The Magic and Sorcery of Iceland

Between 1625 and 1683 twenty one Icelanders were burnt alive for practicing magic. The Icelandic witch-craze was imported from Europe by members of a ruling class of semi-nobles who were to a large extent educated in Denmark and northern Germany. One extended family of landowners, primarily in the northwest of the country, supplied the majority of the sheriffs presiding over the court cases for witchcraft and a large portion of the clergy, among them priests who wrote treatises against magic, heavily influenced by European works such as the Malleus mallificorum.

The European influence is not as obvious when the charges in witchcraft cases are reviewed. Contemporary sources, mainly annals and court records, tell us that a third of the charges were for causing sickness in persons and livestock, and another third for possessing grimoires or pages with galdrastafir, i.e. magical signs or staves. Heresy and satanism are hardly mentioned at all. Another striking difference between the European and Icelandic witch-hunts is that only one woman was among those burnt at the stake.

Around 130 cases of witchcraft or sorcery are found in court records both from the high court at Þingvellir and in fragments of county court records. Of the approximately 170 persons accused around 10% were women, the rest were males, mostly of the lower classes though some sheriffs and clergymen were also accused. None of the latter suffered physical punishments. It must be remembered in this context that the total population of Iceland at the time was only around fifty thousand.

Apart from the charges mentioned above, people were accused of waking up the dead, using magic to heal, and about a tenth of cases mention blasphemy though seldom as the only accusation.
A quarter of cases ended with a sentence of whipping which could mean anything from a half a dozen lashes to three consecutive whippings, all of them as heavy as a man could endure and still stay alive. A quarter of those accused were aquitted, at least 15% managed to escape the law, and we do not know the outcome of another 15% of cases. There is no evidence that physical torture was ever used in Iceland to secure confessions.

Article from: Galdrasýning á Ströndum


Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft

An artistic montage detailing the various stages of creating and binding my Grimoire of Icelandic Magical Staves and Rune interpretations.

The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft – site

Icelandic magical staves (sigils) are symbols credited with magical effect preserved in various grimoires dating from the 17th century and later. According to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, the effects credited to most of the staves were very relevant to the average Icelanders of the time, who were mostly subsistence farmers and had to deal with harsh climatic conditions.


Að fá stúlku : Used for love from a woman to a man.

Dreprún : To kill an enemy’s cattle.

Vegvísir : To guide people through rough weather.

The Witch-hunts in Iceland

“Iceland’s unique, haunting beauty has attracted travelers through the ages. Home to a population of just 300,000, Iceland’s interior highlands are a vast emptiness of uninhabited lands, where man and nature are truly alone with each other.

Filmed in fabulous HD 1080p, with incredible new footage taken during and shortly after the Eyjafjallajokull eruption, our camera takes us to remote areas and high above this breathtaking landscape for a moving panorama of just a few of Iceland’s contrasting vistas, some accessible only by helicopter: deserted black sand beaches, steaming ash covered glaciers torn asunder by red hot volcanic lava, misty lowlands, primordial desert planes and glacial lagoons.

Enjoy the magnificence of nature and capture the serenity of Iceland’s magical beauty!”

Compiled by Elizabeth Leafloor


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8 responses to “The Magic and Sorcery of Iceland”

  1. hcurci says :

    There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

    In my life time I have experienced the fear of failure and did not continue to finish my project when in fact the act of failing is a teacher to learn how not to
    fail next time.
    Thank you for sending this..I sent it off to others.

    • otove says :

      Hi Hcurci, thanks for your reply, it got me thinking – fear sure can get in our way, it takes so many guises and hides it’s self so well, that it is hard to untie the knots it creates.

      Someone once said that Instinct feeds off fear, and without fear the serpent in us takes it’s rite full place as servant. But how?

      Regards, Otove

      • hcurci says :

        Hi Otove: Thank you for responding.

        I can remember fear getting in the way and had to fight through it and it was not is physically I got older I found I was able to deal with fear somewhat better and could talk my self out of not giving up.

        However, I submit we need the serpent to be there in all of it menacing presence to give us the balance we need to maintain an appropriate level of living..dealing with the serpent is dealing with life..

  2. otove says :

    “…dealing with the serpent is dealing with life”

    ahhh, just the perspective i was looking for, cheers!

  3. Lady Philosopher says :

    Reblogged this on Lady Philospher's Blog and commented:
    I am certainly interested in some primordial Bjork magic! What’s up with primal-fear burning icelandic magicians! fascinating post Otove! thanks* I did not know how to read comments till now, sorry! Thanks!

  4. Alex Jones says :

    An unsavoury aspect of religion to persecute people who followed older spiritual practices. In my town of Colchester many people were persecuted and put to death for witchcraft.

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