Mythical Creatures Series
The landvaettir are considered the underground elf guardians of Iceland. If left alone, they keep to themselves, but disturb these spirits and expect their wrath. Considering they have the ability to possess someone, it’s probably safer to not upset them.
What is it?
They are spirits of the land, protectors of the areas they live in regardless whether that is a rock or a part of the country. Landvaettir appear in Norse mythology as well as in Germanic neopaganism. Some say the Landvaettir are spirits of the dead, while others insist they are nature spirits. Regardless, they are not to be taken lightly.
Many farms in Iceland actually have a rocks on their property which are not mowed too close and children are prohibited from playing on them because they believe a landvaettir might be residing there. While an unhappy landvaettir can easily stir trouble, a happy one can help by bringing rain to thirsty crops and rise to defend land under attack. The spirit could also inhabit trees, forests, rivers, meadows, mountains, hills etc
Honoring the spirit is a pretty smart move, and involves not damaging the land, warning the landvaettir before throwing boiling water or urinating on the land, and showing respect by acknowledging them.
Ability / Power
They have the ability to shape-shift into various troll-like animals, endowed with magical powers, as well as possess humans. They are also super strong. Legend says that when Norse ships used to sail to the shore it was customary to remove the Dragon heads on their boats to not offend the landvaettir.
Iceland is said to be protected by four great guardians who are known as the four landvættir, and are depicted on the Iceland coat of arms.
– the dragon (Dreki) in the northeast
– the eagle or griffin (Gammur) in the northwest
– the bull (Griðungur) in the southwest
– the giant (Bergrisi) in the southeast.
Landnámabók tells of a time when King Haraldr Gormsson, King of the Danes, intending to invade Iceland, orders a wizard to travel to Iceland and tell him of what he sees there. The wizard goes in the form of a whale, and goes west of the north of Iceland. There he sees that all mountains and hills are full of landvættir, some big, and others small.
When he comes to Vopnafjörður he tries to walk on land, but is thwarted by a great dragon who is followed by many worms, bugs and lizards who breath poison on him. So the wizard tries to go to the west, to Eyjafjörður.
There he is met by a bird, with wings so long that they touch the mountains to each side of the fjord, along with many other birds. The Wizard continues west and south to Breiðafjörður and heads to land where he meets a giant Bull who wades into the sea and bellows at him mightily, followed by many landvættir. The wizard goes south around Reykjanes and tries to swim ashore on Vikarskeiði.
There he met with a stone giant armed with a staff of iron, taller than the mountains and with many jötnar following him. Next the wizard tries to go to the east. There he sees nothing but sands and wastelands with tall waves crashing its shores, where long ships cannot land.
Did you know? The four landvaettir of Iceland are depicted on the the obverse of the Icelandic króna coins (currency of iceland).
Previous Mythical Creature Posts:
Marchosias: A Kick-Ass Creature, Ningyo: The Deadly Mermaid, Abatwa: Riding Ants To Victory, Cait Sith: It Gets Into Your Mind, Anka: The Goliath Bird, Huldra: Norse Forest Lady, iele: Romanian Nymphs Of The Air, Manticore: The Man-Eater, Hantu Demon: Legendary Spirit, Lich: Undead Necromancer, Joan The Wad: Queen of Piskies, Fomorian: Ancient Gigantic God, Rakshasa: Shape Shifter Demon, Hellhound: Guarding The Gates Of The Dead, Sleipnir: Eight-Legged Horse, Three-Legged Crow: Guiding the Lost, Afanc: Welsh Lake Monster, Tarasque: Ferocious French Dragon, Echidna: The She-Viper, Alkonost: Siren of the Sky