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The Launching of the Icelandic Magic Company Imprint

Dear friends


We are delighted with the interest shown in our publication of the Sorcerer’s Screed. We are currently working on more books akin to the screed and the cultural heritage it derives from. We’ve therefore launched the imprint The Icelandic Magic Company to expand our brand and to create a venue for our future publications.


We’ve launched a new website www.icelandicmagic.com where we will continue to sell Sorcerer’s Screed along with selected merchandise associated with our books, and hopefully very soon other publications. This brings about further but minor changes to our brand, first and foremost name-changes to our social media accounts.


What’s more, we want to use this as an opportunity to provide our visitors with a broader glance into our world with articles on whatever comes to the mind of a person from Reykjavik.


We’re looking forward sharing Icelandic magic with you in the future!


Yours sincerely,

The editors of The Icelandic Magic Company

 

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New Years Eve in Iceland

New Year’s Eve in Iceland is a nothing less than a magical experience. There are no official firework displays in the city on that night because anyone can shoot fireworks on New Years Eve in Iceland. Usually families and friends gather together and shoot fireworks and have fun.

The result is an amazing display of fire in the sky all over the the capital, Reykjavík, created by the approximately 200.000 people of the city, who just before midnight set off around 500 tons of fireworks.

Fireworks in Reykjavik

Photo: mbl.is

For an hour the city was completely lit up by fireworks and on this New Years Eve we were lucky enough to also witness the bright dancing Northern Lights.

 Northern Lights

Photo: northernlightscruise.is

Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to ride trough the air like a witch on such a night! One could try this magical stave is from the book Sorcerer's Screed next New Years Eve ...

Happy new year to all of our readers!

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Monday is the last "safe" day to order before Christmas [US and Rest of world only]

According to the Icelandic post office it takes 4-15 business days to ship to the US and other countries outside Europe. That means that next Monday, December 5th, is the last "safe" day to order if you want to give the Sorcerer's Screed to someone on Christmas Eve.

Best wishes and happy holidays!

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Aurora Borealis

We love the Northern Lights. There is just something magical about them. You never now how they will look, behave or for how long they will last. Those of you who have seen them dance, with all their colours, will never forget the experience.

For the most part of last week we had some unusually bright and beautiful Northern lights, due to some solar activity which won't and can't be explained here. Most Icelanders flocked outside to see them, especially one evening when the city lights in certain neighbourhoods were turned off so people could see the Aurora Borealis better. This beautiful video by Iceland Aurora Films was made that night:

City Lights - Northern Lights real time video from Iceland Aurora Films on Vimeo.

 

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Hot off the Press

A moderate station wagon is an integral part of a small publishing house when it comes to distributing copies of a brand new book to local bookstores. So, marking my place as somewhat a journalistic outsider for this one blog post, I let Sigrún and Thorsteinn, my co-editors do all the hard work of carrying boxes, saying "hi" to our excellent booksellers and introducing them to our new book; Icelandic Magic for Modern Living!

Pink pillows and blankets are essentials when distributing yellow books

Pink pillows&blankets are essentials when distributing yellow books

Finished circulating through and between bookstores, we met with Boff Konkerz, the author of the book and a machine-free tattooist at the Icelandic Tattoo Corp. Actually, a tattoo sparked the origin of this book when one of my co-editors got Boff to tattoo a magic stave from the Sorcerer's Screed, the book in which this site is dedicated to. Well, somehow along the way, I ended up with one too!

Two editors and a tattooist. Guess who's who!

Two editors and a tattooist. Guess who's who!

A tattoo of a Nordic magic stave on an Icelander shouldn't though come as a surprise to anyone. They're however not only highly popular amongst natives, since the steadily growing tourist bubble keeps on giving us ever more diverse range of visitors, and some of them simply want to drop in a tattoo shop to get some middle age sorcery ink.

A chuckle over a new tattoo idea?

A chuckle over a new tattoo idea?

Whilst the Sorcerer's Screed has proven to be a reliable source for those looking for their first or next tattoo of a traditional Nordic magic stave, the Icelandic Magic for Modern Living offers a much needed humorous take on this quirky nook of our nation's heritage we Icelanders boast about on every occasion. I'll leave you with a very important modern example:

A stave for fast WiFiA stave for fast WiFi

(Click on the images for a higher resolution)

*This blog was originally posted on www.himbrim.com and has been slightly altered for this edition.

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The Burning Age in Iceland

The concept of "witch-hunting" is well known. During a 300 year period, the 15th-18th century, about 40-60 thousand people were executed in Europe for some sort of sorcery or witchcraft. During these times the fear of magic was great in the whole continent and Iceland was no exception.


The first two pages of a very small (8,5x5,5 cm) Icelandic magic manuscript from the 17th century. The Árni Magnússon Institute.

The so-called Burning Age started in Iceland in 1654 when three men were burnt in Trékyllisvík, a small town in the North-West of Iceland. The first burning, though, took place 29 years earlier when Jón Rögnvaldsson from Svarfaðardalur was executed for sorcery. The last burning in Iceland was in the Western fjords (Arngerðareyrarskógur) in 1683 and that burning marks the end of the Burning-Age, even though a man was burnt in Alþingi two years later but that was for blasphemy, not sorcery.


Most of the burnings took place in the Western-Fjords. Places mentioned in the article are in red.

In other European countries, mainly women were accused of sorcery and put to flames. Witch-huntings were frequent and magic was mostly linked to women. The opposite was true in Iceland. In total, 20 men were burnt – but only one woman! Her name was Þuríður Ólafsdóttir and she was put to flames, as well as her son, Jón Þórðarson, in 1678 after being accused for (there were no tenable evidence) being responsible for the illness of the pious Helga Halldórsdóttir in Selárdalur.


Photo by Jim Smart

In Iceland, about 170 people were accused of sorcery and magic but contrary to lawsuits in Europe, only about 10% of them were against women. What might the reason be?
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The Shadow Behind the Screed

The author of Sorcerer’s Screed called himself Skuggi (or Shadow in English), but his actual name was Jochum Magnús Eggertsson (1896-1966). He was a jack-of-all-trades and prolific polymath. Among other things he studied agriculture, mainly focusing on dairy and cheese making, worked as a fisherman and was involved with forestry and soil conservation.

He had an ardour for natural sciences and rock collection, as well as being a studious author and scholar. The claims about his studious scholarly work cannot be contested as he left behind a vast collection of books, journals and articles about his variegated and unique fields of interest. 

 

Skuggi became notorious for his original theories about an exotic but flourishing culture in Iceland long before the Nordic settlement with the publication of his controversial book Brísingarmen Freyju, where a well travelled Celtic tribe roamed the barren island with a camel convoy, laying the foundation for the literary heritage that Icelanders are still boasting about on special occasions. 

Skuggi was known to be boisterous and his criticism of Christianity in the foreword and afterword of The Sorcerer’s Screed seem to indicate a strong but bitter character. Sorcerer’s Screed is sort of “clef d’ouvre” or key to his entire body of work and view of life, even though (and perhaps mainly because) it is an amalgamation of ideas from past centuries and different times.

 

The text above is from the preface of Sorcerer's Screed.

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Only five people live on this Icelandic island

Modern times can be awfully busy and cluttered. Now and then it's important to find a quiet place where your thoughts can be gathered and you can rest and reset your body and soul. Islands, for an example, are good places for such relaxation.

Recently our editors stayed at a cottage in Flatey, a magical Icelandic island in the fjord Breiðarfjörður. The island is rather small, only two kilometers long and about one kilometer wide, of which most is flat land (hence its name, meaning "flat island" in Icelandic). Most houses in Flatey are occupied only during summer but during winter, the island's total population is six people.

The natural life in Flatey is amazing; you can wake up and find a curious sheep peeking through your bedroom window and lie around at the cliffs looking at the puffins fly (remember to bring a helmet, a pot or a long stick if it is during the arctic terns' nesting season).

If you are planning a trip to Iceland, you should seriously consider visiting Flatey. 

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

You have to take the ferry Baldur from the town Stykkishólmur to get to Flatey.

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

The watchtower.

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

Sheep outside the bedroom window of our cottage.

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

The church on the right and the yellow library behind it. It is said to be the oldest library in Iceland.

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

We paid it a visit and left a copy of Sorcerer's Screed on the shelf. Can you spot it?

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

"Downtown" Flatey where most of the houses are.

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

Sorcerer's Screed in Flatey Iceland

 

All photos by © Þorsteinn Surmeli

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No Shipping on Monday

Due to Commerce day on Monday (an annual holiday in Iceland) all post offices will be closed. We'll ship all copies that have arrived today (and will arrive within the next three hours) before everything closes in the afternoon (GMT). Next shipping after that will be on Tuesday morning.

Have a great weekend!

- The Lesstofan Team

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On the Icelandic Football Team and the Power of Nature and Culture


Gylfi Sigurðsson, Birkir Bjarnason and Kolbeinn Sigþórsson / Getty Images

Some inexplicable force seems to follow the Icelandic men’s national football team (also called soccer). Not only have they captivated the 330 000 who live on this small island far in the north, the team’s success has surprised the world of football, to say the least. They have made headlines in the media across the globe, both because of the team’s success in the qualifying stages of Euro 2016 and their results in the tournament itself. A few days ago they secured Iceland’s place in the knockout stages with a valiant 2-1 victory against a strong Austria team, after previous 1-1 draws against both Portugal and Hungary. Success has of course also followed the women’s national football team, which recently qualified for their second successive major tournament. Many other Icelandic athletes have made great achievements in various sports, most notably the men’s national handball team, which has been part of almost every major tournament in the last decade or so.


Left: The Icelandic handball team with their silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Bejing.
Right: The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson), Europe's Strongest Man (2014 and 2015), playing his role in Game of Thrones.

How can it be that such a small nation stands up to (and even defeats) giant football nations with populations in the millions? Perhaps it is best explained by looking into our history and culture. Firstly, Iceland is a small island and for centuries the isolation has forced the inhabitants to stick together in times of crisis. Eruptions, stormy and upredictable weather, the freezing cold, and endless dark winters, have all had a substantial impact on everyday living.


The Holuhraun erupution in 2014 / Arctic-Images

However, Mother Nature does not only bring us islanders misery and catastrophe. The force of nature lives within the people, and is a powerful driving force in dealing with every day situations and bigger life battles. We climb mountains and glaciers, explore the wilderness, filling the footsteps of the generations before us. We feel the presence of our ancestors and (most of us) do our best in treating nature with respect and preserving it for generations to come.

Þorsteinn Surmeli surmelism
Reykjanes, southern peninsula / © Þorsteinn Surmeli 2015 (@surmelism).

This omnipresent force of nature, or should we say coexistence, is also evident in our language which has remained nearly unchanged for over a thousand years. As a result, we can still read texts written by the same people that layed the foundations of Icelandic settlement. We can connect with these individuals, share their emotions and feel their presence, just by opening a book and reading one of the 40 sagas of Icelanders from the 13th century, travel logs from the 17th or diaries from the 19th. This unbroken chain means that we can easily inch our way backwards, century by century, to connect with people’s experiences in the settlement era.

sigur rós
Sigur Rós

The magic staves that are printed in Sorcerer's Screed have the same roots, they come from our history, language, and connection with nature. And the power also lives in them, just like the power lives in nature, the language, the an astounding 8% of the Icelandic population followed the football team to France, the 92% that have supported them from a distance, the original music compositions of Björk, the hypnotizing tunes of Sigur Rós, the rythmic music of Of Monsters & Men and other seemingly impossible achievements that originated from this small, remote island that some thought inhabitable because of the extreme conditions. On the contrary, these extreme conditions shape us as individuals and as a nation. That is the very reason why , and why the man’s national football team will play England in the round of 16 in the team’s first major tournament. Áfram Ísland!

Þorsteinn Surmeli
Editor at Lesstofan

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