West Fjords - Snæfellsnes peninsula

Below are a few pictures of a trip taken in the West Fjords and Snæfellsness.

The West Fjords reverberate with a spectacular beauty. Heavy soaring mountains alternate with unfathomably deep and silent fjords. Very bumpy roads only dotted here and there by tiny fishing villages plunges the visitor in a special atmosphere devoid of the human presence until you get to Isafjordur.

I highlighted below two legends recounted at the Witchcraft and Sorcery museum at Holmavik. The stories, which aim at becoming richer or stealing your neighbour's milk are so far-fetched that it denotes how difficult times must have been in Iceland a few decades ago and what a fertile imagination people had (see below).

A place with a surreal atmosphere I particularly enjoyed was Reykjanes. The hotel Reykjanes used to be a district school founded in 1934. You can still wander around the hotel and see some rooms equipped with teaching equipment. The kitchen is in a classroom with tables, chairs and a blackboard. The birdlife was incredible and with hot water running into the surrounding lake in an utter silence I felt like being at the end of the world.

Guarding Grundarfjörður is the superb mountain called Kirkjufell (463m) which means Church Mountain. It derives its name from its special shape that resembles that of a Church. Danish sailors who often came to the area in earlier times called it"the Sugar Top".

Snæfellsjökull (1446m) is an ancient cone vulcano. In Jules Verne's novel, A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, the entrance to the underground way was through the crater of Snæfellsjökull. There have been many eruptions under and around the glacier, though none since settlement time. Around the turn of last century the glacier was twice the size it is today, then it grew rapidly smaller until about 1960 since when it has remained stable.

Two unordinary tales recounted at the Witchcraft and Sorcery museum at Holmavik

The Tilberi is a strange creature from Icelandic folklore.

If a woman wants to create a tilberi she has to dig up a human rib in a graveyard early on Whitsunday, wrap it in grey wool and preserve it between her breasts. The next three Sundays at communion she has to spit the holy wine on the bundle which will then come alive. Then the woman has to carve a nipple inside her thigh on which the tilberi will hang on and nourish itself. When it is fully grown the woman can send it into the neighbouring pastures to steal milk from cows and sheep.

When the woman becomes old the tilberi becomes a burden and the only way she can get rid of it, is to order it to gather all the sheep-dropping in three high-land pastures. Eager to get back on the nipple the tilberi will overexert itself and explode, leaving only a human rib beside the heap of droppings.

The milk-stealing tilberi is the only magic in Icelandic folklore that can only be performed by women. A fully grown tilberi could lie across a sheep´s back and suck two tits at the same time and when it would roll back to its farm it would spew the milk into its mother churn. The butter made from the milk would fall into little pieces if the magical sign smjörhnútur (butterknot) was drawn on it.

Nábuxur (also known as nábrók, finnabrækur or corpsepants ) or how to make sure to never run out of money as recounted by the Grapevine magazine (April 2009).

To make your pair of corpsepants, you must make an arrangement with a friend or acquaintance that entitles you to make use of his flesh after he’s dead. Make sure that your friend is of the male variety, as the corpsepants’ magical powers reside in the nutsack, which is exclusive to dudes. After your friend passes away, you must venture at night to the graveyard (or wherever he’s buried), exhume the corpse and flay it from the waist down, being extra-careful not to puncture the skin anywhere. There must be no holes, save for the ones you put your legs through. This should leave you with some leg-skin, which you must hoist over your own bare legs as soon as possible.

Once you put them on, the fleshy pants will immediately graft onto your skin. To activate corpsepants power, you must then steal a coin from a poor widow during Christmas, Easter or Pentecost (and you must steal it between the time your minister reads his sermon and the Gospel). Place that coin firmly in the aforementioned nutsack of your cool new pants and voila – you will never be short on spare change again!

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