Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Icelandic Elves: Is There Reason to Believe?

The belief in elves in Iceland isn’t talked about amongst the people, but if privately polled, a great deal of them believe. The elves are supposedly associated with the Celtic origins of the people and adapted to their rocky surroundings. In fact, people believed the elves lived in rocky caves and rock outcroppings and in gardens that contain a lot of stones. It is for this reason that they’re hesitant to plow down earth and rock for roadways and new construction. A roadway had even been averted to avoid bothering the homeland of elves. Apparently, efforts to break a large rock for a roadway was met with equipment breaking down constantly. They finally gave up and left it.

The country even has mystics and elf communicators when the locals need permission or access to new areas. Such a concept seems quite strange, but remember that in America we have people who burn sage, bless homes, and regularly communicate with the dead through psychics. We also have those who believe they communicate regularly with aliens and ghosts. There are whole industries based on this, i.e. “Ghost Hunters” and “Miss Cleo.” One such Icelandic psychic said, “I think elves want people to preserve nature.” That's the kind of message I want to hear.

When you look at the creation of folklore such as elves, you have to look at it within the context of the surroundings. For instance, the Christian Church uses tote-ism (eating flesh/drinking blood) which was a pagan practice. When a new religion was begun, it took elements from what had been and adapted it. Should people from Celtic lands have elves, they can enter Icelandic mythology but be adapted to the surroundings. This is a country that is extremely beautiful and bleak and yet dynamic. There is seismic activity, hot springs, geysers, and volcanoes, in a mix that can only be called “potent” for phenomenon.

Wikipedia describes the geology of Iceland as,“unique and of particular interest to geologists. Iceland lies on the geologic rift between the Eurasian plate and the North American plate. It also lies above a hotspot, the Iceland plume, which is believed to have caused the formation of Iceland itself. The result is an island of volcanism and geothermal phenomena such as geysers. Because of the special geological situation in Iceland, the high concentration of volcanoes and geothermal energy are very often used for heating and production of electricity.

Imagine that power? Imagine those dynamics of being where two tectonic plates meet? Imagine the volcanic and seismic activity? I like to look for things within their context. Repeatedly, the Icelanders associate elves with rocks. The very rocks from a volcanic, dynamic environment are attributed with magical beings.

What do you think? Is it entirely possible that living in a place with so much Earth activity, electrical interruptions, equipment breakdown, and other strange phenomenon could be associated with the geology of the area? Then, with these things occurring and the people taking note of an extensively rocky environment, blame it on something hiding in the rocks.

Yes, something hiding in the rocks…

I’ve talked about the geology of haunted sites and whether the Earth itself creates phenomenon such as spooklights and strange occurrences like seen in the Romanian forest on “Destination Truth” where the man appeared to be thrown. The case of Iceland and its elves seems to be a natural and expected folklore. In fact, where you hear ghost stories and you hear strange phenomenon and elemental creatures spoken of, you might be encountering a combination that’s got some truth to it.

It could certainly be that the sense of “something being in the rocks” is a very astute reaction by people who grew up in this dynamic terrain and have felt this presence and witnessed strange “Earth nightmares,” and have created a folklore to explain it. In the context of where they live, the elves in the rocks story is a perfectly logical explanation in order to continue to live in such dynamics and unpredictability.


  1. Would be cool to find one some day! :)

  2. There HAS to be some sort of explanation for this stuff in Iceland. I've also heard of similar incidents in Japan, where some believe in spirits of some nature, that (SURPRISE) live in gardens and rocky outcroppings. Interesting how two VERY cultures far away from each other would have similar mythology. Curious...

  3. Those things look terrifying. I bet they can bite through bone too. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. Yes, I don't think it's a coincidence that from the stones elemental creatures emerge for a lot of cultures including Polynesians (Easter Island) and the builders of stone monuments in countries all over the world, even when wood was more convenient...

  5. I've never heard of this before... Very interesting. It's hard to sort out what is folklore and what is fact, but we all have to remember to keep and open mind and not be quick to rule out things just because they sound ridiculous. I love the quote from Dustin Hoffman's character in Stranger than Fiction: "Let's start with ridiculous and move backwards."

  6. It is interesting to note that in Norse culture, where many of the Icelandic people come from, there was a clear distinction between swartalfar (dark elves) who are associated with the dwarves and lived in the earth and lichtalfar (light elves) who lived in another world on the great tree, Ygdrassil.

    I've also read stories of people in Iceland having issues with cutting down trees or bushes that they associated with the elves. So, it seems to me that the elves are spirits of the land as well as being associated with the powers beneath the earth,

    Fun stuff!!

  7. Well as I've said before, people have a hard time believing in something they can't see or prove exists.

    I'm Cherokee and although I have never personally seen a "Little Person" or fairy, I still believe they exist. Maybe I'm crazy. So what!

    This was a wonderful post!

  8. We definitely could open our minds to local cultures and they mythos because they were born from some natural causes, such as Bigfoot in the storytelling of Native Americans or the Mountain Gorilla reported by locals in Africa. Storm-you're right about that elves. They have a hard time deciding on and allowing construction of roadways and such that might cut down important dwellings of these creatures. That kind of respect is a beautiful thing because it makes people stop and think a bit before chopping up their landscape.