Medieval Magic Employed In Neighbour Dispute - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Medieval Magic Employed In Neighbour Dispute

Published October 12, 2011

A feud between two neighbours in an Icelandic village has led to one being charged with making a threat of murder, due to his use of a curse that dates back to the Middle Ages.
In Icelandic lore, the níðstöng is an ancient way of placing a curse on someone that involves placing the head of a sheep or calf on top of a pole, and planting it in the ground, with the animal’s head facing the object of your hatred. Here is a photo of one, which was raised in front of parliament in response to the Kárahnjúkar dam project.
The practice is still alive in the countryside, but has now landed one resident of Bíldudalur in legal trouble.
The resident in question, still angry at his neighbour for running over his puppy with a tractor last year, believes that the act was no accident, as they have been feuding for some time. In response, he slaughtered two calves, using the head of one to raise a níðstöng facing his neighbour’s property.
However, accompanying the níðstöng was a sign proclaiming the curse upon his neighbour, as well as the desire to see him “outlawed” (i.e., run off his property) or dead. The neighbour, in turn, has reported the matter to the police as a murder threat.
Police in nearby Patreksfjörður have said that they will talk to the man who raised the níðstöng, although it is unclear what action should be taken – there is no modern law which outlines how the raising of a níðstöng should be best dealt with.

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