The Strandir area in the West Fjords has always been notorious for witchcraft. The Strandagaldur Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft in Holmavik features an audio tour from museum manager Sigurdur Atlason, exploring the real story behind Iceland’s history with the occult.
The museum exhibits the legacy of the people of Strandir, and its findings are mostly from records kept by villagers in the 17th century from 1654 to 1680. The number of Icelanders burned for witchcraft is still being debated; however, although most of the accused confessed to some occult knowledge or possession of runes, some confessed to nothing, claiming their innocence till death. On record, 21 burned and only one woman among them.
The witches of Strandir excelled at raising the dead. When the ghosts rose, they would be used as minions by those who raised them. These witches also used spells for catching thieves, stealing milk and changing the weather — the tools they used are all on display.
Exhibited are healing spells that were written on animal skins and wrapped around the body. In addition to two Icelandic spell books, the museum holds the recipe for ‘Fireballs’ that were cast in the late 17th century to sink ships which ceased commerce to the area, as well as exhibits of Necropants, charms to win at wrestling, a weather staff and an ‘invisible boy’. The showpiece of the exhibit is an authentic bloodbowl, used in 1600 to communicate with gods.
More enigmatic then the relics themselves are the accusers: the genealogy of the upper-class is heavily documented and the museum’s historical merits stem from records from the clergy and one family of sheriffs (6 sons and 6 daughters). This family was linked to the witch-hunting either through being a judge, an accuser or an accused. Many of them had studied in Denmark and Germany before attempting to bring the witch-hunt craze to Iceland to rid their people of ‘undesirables’.
Bring the kids.
Witch Museum in Strandir
Höfðagata 8, 510 Hólmavík
Tel: 451 3525
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