ICELAND
The history of Iceland began around 870 C.E. when Norse
settlers arrived from the west coast of Norway, as well as those
who had previously settled in Ireland and Great Britain. Some
Icelanders would explore eventually the land that came to be
known as Greenland; but the majority of the people of Iceland
formed a conservative rural society. They were farmers who
created a highly-evolved social structure defined by their work
with the land. The stories they told, well-known as the Islendinga
sogur, or, Iceland sagas, reflected that down-to-earth daily
life by which honor was to be measured.
Through the best-known literary character, Odin, Icelanders
were not totally without fantasy, myth or fascination with
the magical and mysterious. Robert Kellogg, in an introduction
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to the book, The Sagas of Icelanders, talked about the role Odin
as he discussed Egil’s Saga, a key story in Icelandic literature
The patron of all poets was Odin, who was sometimes
known as the one-eyed god. . .Odin gave away his eye in
order to drink from the underworld well of the wise god
Mimir and thus to acquire wisdom. Egils is not only the
beneficiary of Odin’s gifts of poetry and magic, but also
to some small degree an embodiment of the god.
Iceland has been a Christian country since 1000 C.E., following
its ancestral religious roots of Asatru. (An interesting note
is that the writings of J.R.R. Tolkein, known best for the Lord
of the Rings, emerged from the Codex Regis, the ancient ‘‘sacred’’
manuscript of this pre-Christian belief. While Iceland’s
citizens currently enjoy the Constitutional benefit of freedom
of religion, nearly 95 percent of them are Lutherans, the stateaffiliated
church. At the end of the twentieth century Iceland’s
population at 240,000 was about the same size as Cumberland
County, Maine, the largest in that state. With the entire country’s
population occupying only about one-fifth of the land, Iceland
is about the size of a medium American city. The people,
too, are an interestingly homogenous group. Unlike Americans,
all natives have descended from only two groups-the original
Nordic and Celtic people who settled there. (Consequently,
the population has been the subject of scientific research
crucial to the study health and disease throughout the years.)
This fact also emphasizes that while statistics might indicate
only a small portion of the population engaged in the area of
psychical research, or phenomena, it reflects a percentage that
in fact might be no lower than many other countries.
Icelandic interest in psychical research goes back many
years to the founding of Salarrannsoknafelag Island, the Society
for Psychical Research of Iceland in Reykjavik in 1918. The
founder was Prof. Einar Hjöleifsson Kvaran (1859–1938), a
well-known writer who edited Morgunn, a Spiritualist magazine.
A prominent member was Prof. Harald Nielsson (d. 1928) of
the University of Reykjavik, who spent five years investigating
the phenomena of the medium Indridi Indridason.
Indridi Indridason (1883–1912) was a physical medium,
long unknown outside of Iceland. He is believed to be the first
Icelander who demonstrated such gifts. When he first demonstrated
them in 1905 at a ‘‘table-tilting’’ being held by academic
researchers, and reportedly lasted until 1909. The group of investigators
were those that later formed the Icelandic Society
for Psychical Research. One of Indridason’s most chilling communications
was the story of a fire in Copenhagen on November
24, 1905. It was not confirmed until a month later when
news came by boat from Denmark—the only means the story
had of transmittal in those early days of the twentieth century.
Other phenomena including materializations became commonplace
during the seances Indridason served.
A prominent Icelandic psychologist and parapsychologist,
Erlendur Haraldsson is known worldwide for his work investigations
of ESP, and experiences of death. One of his most famous
works was, Modern Miracles, based on the life of Indian religious
leader, Sathya Sai Baba, known for the miracles that he
performed. He serves on the faculty of Social Sciences at the
University of Iceland in Reykjavik. In a 1988–989 survey he
conducted entitled, ‘‘Survey of Claimed Encounters with the
Dead,’’ Haraldsson discovered that 31 percent of Icelanders,
‘‘. . .perceived the presence of a dead person.’’ His work continues
while he remains a faculty member in social sciences and
is perhaps reflective of a few aspects of human daily life that fit
into the context their own history and sociology.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Iceland. httpwww.iceland.org. June 6, 2000.
Noah’s Ark Society (Great Britain). The Mediumship of Indridi
Indridason. httpwww.noahsark.clara.netind1.htm. June 6,
2000.
Thorsson, Ornolfur, ed. The Sagas of Icelanders. New York
Viking (Penguin), 1997.