, God will hide from man!"

The unwashed children became invisible and can only be seen when they choose to show themselves.  The elves descended from these people.  They can either be friendly or hostile.  Elves are believed to have control of the sun and weather and if you mess with an elf, you can bet you will have bad luck.  Elf stones are found around Iceland, which look like large boulders, and they are believed to be the doorway that leads to an elf house.  Elves prefer craggy, interesting rocks.  Superstition has lead the Icelandic people to build homes and roads around these elf stones and they leave them alone.  Mess with a rock and disaster will follow.  How does one tell if a boulder is an elf stone?  Try moving it with a bulldozer or breaking it up with a jackhammer and if it does not budge or break, it is an elf stone.  Here is a story that is an example of how this superstition continues today.

A New York Times article reported:
 "A port on the outskirts of Reykjavik, prides itself on its unusually high elf population. Tourists are invited to tour the known elf locations, including a large rock whose reputation as an elf habitat meant that a nearby road was diverted some years ago so as not to disturb its unseen residents.

Elly Erlingsdottir, head of the town council's planning committee, said that made sense to her. Recently, she said, some elves borrowed her kitchen scissors, only to return them a week later to a place she had repeatedly searched. "My philosophy is, you don't have to see everything you believe in," she said, "because many of your greatest experiences happen with closed eyes."
Since we are just coming out of the Christmas holiday season, we should give a mention of the Yule Lads.  These are thirteen men that take the place of Father Christmas or Santa Claus in Icelandic folklore.  Children put their shoes in the windowsills on the thirteen days leading up to Christmas and based on their behavior, they either receive a gift or a punishment like rotten potatoes.  At different times in history, these Yule Lads have been anything from pranksters to full on monsters that eat children.  This year, we enjoyed following Inspired by Iceland (@icelandinspired) and learned about all thirteen Yule Lads.  There is the Sheep Coat Clod, Gully Gawk who steals milk, Stubby who steals pans to eat the crust from them, Spoon Licker who steals spoons of course, Pot Licker who eats leftovers, Bowl Licker who eats from your bowl if you set it down, Door Slammer, Skyr Gobbler who eats Skyr, which is like our yogurt, Sausage Swipper, Window Peeper, Doorway Sniffer, Meat Hook who steals meat with a hook and Candle Stealer.

Icelanders celebrate twelve nights of Christmas like Europeans.  January 6th is Twelfth Night.  On the eighth night of Yule, the New Year falls and this is considered a magical time in Iceland.  On this night, cows can speak, elves move, seals become human and the dead rise from their graves.  That being said, this is probably the most haunted evening in Iceland as well.  Iceland is considered to be quite a haunted land based on its Celtic and Nordic history.  Ghosts are broken up into several categories.

There are Mountainside Ghosts that live in shacks and caves in the hills.  They are often seen by shepherds.  Two of these ghosts are named Egill and Starkadur.  Egill was killed when he fell off a mountain and Starkadur died when he was crushed by a rock.  The farmer Tómas from Brattholt had a run in with a Mountainside Ghost at a mountain shack in Lambafellsver and spent an evening having to defend himself with a pocketknife.

There are Mori, which are the male ghosts that wear clothing like the poor people of old in Iceland and female ghosts are called Skotta.  The Skotta are reputed to wear brown dresses, backward headdresses and red socks.  And apparently they suck on their fingers for some reason.

There are Stable Ghosts that are the spirits of farmers who have passed away and continue to hang out in stables.  One such ghost would attack men from behind and so people walk backwards out of stables to ensure no such attack.  Sagas relate the tales of ghosts from ancient times as well.  One of these ancient ghosts is named Gaukur Trandilsson of Gaukshöfði in Gnúpverjahreppur.  

There are the stories about nude ghosts as well that seem to be premonitions of approaching death.  Several stories through the years tell of people who have seen a familiar face sitting or walking somewhere naked and then the naked person just disappears.  Several days later, the person who appeared to be a nude ghost will die. A man by the name of Valdi who was from Hellur saw the crew of a ship in Stokkseyri, naked on the street. These men would later drown in a shipwreck the following winter. Then these men would become Sea Ghosts, which appear to people as wet and sad ghosts.

There is a superstition in Iceland that explains ghosts of infants that are seen, but more often heard.  If an infant is not baptized before they die, they are doomed to haunt as a ghost.  Their cries are sometimes thought to be warnings of bad weather coming.  Ghost animals are explained as being human ghosts that have disguised themselves in animal form.  The lore of ghosts in Iceland claims that a ghost can take on any form that it wants.

A story about a talking skeleton goes like this:
"In the 18th century, a complete skeleton of a woman was found in a grave but the unusual thing about the skeleton was, that it was totally intact. She was later placed underneath a bench in the church, but then some schoolboys challenged a maid servant to go to the church and fetch the skeleton, which she did.  On her way through the church basement, the skeleton began talking to her and told her a story about how she had died during a dispute with the bishops wife and therefore would not rot completely in her grave. She asked to be buried in the grave with the bishops lady and after some discussion between the two of them the dispute was settled and in that same instant the skeleton turned to dust."
This story is told by Akshath:
"My name is Akshath. I have experienced these paranormal activities two times in my life and I would be writing down one of it now and the other one later. (Please bear with my English.)

This must have happened when I was in my schooling days. Being a resident from Mangalore, I visited my uncle's house which was next to the railway tracks. My uncle had bought the house and started living in it.

As I had summer vacations, I wanted to visit and stay in my uncle's house and my relatives were talking about this experience in that house. I was anxious and I decided to stay there for a week.

This activity used to start around 8:00 PM when the power goes of as we used to have these "Load Shedding" to save electricity. In these houses they have an attic with a wooden flooring and my uncle used to store coconuts in the attic. At around 8:30 PM we hear this sound in the attic as if some one would bang with a hammer on an heavy object in a proper series. First it would be three bangs and after few seconds again three bangs. (These sounds seriously increase your heartbeats.)

My two uncles and many more relatives including myself were sleeping under the attic and was waiting eagerly to witness the sound and then it really happened. And when I experienced these, I really got scared as it was not sounding normal. Many relatives had different explanation. Some said it would be the rats or the wooden flooring that expands due to heat and and all that. But trust me, these sounds were like someone was really banging the attic floor. My uncle and I checked the attic the next day but there was nothing except for some coconuts lol... But we both were so scared.

The house was blessed by the priest several times and it had no effect. Finally, I got to know that my uncle, as they are very religious and being Roman Catholics, had asked service from really powerful nuns (powerful means spiritually) and then the sound had stopped. They say that the house was occupied by Hindus who had a "TULSI Katta" in front of the house, a place were Hindus pray early in the morning, which was removed by my uncle and that was the cause. No one ever knew why it was happening but seriously, guys, it was one scary experience.

Sorry, I am writing for the first time so I could not put it in a way that might thrill you. Will try my best next time."
There is a Ghost Center in Iceland in the city of Stokkseyri that offers audio tours that tell the ghost stories of the country.  The reception area has a bar that plays host to its very own Brennivin ghost and there is a ghost maze.  Brennivin is the original Schnapps of Iceland and so I guess the bar ghost is aptly named.  The Center has a tale about Kampholtsmori:
"In the year 2000 a project was scheduled to tear down some old buildings, farms and outhouses in south Iceland that had been abandoned and left for destruction. The project was led by only the best, Ræktunarsamband Flóa & Skeiða. Every day for a couple of weeks, the director would meet his staff in the morning and tell them which buildings to tear down that day. The men where startled when they were asked to tear down the old farm in Kotinu and the following day the old farm in Hjáleigunni. Then one morning, the director told them to tear down an old farm and outhouse in Kampholt, which had not been used for some thirty years.

But what happened was that the workers absolutely refused tearing down the house in Kampholt. They were all raised in Flóinn and knew that Móri had stayed there for a long time. The director tried to make them obey orders, but the men refused and said that they would tear down Bessastaðir (the presidents residence), but Kampholt they would not touch. The director wondered and was well aware of what hung from the beam in Kampholti. To his luck, a man came along who said he was willing to tear down the farm. He had just moved to Selfoss from east of Fljótsdalshérað with his family and never heard the stories of Móri. This man was to go there alone, for no one would go there with him. He had got his bulldozer up on his big truck and was headed for Kampholt.

As he was getting the bulldozer off his truck, he thought he saw a person running into the house. He approached the door and called to the person to come out, the farm was being demolished and he did not want anyone to get hurt. There was no response so he went into the house only to find that nobody was inside. He thought to himself that it might just have been his imagination and started tearing down the buildings.

The three following nights were very hard for him and his family. Each night he would wake up by being dragged to the front door and beaten on by an invisible being, so he would lay there on the floor battered. His wife cried and thought her husband was losing his mind. But the situation ended almost as soon as it had started.

The man says himself that he was in no doubt, that the person he saw run into the house was Móri, and that he was angry of what was happening and wanted revenge. The man believes that his life was saved because another ghost that followed him from where he lived previously intervened and saved his masters life!"
Iceland is indeed a country of wonders.  Do some of those wonders include mythical creatures such as elves?  Do the undead continue to roam about the countryside and villages?  That is for you to decide!

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