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Very Superstitious- Þrettándinn folklore

  • Blog
  • Louise Jones
  • 07-01-2016 12:21:38

Yesterday was Þrettándinn in Iceland, otherwise known as "the thirteenth", or Twelth Night. After such brilliant Christmas and New Year season in Iceland (did you see those fireworks?), Þrettándinn is a chance for one last shindig before going back to everyday life. It's even known as Second New Year's Eve- partly because if it rains on NYE, this is the perfect opportunity to hold a belated party.

However, historians know that Þrettándinn used to be known as a time for spooky goings-on, where fairies and elves would pass into our world. Here are ten top mystical traditions that supposedly happen at Þrettándinn- see if you believe them all!

1- Bonfires and elf dances

You'll often see large bonfires on Þrettándinn but did you know they're normally associated with fairies and elves? They're said to go home on this day (see 6) so some local celebrations will elect Fairy Kings and Queens to lead elf dances round the fire. Apparetly this has been a tradition since 1907!

2- Follow your dreams

No, really follow those dreams. If you have a dream on the night of Þrettándinn, it's meant to hold clues about your future. This a belief that comes from the fact that Þrettándinn mark the beginning of Epiphany, when in Christianity the Three Wise Men found out about the birth of Jesus through a dream.

3- Udderly unbelievable

We all chew the cud, but on this night that becomes a lot more apt- according to a lot of folklore, the night makes cows chat. Don't listen to them for too long though. There are a few stories about a young man who hangs round in the barn after he's finished work as a cowhand. Suddenly he's surrounded by cows reciting rhyming couplets (think Dr Suess levels of nonsensical). In some versions, he escapes the shed, whereas in others he listens for too long and goes mad.

4- Seals go...clubbing?

As if cows telling each other stories wasn't weird enough, seals are said to transform into humans on this night (!). They shed their seal skins and in their naked human form dance on the beaches of Iceland. However, they've got to have their seal skin again at the end of the night or they cannot return to the sea. If you see a seal skin lying around that night, I wouldn't recommend taking it home...

5- Say goodbye to the Yule Lads

It's officially the last day you'll see a Yule Lad! Those jolly troll lads are the poster boys of Christmas in Iceland- and now Christmas is over, it's time for them to go back to their mountain homes til next December. They all leave one at a time- the last to go is Candle Beggar (hopefully not swiping the candles on his way out of town).

6- Away with the fairies

We're not just saying goodbye to the Yule Lads- fairies and elves leave their dwellings on this day to find a new house. It's like a big moving day for the magic world. In some traditions, you'd have to walk around your house asking for well-being from new spirits who are moving in, as well as to your departing house spirit.

7- Be patient at crossroads

If you miss the elves and fairies around your house, sit at a crossroad and wait. Tradition says you'll be met by an elf who'll offer gifts of food, gold, or mystical sight. Don't accept straightaway- fortune favours the incrdibly polite as eople who accept the gifts straight away are said to go mad. If you wait all night however, at daylight the elves go on their way, leaving the gifts with you.

8- Pint of water, anyone?

Water can turn into alcohol as well. Traditionally wine. This is only according to some folklore, however- you might want to doble check before you order a bottle of water at dinner. In any case, water takes on powers more potent than ever that day- does that made it a superfood?

9- Suddenly I see

This is an abstract one- the belief that is something is hidden, this is the week it'd open up to you. Though it might sound like a horoscope reading, it's from an old tale of a shepherd who uses a hidden evergreen mountain valley. Don't go searching for these hidden things, though- you might be punished for curiosity.

10- Chase out Christmas

Sadly it is the end of Christmas, no matter how long you leave your tinsel up for. Be careful if you are gong to take that risk- it's bad luck to leave your decorations up after 6th January. Icelandic tradition says you have to "burn out, eat up and play out Christmas". Everyone burns out the last of their candles, eats up leftover Christmas food, and plays out the long evenings with card games.


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