An entertaining collection of hundreds of legends, stories, and magic. Perfect for reading or telling in front of the fire.
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The bulk of the legends and other texts in this book represent rural oral traditions and folk beliefs of preindustrial Scandinavia. Most were collected from oral sources between the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The final chapter, however, contains samples of narratives that are told in Scandinavia today, demonstrating the continuity of tradition as well as the changes wrought by the industrialization and urbanization of Scandinavian society.
When we speak of Scandinavia, we mean Denmark, the Faeroe Islands (some 220 miles north of Scotland), Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The Finns differ from the rest of the Scandinavians in ethnic...
If a person sneezed, yawned, hiccuped, or felt a tickling sensation, someone was thinking about him or her. Another person’shughad entered his or her body. It was considered irresponsible to let one’s mind wander because it could bring harm to someone else. Sickness was often explained as resulting from ahugwhich had entered the body of the sick person or animal.
When your nose itches, someone is thinking of you.
Collected by Edvard Grimstad in Gudbrandsdal, Oppland (Norway). Printed in Grimstad,Etter gamalt. Folkeminne frå Gudbrandsdalen3 (1953), 13.
A throbbing sensation in your big toe means...
When someone died, people were concerned whether the dead person would find peace in the afterlife and, particularly, whether he or she would go to heaven or to hell. There were many omens and signs connected with the moment of death and with burial, but their interpretation varied from place to place and from time to time.
Some legends describe popular beliefs regarding the fate in store for people who have made a pact with the devil. Characteristically, many of the individuals claimed by the devil at the moment of death are wealthy. Those stories can be read as a...
The various activities of the healer were based on the conception that sickness is of supranormal origin, caused either by a preternatural being or by a person having special powers. A basic condition of healing was to discover the supranormal origin of sickness. The healing process involved the use of both magic formulas and rituals.
See 1. Reichborn-Kjennerud,Vår gamle trolldomsmedisin(1928–47); Carl-Herman Tillhagen,Folklig läkekonst(1958).
On Seland in Konsmo there lived a woman by the name of Kari Vrisdaughter. She had a neighbor named Berte Oddsdaughter. Berte was suffering from severe back pain, and she went to...
One of the stronger driving forces behind magic is the desire to bend others to one’s will. Characteristically, harmful magic has its origin in feelings of envy and anger. Often individuals occupying low positions in society, the poor in general but also itinerant beggars and strangers — for instance, Lapps, Finns, and gypsies — used magic to force others to share with them certain necessities like food and lodging. People were afraid the gypsies would take revenge if they were denied. This mechanism was generally employed to explain sickness, accidents, and other misfortunes befalling the settled community.
See Bente G. Alver,Heksetro...
Two questions raised in folk tradition concerning the invisible folk are how they were created and how they relate to the prospect of divine salvation.
See Katherine Briggs,The Vanishing People(1978), 27–38.
When Our Lord chased Adam and Eve from paradise, they did not have much cause for joy. And yet, they loved each other, got along well, and produced a lot of children.
One day Our Lord told Eve that He wanted to see her children. Eve thought it out of place to show all her children to Our Lord; she was ashamed that they had quite...
Unclean spirit, you are commanded not by this sinful being but by the innocent Lamb and God’s dear Son, Jesus Christ our Savior, who is Lord over all creatures and will be avenged on you and your kindred with fire!
Wicked Satan! By the Judge of Satan and all the dead and by the world’s Creator! Yea, by Him who has power to cast you into hell’s abyss, I command you to depart from this servant and creature of our Lord Jesus Christ. I command you not by my unworthy merit but by the power of the Holy Spirit to...
In the parish of Gammalkils lies a mountain called Borre’s Mountain, after the giant Borre. He moved there with his wife because he wanted to find peace from the intruding dwarfs.
One day the giant wife went out and saw a dwarf plowing a field in Kvarnlyckan near Björkhult’s estate. She put the little man, along with his horse and plow, into her apron, and carried them home to their cave.
“Look at the critter I found out there,” she said to her giant husband.
“Just carry it back,” the old man answered, “otherwise something bad will happen. These creatures...
In the name of Jesus! The goods that I bury here in secret, I bind and chain with three chains of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I command and conjure you, princes of eight hells: Lucifer, Belzebub, Astarot, Satanos, Stubis, Deis, Janus, Dracus Belial, to depart with all your following, and leave these goods in the hands of man.
I stamp with my foot,
Son of Mary, give power,
give steadfastness to me and my goods,
to remain here in the holy and blessed name,
until I alone raise it again!
In the name of God...
Some of the early kings, thought of as national protectors, are depicted as almost mythical figures.
Legends telling about the first man to clear land and establish a farmstead are usually short and undeveloped. Often these pioneers are remembered as chieftains or kings, and the farm is named after them.
More developed narratives deal with border conflicts and changes in ownership of landholdings.
Jöran Sahlgren, “Ortsnamnssägner,”Saga och sed(1945), 8–16.
Just south of Hjarne’s Mound, in the parish of Tornby, there lies a huge flat rock in the middle of the field.
Once the owner of the field...
Outsiders and strangers have always been looked upon with suspicion, fear, and a certain fascination. In older folk tradition, transient beggars and Finns were often considered thieves, but at the same time, they were ascribed supernormal powers. More recent folk tradition focuses on the inability of migrants to adapt to a modern urban environment. Foreign cultures and subcultures in one’s own country are seen not only as exotic but also as dangerous.
See Magne Velure, “Rykten och vitsar om invandrargrupper,”Kulturell kommunikation(1979), 144–50.
An immigrant family — grandmother and all — moved into an apartment house here in Eskiltuna. After...
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