Icelandic Superstitions: The Magic Wishing Hill - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Icelandic Superstitions: The Magic Wishing Hill

Icelandic Superstitions: The Magic Wishing Hill

Published November 29, 2019

Photo by
Art Bicnick

Some Icelandic superstitions are specific to one particular place—don’t touch this rock, don’t try building a road through this hill, and such—but one of the more fascinating local legends concerns Helgafell, a large hill on the Snæfellsnes peninsula (not to be confused with the other Helgafells that can be found elsewhere in the country).

Your heart’s desire

Helgafell translates to “sacred mountain,” and the location has a rich history, having even been mentioned in Laxdæla saga as a place of early settlement. It is also the resting place of the incomparable Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir, Iceland’s first nun and recluse.

What makes Helgafell particularly special to Icelanders today, though, is the folk belief in its wish-granting powers—but not without the wish bearer following some very specific instructions. First, you have to walk three times counterclockwise around Guðrún’s grave. Then, you must ascend Helgafell without looking up or around you, without saying a word, and without any bad thoughts in your mind. Once at the summit, you may make your wish. It will come true, legend has it, if you followed all the instructions and tell no one what your wish was.

Pure drama

It is unclear why this particular hill has been bestowed with such magical properties, but it likely has something to do with Guðrún’s very dramatic and often supernatural life. Either way, it remains a popular spot for its beauty, and for making wishes. It can’t hurt, right?

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