Survey: many Icelanders believe in elves and ghosts

According to this report in the Iceland Review, Terry Gunnell, associate folklore professor at the University of Iceland, has surveyed Icelanders and discovered a large number who believe in elves and ghosts (and a larger number who wouldn't rule them out).
Only 13 percent of participants in the study said it is impossible that elves exist, 19 percent found it unlikely, 37 percent said elves possibly exist, 17 percent found their existence likely and eight percent definite. Five percent did not have an opinion on the existence of elves.

More admitted to believing in ghosts. Only seven percent said their existence was impossible, 16 percent unlikely, 41 percent possible, 18 percent likely and 13 percent definite. Four percent had no opinion on the existence of ghosts.

I can't locate the research (here's the researcher's website), and I'm not sure how that compares to other western societies, though I believe it to be higher than US, UK and Canadian beliefs in supernatural phenomena (apart from those incorporated into Abrahamic religions) (oh, and homeopathy).

Iceland Still Believes in Elves and Ghosts (via Reddit)


    1. Because dear CL114C0777498D someone believing in “magic” based on centuries old religions/faith are not exactly on the same level who believe there are sprites who live in the woods just to harass you.

      1. why is it not exactly the same? their belief in elves has been around for centuries too. both are belief in supernatural entities with no verifiable real-world evidence. the the abrahamic god may be ‘bigger’ in scope than wood sprites… but to me that just makes it more crazy.

        i seriously do not see the difference. “the same level”? it is a belief in something that can’t be observed… i didn’t know there were levels of “can’t be observed”.

        1. i seriously do not see the difference. “the same level”? it is a belief in something that can’t be observed… i didn’t know there were levels of “can’t be observed”.

          OK. I’ll lay it out or you. It’s called “snark,” and Cory likes to insert it on occasion, especially when it’s about religion.You see, the article wasn’t really about religion, so that was the way he came up with inserting the snark.

          1. You see, the article wasn’t really about religion

            Correct, the article is about people having silly belief systems.  Religion certainly isn’t anything like that.

          2. Funny, nobody else said their beliefs were silly. Now you’re looking judgmental to those who believe in elves, ghosts,  Muslims, the holy spirit, the religious Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics. 

            If people want to believe in ghosts or divine energies that’s hardly more absurd than believing in empiricism. A worldview that assumes your senses actually perceive the world correctly.

          3. Funny, nobody else said their beliefs were silly

            Correct.  Elves, ghosts and fairies are serious business.

            If people want to believe in ghosts or divine energies that’s hardly more absurd than believing in empiricism. A worldview that assumes your senses actually perceive the world correctly.

            Please don’t bore me to death with a false dichotomy:

            With a sprinkling of extended analogy:

            And a dash of projection.  (I never said I worshipped empiricism in replace of elves)

            You’re going to have to try your grade school fallacious arguments on someone else.  No worky here.


          4. “those who believe in elves, ghosts,  Muslims, the holy spirit, the religious Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics.”

            Well, I don’t believe in elves, ghosts, or the holy spirit, but I do believe in Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and agnostics, having empirically observed numerous examples of the latter four. 

          5. oh. … thanks for clearing that up for me Ambiguity.

            I hope I’m not the only one who is giggling uncontrollably at the irony in that comment.

        2. One is at its base predicated on the existence of an entity outside of the Universe, which makes it inherently unobservable by direct means. The other is predicated on the existence of things that live in the woods behind your house, that one could quite possibly run into when one went out for a walk.

          That is not the same. Scale is important, but frame of reference even more so.

          1. “outside of the Universe”?? It sounds like you do not understand the meaning of the word “universe”, which is not surprising given the rationalization you make between elves, sprites, and a supernatural being who somehow cares if the Patriots win the Superbowl at the same time he(?) creates new strands of viruses. Both notions are ridiculous, regardless of scale.  

        3. Perhaps because Robber Barons and their simpering, toady scholars have ‘validated’ those reality models which are indicated by bahaviours characteristic of invasive species — if the reality model ‘takes hold’ in environments which it has not developed out of, the model must somehow be a more valid (successful) ‘species’. Imagine if biologists assessed cane toads, rabbits, pine beetles, various angiosperms, fungi, et cetera using the same ‘method’. Oh the Pythonesque hilarity of it all!

      2. Uh… norse folk religion and ancestral cult is traceable with some level of cult continuity back to the early bronze age at least.

        And what’s this talk about “levels”? Since when was a funny hat and an expensive building mandatory in order to have your religion taken seriously? Either it’s all serious as cancer, or it’s all magic wands and unicorn farts. In a secular society, you don’t get special treatment for your favourite fairy story.

      3. I’m not sure I would distinguish between a belief in a sprite that lives in the woods just to harass you and a sprite who lives in the sky just to harass you. As for sprites who live in the tubes just to harass you, we have mountains of evidence for their existence…

  1. Over 30% of Americans claim they believe in supply-side economics.  That’s a helluva lot wackier than elves and ghosts.

  2. What kind of elves?  The little ones akin to the ones who work for Keebler making the cookies?  Or tall ones like Legolas?

  3. The belief in faeries in Iceland is an external manifestation of the desire to conserve the environment. Icelanders nearly destroyed themselves through deforestation in the middle ages and it has left its mark on the society.

    1. Lacan would appreciate this sweeping generalization. However, I do not think I am Lacan. Thus I declare your claim to be a ‘Twiggy’ — pretty to some, yet anorexic to most if not all.

  4. You may find this video illuminating:  

    “I think the world would be a better place if more people had sex with elves,” says not-at-all-apparently-insane (Icelandic, in case you had any doubt) elf sex expert Hallgedur Hallgrimsdottir.  “Sex with people is boring.”

    NSFW, contains stick-figure illustrations and cheerful spoken descriptions of human/elf sex.  

    Or you can read her really quite entirely sane blog at

  5. I can’t find a reference now, but ISTR a story about a new freeway getting re-routed so as to go around an area where elves lived.

    1. ISTR a story about a new freeway getting re-routed so as to go around an area where elves lived.
      I spent about 100 clicks last night trying to find a concrete reference to this, but every single mention to this story (and there are many) is about as strongly sourced as mine. I think the story may be apocryphal, though I do like it for tourism purposes.

  6. I believe there are evil little creatures from another world on this planet sent to destroy us!  I call them politicians!

  7. I still find these reports amazingly odd. I think I was 5 or 6 when I found out that Santa-Claus didn’t exist, and within 30 minutes had realised there were no supernatural entities, from God to elves and everything inbetween.

    My only explanation for this is that I’m one of the very few people on this planet who wasn’t abused as a child and can therefore think logically.

    1. My only explanation for this is that I’m one of the very few people on this planet who wasn’t abused as a child and can therefore think logically.

      I find the existence of elves and ghosts far more probable.

      1. Hi Antinous!

        “I find the existence of elves and ghosts far more probable.”

        Well it’s a bit touch and go for me. I.e the flash is more likely to exist than superman, by virtue of having less power. God, who over the last few centuries has lost nearly all of his “powers”, would probably get pwned by an elf who have (if anything) been gaining powers as a mythology over the years.

        Really the monotheistic “God” that Christians and their Jewish/Islamic/etc/etc brothers worship today would probably be quite long odds against myself in the ring, particularly if we’re allowed to use weapons. I haven’t seen any bible evidence for God being a good shooter, and my many hours of counter-strike practice should make me the strong betting favourite in such an encounter. Hell, mythological jebus would have stood a better chance, at least he has healing powers like the hot girl from Heroes, what’s God got going for him these days? Slices of toast with pictures of his son on them?

        Bring it on God. I’m waiting.

    2. My only explanation for this is that I’m one of the very few people on this planet who wasn’t abused as a child and can therefore think logically.

      Have you ever actually thought about the vastness of space or questioned why we are here to begin with? I would like to hear your “logical” explanation. Because while I am personally not religious, I cannot come up with any reasonable explanation for existence or the universe itself. It kind of makes no sense, you know? But maybe I am not “logical” enough to understand.

      1. Hi Jack,

        just because one cannot explain everything doesn’t mean one need invent supernatural entities to describe the world. Are you suggesting one should? (ok, sorry, that is a bit silly, of course you aren’t).

        Forget the vastness of space and things like that though, I can’t even explain why a coffee mug exists, as there is no explanation as to why ANYTHING exists at all. However I’m sure you would agree that this failing does not necessitate the existence of supernatural phenomena, if anything, the entire universe itself is such a phenomonon.

        Can you clarify a bit further as to what you are driving at though? You’re asking for my “logical” solution, when all I stated was that it was only logical to negate the existence of supernatural entities once you realise Santa-Claus doesn’t exist. If I had seen a large bunny hopping around leaving chocolate eggs, then I’d have evidence for the bunny, but that still wouldn’t be any evidence at all for jebus/elves/Santa-Claus.

      2. Have you ever actually thought about the vastness of space or questioned why we are here to begin with?

        I’m sorry but what does that even mean? I can understand a question about “HOW we are here to begin with?”, but not “why we are here to begin with?” – and the former we can answer quite well. After all, when we ask “why” we often mean “how” – like when we ask “why is the sky blue?”, we are actually interested in identifying the processes as a result of which the sky appears blue to us. The proper sense of “why”, to me, has always been a question about high-level motivations and thought processes – as in “why did you punch your brother?”, “why do you find all reasonable explanations of existence insufficient?”, and so on.

        So, when it comes to questions about existence, whose motivations and thought processes are you interested in? We obviously had no choice in the matter of our existence (let alone that of the universe), so it cannot be our own, and there is no evidence for anything else having motivations and thought processes that can be queried at the “why” level. As a result, the question of “why are we here?” has no sensible answer, because, as phrased, it is not a sensible question.

        Indeed, it is a problem shared by all questions of a similar vein – looking at some of the answers given to “what is the meaning of life?”, for instance, shows that the question, which is also not sensible as asked, is actually a fancy way of saying “what can I do to make myself feel happy and important, without pissing other people off?”

      3. I have. And my reasonable explanation is that simply there is no reasonable explanation. Why should there be? I believe Existence and the Universe simply ‘are’. There is as much reason as an ant asking why a rock is there. Elves, God, ghosts and ghouls… – they are all the result of people trying using their imagination to explain things to themselves.

      1. What is so unfortunate is that we all do know. So often people who are mentally unstable in later life have been abused as a child (the statistics on this are staggering). If you have managed to become a better human through your abuse as a child, that’s wonderful, but it’s still horrible how many are abused, and how many are simply unable to recover.

        1. Yet reaffirming their identities through a victim model just doesn’t seem to make any sense to me. Unless you want to more easily control other conscious agents. Then it makes more sense.

          1. genre slur – “Unless you want to more easily control other conscious agents.”

            Oh I do indeed my good chum. However the methodology has not been entirely worked out yet. The interface keeps causing premature death.

  8. Well aren’t we so much more clever than those silly iceland-folk. Their elves aren’t of the legolas variety. And I for one believe in their elves and their ghosts. 

  9. Perhaps for many it is their way of saying there are phenomena in the world that we do not have the technology explain. It manifests itself in elves, ghosts, UFOs, etc. Most sightings are just poor observation skills or the emotional need to see something or bring attention to oneself. But we would be pretty egotistical to say that we know everything about the physical world around us. I never say never because those who have said it in the past are usually proven wrong. Are there elves, ghosts or alien craft all around us? Probably not. Is there something causing unexplained phenomena? Very possibly. And its fun to speculate about them.

    1. Most sightings are just poor observation skills or the emotional need to see something or bring attention to oneself.

      It could also be someone is manifesting repressed memories via “ghosts”, “goblins” & “elves.”  Someone who doesn’t feel right saying “Someone diddled me!” will say something like “A ghost visited me last night!”

      1. This way of thinking led to the Satanic Ritual Abuse folly of the Eighties. I personally find the repressed meme-thing fairly suspect.

        1. This way of thinking led to the Satanic Ritual Abuse folly of the Eighties. I personally find the repressed meme-thing fairly suspect.

          The “Satanic Ritual Abuse folly of the Eighties” has 100% nothing to do with normal human behavior to sublimate the painful experiences from one thing into another. What happened in the 1980s is some idiots latched onto that concept and perverted it for their own purposes. That alone does not dispel the concept that painful memories often manifest themselves in odd ways in folks who are not equipped to know how to handle it.

          1. I would say “may manifest” rather than “often manifest”. That’s what I’m driving toward, is all :)

          2. Look, you who doesn’t believe painful memories often manifest themselves in odd ways go hang out with the Mensa candidate named “Pete!” who said that they are “…one of the very few people on this planet who wasn’t abused as a child and can therefore think logically…” and form some reading club or knitting circle or something. Maybe there’s a late night talk show two can tag team calling on speed dial? But whatever. The both of you are too smart for any of us goobers!

          3. How was genre slur suggesting that at all Jack?

            Also really all my comments have been as jovial in tone as I can make them within the limitations of text, with the exception being the statement that prompted genre’s reply.

            You seem to be taking something personally here when nearly all of the above has been said in jest. (please correct me if I am wrong, I’m really struggling to determine if you’re angry or joking, and that is my fault as I’m running on low sleep).

          4. Although I fantasize about sleeping 8+ hours, in reality I feel like crap if I sleep more than 6.

          5. Bingo. Last time I slept more than 8 (ten) I spent the first third of the day confused/grouchy, and the second third feeling guilty for sleeping. Also, sleeping more than eight DOES NO justice to Rudy Rucker’s notion of ‘unfurling the lazy Eight’.

          6. Apparently, most people need 8 – 9, but there’s a subset that only needs 6 -7. And it’s familial, so it may be genetic.

          7. Come now. As a fellow BBer, I a priori love you! Also, I am closer to truly ignorant than most humans! It just seems weird for me to think that may happen, because my odd manifestations came from being programmed too believe a reality model (IE Catholicism), whereas my painful memories made me sublimate into making stuff (art) and wanting to have sex more than most people admit to wanting. That’s all!

    1. What are you talking about?  There’s plenty of talking snakes.  Haven’t you seen the latest Republican debates?

  10. Actually, elves have a big impact on their politics. Resting elves/goblins/etc manifest as big rocks, often eccentric boulders. If someone wants to develop land around these goblin stones, they get a lot of pushback. So belief in elves shows up as anti-development/pro-environment. 

    Not a bad thing, I guess.

    1. Yeah, but why do they have those beliefes about where stuff can and can’t be built? It wasn’t an elaborate scam started by forward thinking Vikings with a manipulative streak, it’s because apparently if you build in a place you aren’t supposed to, bad stuff happens. These people aren’t idiot children.

    2. Developer: a person who wants to build a house in the woods.
      Environmentalist: a person who already has a house in the woods.

  11. I believe in The Phone Company, because I’m pretty sure they exist and if they didn’t, I’d feel awfully stupid for paying the bills they’re always sending me.

  12. @Jack,
    Your conclusion that there is no “reasonable explanation for the existence of the universe itself” sounds perfectly logical to me given information we have to work with.

  13. I, frankly, have as much of a concern about someone who says it is impossible for ghosts (or elves, or UFOs, or telekinesis, or telepathy, or God, or any of the rest of mankind’s unprovable beliefs) to exist as I do for those who say it definitely does.

    Such a person apparently considers themselves to be all-knowing. And that scares me.

    The people who seem most sensible to me are in the “unlikely” bucket.

    1. No-one here, or anywhere really, has ever said that these things are impossible. They just say that there is no reliable evidence for these things. That’s a very different thing to say.

    2. I’m not sure why you’d have more concern with someone who definitely doesn’t believe in a polka-dot space monster controlling the actions of their genitals over someone who definitely does believe such a thing or leaves it open to question…

      To each their own, I suppose.  But, I definitely wouldn’t want the latter responsible for watching over a child, performing heart surgery on a loved one, etc.   But, they can wax my car maybe (if supervised by a rational adult).

      Nonetheless, just to give you some cognitive dissonance… this:

    3. “Multi-Model Agnosticism or BUST” –the ‘ghost’ of Robert Anton Wilson, channeled through a ‘wood elf’.

  14. The English “elf” has its origin in the Germanic alfar. Tolkien’s elves were explicitly and apparently fairly faithfully based on the alfar. There are two kennings that also give a clue as to their nature, aelfsciene, “elf-shining”, for “beautiful”, and Álfröðull, “elf-glory”, for the sun. In some source the alfar are identified with the Vanir, a “race” of gods that includes siblings Frey and Freyja. Dwarves (dvergr) are a swarthy, earthy species of alfar.

    In folklore elves became small in Elizabethan times or before, it’s not a Victorian invention, although they did go nuts with it. A Midsummer Night’s Dream has elves and fairies the size of flowers.

    The Icelandic word is “huldufólk”, which might mean “hidden folk” or it might mean “Huld’s folk” or both, Huld possibly being cognate with Holda, a Germanic goddess of winter and the distaff. It might not be related to the alfar, but then this “little magical people” thing seems to pop up all over the world. For instance, the Thais build little houses for the spirits so they don’t bother humans in human buildings.

    The huldufólk are heathen of course, while Icelanders are Christian, and the latter have been known to build little churches for the former in an attempt to convert them. So clearly no priest can complain!

  15. Elves and ghosts, what a bunch of superstitious nonsense. Gaia hypothesis and psychics, they’re completely different. Completely.

    (This is snark, for those who don’t see that. The point I’m driving at is we snicker at the words “elf” and “ghost” because of our cultural exposure, but we invent other words for similar concepts that we find more culturally acceptable.)

  16. Elves, fairies and the like in stories have a reputation for appearing as mysterious lights in the sky, and for abducting people and fucking around with them in bizarre and manipulative ways, so it’s not unreasonable to identify them with modern UFO experience.

  17. I’ve experienced two ‘non-logical’ events witnessed by other intelligent persons.  I’m lost for a reason or an explanation.

    I’d be interested to see data on how many people have experienced something unexplainable and do/don’t believe in ghosts/elves/angels

    1. I have also experienced 3 non-logical events, I have no explanation and after those particular experiences I don’t bother to rule anything out anymore. I just observe, note, and keep going without judgement because I have come to realize that I know nothing. To assume to know is stupidity.

  18. If you look at the various folkloristic descriptions, it was originally not really a question of “belief” in fairies or elves. It was a question of experience – whether people experienced them or not. cf. the many very livid eye witness accounts documented by W.B. Yeats in his “Celtic Twilight”. Or cf. good ole AE in his “Candle of Vision”, which I quoted on my own blog the other day: I began to be astonished with myself, for, walking along country roads, intense and passionate imaginations of another world, of an interior nature began to overpower me. They were like strangers who suddenly enter a house, who brush aside the doorkeeper, and who will not be denied. Soon I knew they were the rightful owners and heirs of the house of the body, and the doorkeeper was only one who was for a time in charge, who had neglected his duty, and who had pretended to ownership. The boy who existed before was an alien. He hid himself when the pilgrim of eternity took up his abode in the dwelling. Yet, whenever the true owner was absent, the sly creature reappeared and boasted himself as master once more.That being from a distant country who took possession of the house began to speak in a language difficult to translate. I was tormented by limitations of understanding. Somewhere about me I knew there were comrades who were speaking to me, but I could not know what they said. As I walked in the evening down the lanes scented by the honeysuckle my senses were expectant of some unveiling about to take place, I felt that beings were looking in upon me out of the true home of man. They seemed to be saying to each other of us, “Soon they will awaken; soon they will come to us again,” and for a moment I almost seemed to mix with their eternity. The tinted air glowed before me with intelligible significance like a face, a voice. Of course, people have no reason to believe in strange invisible things they can’t experience empirically. So when people in the past have “believed” such things, it is obviously (from the source material) due to empirical experience. That means the notion of elves is not a “superstition”, it’s a model employed to understand and describe the world. Just like Bohr’s atomic model, but in a different way. Based on AE’s description, today we might prefer an explanation of the experience in the psychological or neurological realm, but would that be better at understanding the first-hand phenomenon as such?

  19. I certainly hope that elf existence is not dependent on human belief, as with fairies. If so, the irresponsible question posed by this study has been catastrophic to the elf community.

    (Quick, everyone: I *do* believe in elves, I do, I do!)

    1. I find it funny that in the 21st century, trolls got this brand-spanking new reference, whereas elves, pixies, et cetera, do not seem to have any new significations. Maybe online, an ‘elf’ can be in contra-distinction to a ‘troll’. For example, an online elf can be one who posts excessively Fortean responses/subject matter. And ‘pixie’ can refer to people who post stuff in order to disorient, confuse and strangely delight others. Just an off the cuff (IE tired) suggestion.

  20. I’m not sure why all of this is really news. The Icelanders are well known for never having given up their belief in fairy folk, regardless of what you want to name them. Most of the peoples of at least Northern and Western Europe, historically, believed in such things and they only died out in much of Europe during the last few hundred years. Plenty of my Irish ancestors, within the last 200 years, were still leaving out milk for the little people to keep them happy on the farm.

    As others have mentioned, there have been quite a few incidents in the last few decades where development was blocked or relocated because particular boulders or areas were seen by Icelanders to be inhabited by elves and people related this or requests from said elves not to destroy their homes. Take from that what you will but the Icelanders seem to take it seriously, whether people here find it hilarious or not.

  21. “Only 13 percent of participants in the study said it is impossible that elves exist, 19 percent found it unlikely, 37 percent said elves possibly exist, 17 percent found their existence likely and eight percent definite. Five percent did not have an opinion on the existence of elves.”

    …of the remaining 1 percent, roughly half of the participants blushed violently before disappearing with a small plopping noise, leaving a vaguely lavender-colored cloud of smoke behind, while the rest (some 30 individuals) suddenly grew warts, claws and horns and tried to eat the interviewers.


    for more info 


  22. these comments have gone from elves and fairies, to religion and the universe, to lack of sleep. i would just like to say it all depends on the person and how they were raised as a kid to now. call me a psychoanalyst but people react on what they are told. for most people, kids are led to believe in santa clause from the time they are born until the parents let it slip or the older sibling ruins it. like wise in Iceland they were told of these stories of elves and fairies in the nearest forest (figuratively and/or literally.)

    It could even be that a particular place in Iceland, in the 1300s) bad disasters happened and a man made up these great stories of elves that controlled weather or trees; the lack of knowledge led people to believe in these creatures. Confusion then caused people to “see” out of their peripherals unexplained lights or movements which led to fear and hysteria. Our fears and desires are best expressed in dreams, dreams that can cause a little child to cry or an old man to be motivated to choose or think differently.

    As much as i would love to believe in Legolas or peter pan. These stories were only made to sweeten life, be a religion, (for a few of you) and keep us wondering and dreaming. the greatest things made in life once started as a dream. this is what keeps life interesting.

    oh as as far as the ghosts why is it in the Bible the ghosts or angels first words were “Fear not…”
    because people would be frighten. i think ghosts and angels are the same thing, its all just how people perceive them, or their experience of creaking stairs to barely opened windows that make a whistling noise that chills the spine. why is it that kids are afraid of the closet or under their bed vs. an adult. they both have closets and beds but the adult isn’t afraid because of their knowledge. they know that nothing will startle them in the night except their alarm clock. the reason why “when a stranger calls” and “disturbia” is more frightening than “the messengers” is because psychopaths are a higher threat than ghosts.
    I think the 13% that said they definitely believe in Elves have had some “eye witnessing experience” because no one believes in faith or the word of a man anymore…
    I have faith in my religion, but a random strangers word is as good as dirt. until they no longer become a stranger. (my point) 

  23. Speaking as an Icelander, to me boils down to 3 customs which are sort of common in Iceland, and mostly among the older generations. Reference for certain boulders or hills as “Huldufolk'” abodes.  Explaining sounds, slamming doors and such as ghosts. Kind of common everywhere and especially in rural farmland with lots of sounds and isolation to cope with. And finally “Berdreymi” or “dreamtelling” is big among the older generation. My grandmother at 13 dreamed that the house she lived in was yellow except for a window on the third floor. That week the house burned down and the survivors which escaped went out from that window. Most of this is more of a custom than a belief system. I have a cousin who is a farmer and does not touch a hill in his land because his dad said there where Huldufolk in there. His dad had never witnessed anything but his dad said there where Huldufolk in the hill. His granddad never witnessed anything but his dad…… etc.etc. 

  24. And how many Americans believe that the pompous man in the funny dress magickally transforms mere wine into Zombie Blood every Sunday?

    I’ve seen ghosts and find it very likely that something we might call elves exist in some sense.

  25. I really don’t belong here. I need to be living in the future where beliefs such as these are long gone. Is the 24th century too soon (the non-apocalyptic versions of course)?

  26. As a U.S. expat in Iceland I find the Icelandic conversion to Christianity much more interesting than the belief in elves.  Basically, their top druid said.  “Right.  We’re all gonna say we’re Christian now so we don’t get the crap stomped out of us by Crusaders too lazy to go all the way to the Holy Land, but you can do whatever you like at your own home altars.”  Seems to me to get at the core of religion — not getting your ass stomped by a higher power.

    Church and State are not separate here, but to my surprise this has actually turned religion toothless — as nobody who gets money from the state wants to rock the boat too much with crazy calls to burn Harry Potter.  

  27. Hey, leave the Icelanders alone. Until the US population stops paying attention to, or reading, their daily horoscopes and stops teaching “intelligent design” and creationism, there is no room to throw stones.

  28. Sounds like a good time for everyone to re-read the Cosmic Trigger trilogy. But of course I could post that in every comment thread on every blog there is. If I had a longer lunch break.

  29. Joe Young:
    [praying] If You don’t want me to do this, just give me a sign.

    [an earthquake tears through Hollywood]

    Joe Young:
    Any sign at all.

    (Have to watch Orgazmo again, long time due!)

  30. When I saw this post I wondered how long it would take til the butthurt ensued. LOL. They’re not proselytizing elves so it’s A-OK in my book. I hate being proselytized to no matter what the context. Religion, non-religion, breastfeeding, the Neolithic Diet, and Angry Birds are on the top of my hate list right now. I’m seeing subtle spreading of the good word (whatever people define it to be) in this comments section and it’s annoying.

  31. Before this descends into Green Arrow vs Green Lantern, Pete!: Coffee mugs exist because coffee’s too hot to pour in your hand.

  32. According to Wikipedia, 78% of the US population identify themselves as Christians. Granted, not all people that identify themselves as Christians actually believe in God (a paranormal phenomena),  angels (a paranormal phenomena) or Christian miracles (paranormal phenomenas), some are just ethnic Christians, that don’t share a Christian faith, but still feel as they are bearers of Christian traditions and values (in Sweden, my home country, about 40-60% of the population identify themselves as Christians (depending on what research you look at), but only about half of those Christians think God exists; of topic: there are actually less Swedish Christians that believe that Jesus Christ is based on a real, historical, individual, then there are Swedish Atheists that believe Jesus Christ is based on, one or more, real, historical individual(s)).

    That 78% of the US population identifies themselves as Christians still indicates that more then 50% believe in some kind of paranormal phenomena. Even if only half of the US Christians believed in God (39%)), angels, the Bible or other paranormal phenomena, then only half (11%) of the remaining US inhabitants that don’t identify themselves as Christians, need to  believe in other Gods, ghost, or some other paranormal phenomena to reach the 50% you mention.

  33. Sorry to burst your bubble, guys and gals, but the whole “we really do believe in elves, faieries and goblins” phenomenon is simply a most successful and well-excecuted national prank.Modern Icelanders are well educated and “worldly” individuals, have you no fear.   A good portion actually do believe in Christianity, whereas another good portionseem to treat it in the same manner of gnomes and things.     Most likely an atheist in the inside,most certainly and light-heardidly condemning you for your “lack of faith” on the outside.   It’s an unspoken tradition.Now what I do find interesting is that Norse mythology is, more often than not, treated as such: myth. Actually, less interesting than totally expected. It’s part of the game.  They’re f’ing with your head! :0

    1. I used to think that about Norway too – but there’s layers within layers here. Most people use the old folk religion as a joke or as fodder for the old “let’s mess with the children’s heads” game of Santa Claus and Rudolph the Reindeer. But one-on-one I’ve spoken to a suspicious number of people who are willing to admit to at least some level of belief in this stuff.

      I think this might have to do with our history and our education system; supersition is branded as something silly, stupid and shameful. At the same time we are told to accept the equally hard to swallow beliefs of the state religion, and quietly indoctrinated in the folk religion by the simple mechanism of being part of an ethnic group, with all that is implicit and explicit in its language and customs. Naturally, cognitive and social strategies to deal with this develop, where the subject is spoken about in very different ways, adapting to the context things are said in. Assuming this maps to other scandinavian nations, it’s interesting to see that the Icelenders have turned this kind of displacement from the private sphere to the discourse fields of tourists and foreigners.

      That said, expressions of belief in the folk reilgion made in the language of organized religion is something new and slightly disturbing to most Scandinavians. Until the advent of the new age movement, there wasn’t really a context in which to make such statements, the seeds of that discourse having been burned out of most of us at a young age by centuries of state church campaigning against superstition.

Comments are closed.