Iceland boasts some of the most exciting and interesting museums in the world. Whether you want to dive into the Icelandic culture, natural wonders, or legends and folklore, you’ll have your pick of museums to choose from. But one of our most intriguing museums and a favorite amongst visitors is our Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft.
And yes, it is 100% as weird and wonderful as the name suggests. So, if you’re planning on visiting the island soon, you need to add this museum to your trip itinerary. Here’s everything you need to know about this fascinating museum:
What is the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft?
If you take medieval beliefs and mix them in with Norse mythology, urban legends, with a touch of Harry Potter, you’ll start getting an idea of what to expect from a visit to the Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft or Galdrasafnid as it’s referred to in Icelandic.
The museum consists of 2 floors that take you through the evolution of “magic” here on the island, or Strandir as the sorcery in Iceland was called. The museum which opened its doors in the year 2000 has become so popular that it sees at least 11 000 visitors each year!
Where is the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft?
Iceland’s Museum of Witchcraft or Iceland’s Witch Museum as many visitors refer to it, can be found in the village of Holmavik in the Eastern Westfjords in Iceland.
How to Get to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft
There are basically two ways that one can visit the museum:
By Taking a Tour
Iceland has plenty of guided tours one can book a spot on that will take you to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft. Some are personal and customized tours, others are dedicated day trip tours to the museum, and others are multi-day holiday packages that have the museum along with an array of other local attractions included in the deal.
You will need to decide which suits you and your wallet best. Just keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to book well in advance if you’re going to be visiting the island during our peak summer season.
Driving yourself around the island is always the best way to travel, since you can decide on your schedule and stay in control of your time without having to rely on or be dependent on someone else. Just keep in mind that when traveling through the Westfjords, it’s always recommended that you drive a 4x4 vehicle.
The museum is about 3 hours away from the capital city of Reykjavík, which makes it possible to take it on as a day trip during the warmer months with plenty of daylight hours, but our recommendation would be to include it as a stop along a road trip around Iceland. You can do so by taking either the Westfjords Way or Ring Road popular road trip routes here on the island.
Just remember to bring your GPS as well as downloaded or hard-copy maps along with you. The Westfjords is still a pretty remote region of the island, and you don’t want to be left in the dark if the GPS or mobile phone signal fails you.
When is the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft Open?
During our warmer (and busiest) months of the year, the museum has extended operating hours to accommodate all the visitors wanting to come through.
So, from mid-May to the end of September the museum will be open every day of the week from 10:00 – 18:00. During our “down” season here on the island, operating hours change due to the decrease in foot traffic. During this time, the museum is open from 12:00-18:00 on weekdays and between 13:00-18:00 on the weekends. But always double-check with the museum before pitching up at a locked door.
It’s also very important to keep an eye on the Icelandic road conditions during the colder months of the year, since road closures due to weather conditions in the Westfjords are pretty common.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft?
To visit the museum will cost you roughly $10 per adult, and about $8 for students (as long as you have a valid student card). For pensioners and the disabled, it’ll be about $7 to access the museum. And for children up to the age of 14, it’s completely free of charge.
A Few Highlights to Look Forward to at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft
The following are just a few highlights you can look forward to at the museum:
Angurgapi, the Magical Stave
It’s hard to believe that what looks like a DIY wooden arts and crafts project with a seemingly smiley face in the middle can have such dark tones. But this stave is said to be one of the most powerful staves in all of Iceland to perform magic with.
Hulinhjalmur, the Magical Stave of Invisibility
Step aside Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility because the powerful stave of invisibility is here! Just think of all the things one can get up to when using the stave’s powers (all for good fun, we hope!).
Jon Rögnvaldsson’s Zombie
Okay, so this is just a dramatic depiction of what it could’ve looked like, but it still makes for a pretty cool photo opp. Jon Rögnvaldsson was a powerful sorcerer in North Iceland. In 1652, he was accused of raising a zombie to terrorize and harm his enemy.
He was found guilty of this “crime” and sentenced to death by being burned alive. Coincidentally, this was even before Iceland’s own “witch trials” from 1654 to 1690 that’s referred to as the Fire Century. During this time, numerous men and women were accused of witchcraft and sorcery and burnt at the stake.
This one is not for the faint of heart. Even though you know that the pants hanging in the exhibition are merely a replica, it still looks real enough to have chills running down your spine. The Necropants is one of the most interesting items in the museum and dates back to the 17th century. To make Necropants, or Nabrok as it’s known in Icelandic, you need to make an arrangement with someone prior to their death.
You will need to ask their permission to use their skin to create Necropants for you after their death (and you thought a breakup conversation could get awkward!). This is no simple task since after their death, they still need to be buried. You then have to dig up the body and somehow get the skin from the waist down off in one piece.
If you manage to get this done, you can put the skin on (like pants) and it will then stick to your skin (we shudder to think of the actual reason why – yuck!). Next, you’ll need to steal a coin from a poor widow and put it in the scrotum of your new pair of skin pants, along with a magical sign saying “Nabrokarstafur” that’s written on a piece of paper.
The purporse behind these pants
The belief is that, as long as the original coin is not removed, it will continue drawing money to the scrotum (why not the pocket, we don’t know). Whichever way you look at it, the end result will still be a very wealthy individual. Now, these pants are exceptionally handy because they can be “transferred”, and for the wearer, this is essential at the end of their lifetime since it’s the only way to guarantee their salvation.
All you need to do to guarantee this heavenly outcome for yourself and turn the next person into a rich man is to have someone step into each pant leg the moment you step out of it. This was also believed to be the way to keep wealth within a family for generations.
As you can see, this is an incredible magical item and has always been a favorite here at the museum. But when Stephen Fry mentioned the Necropants in his TV series, QI, there was a major influx of visitors who wanted to see the pants from all across the world!
Tilberi, the Milk-sucking Demon
With this one, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. These woolly worm-like creatures boasting a mouth at each end acted more like “mama’s little helper” than what we envision a demon to be. These guys were created to essentially lessen a woman’s workload. They were sent out to suckle on the cows of farmers around them till they were filled with milk.
They would then return home, where they would vomit up the milk into a churn, at which point it would practically already be butter. Believe it or not, but there’s an actual test to see whether butter comes from a Tilberi; just make the sign of the cross in the butter, and if it explodes into a million pieces, the butter has less than desirable origins.
The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft; A Magical Experience Not to Be Missed!
With so much happening in the museum, it’s easy to see why it’s such a favorite spot to visit. If you are planning on making the museum a stop on your road trip around the island, simply rent a car in Iceland and start your Icelandic adventure with magical moments along the way and create lifelong memories.