The fourth type of sending, and the most peculiar, consists of ghosts raised from natural substances by master sorcerers with comprehensive knowledge of life and matter. These men were supposed to be experts in the substances from which the bodies of men and animals are composed, their construction and their structure. They are said to have made copies thereof, creating forms in which spirits could dwell. These allegedly had the appearance and substance of spectres, or even that of mist and vapour. The substances and their various compounds were stored in vials and had the appearance of a clear liquid. If ingested, they would cause insanity or dementia. If the liquid was poured out of the vial, it took the form of mist or a wisp of steam that could then be inhabited by any evil spirit that was present. If none was nearby, one could be conjured up. A few foreign apothecaries were said to possess these substances and dispense them in secret. Sorcerers would sometimes add substances to animal carcasses that they raised, thus endowing them with new qualities.
Sigfús Sigfússon, Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og sagnir III, p. 203.
Our Monster of the Month comes from the project Duldýrasafnið (“Hidden Beings Museum”) by Arngrimur Sigurðsson. He takes firsthand accounts of creature sightings, like the one above, from Icelandic historical texts, and creates a painting of each one. The book is out now in Icelandic and English. Read our interview with the artist here.
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