Icelandic Superstitions: The Snipes Are Not What They Seem - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Icelandic Superstitions: The Snipes Are Not What They Seem

Icelandic Superstitions: The Snipes Are Not What They Seem

Published August 8, 2019

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Wikimedia Commons

Icelanders, especially in ye olden times, have always lived in close connection with their natural environments. It is then unsurprising that amongst the roster of Icelandic superstitions there are a fair many which involve animals in some way.

Consider the humble common snipe, for example. You might regard it as a funny little bird with a long, comical beak, but Icelandic superstition ascribes great power to this animal, in particular, from which direction you first hear its song when spring arrives.

According to an ancient rhyme, the song of the snipe heard coming from the east promises wealth; from the south, happiness; from the west, illness; and from the north, death. Pray you don’t hear the snipe’s song coming from the north (or better yet, remain ignorant of what the song of the snipe is in the first place).

The song of the plover carries less supernatural power, but is nonetheless significant in being able to predict the weather: a staccato song predicts rain, while a more trilling song indicates sunshine is on the way.

Icelandic animal superstitions aren’t all about birds, though. The modest wood mouse, for example, warns people if the winter to come is going to be a harsh one simply by making itself seen in one’s home.

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