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The Walking Dead

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Forums -> Norse Paganism -> The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead
By: Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 1

The Walking Dead: Draugr

Since Halloween is nearing and people are swapping spooky stories, Id like to take some time to introduce the walking dead (known as Draugr) from Norse lore.

The Draugr were the undead from Norse lore. Once a dead body was placed into a mound for burial, it was said that it may become possessed and animated with an unnatural force and seemingly contained some semi-intelligence and recollection of who they had been before. It was often thought that people who had been malicious and mean in life were the most likely to return as a draugr, though people who were dissatisfied with something in life or were unpopular could become one as well. It was said that one could become a draugr if attacked and killed by a draugr, influencing their spirit.

They were described much like a walking corpse: their descriptions often including a mention of an unnatural skin color (black/blue as death, corpse pale), and rotted from physical decay (they could swell to enormous sizes, often believe to be the gases of decomposition trapped within the skin). Because of this size, they were said to have extreme strength. Their smell is noted on several occasions are being horrendous, presumably because of the smell of rot that lingered about them.

Victims of draugr varied. Draugr often killed livestock: either by chasing them and running them until they died of exhaustion or by directly breaking/crushing the bones of their victims. When it came to humans, draugr would either eat their flesh or eat them whole (depending on the size of the draugr) in addition to breaking/crushing the bones. There are accounts of draugr sucking blood from victims, not unlike the concept of a vampire. Sometimes draugr would simply drive a person mad, or lead them to kill themselves from some sort of inflicted mental illness. Their reasons for killing were varied as well: some draugr were people who had been wronged in life and came back as a way of getting vengeance upon someone else for their slights, some were jealous of the living and what they still had in life, and some were simply hungry- as the lore mentions that they had a near insatiable appetite.

Draugr were believed to be magically-inclined (using a magic called trollskap), as some were described as having knowledge of the future that they otherwise should have been unaware of, being able to curse those who are living, bringing about disease and plagues. They were also said to be able to shape-shift, appearing commonly as animals. They appeared to be able to move through solid objects, such as when one draugr from the lore sinks down into the Earth to avoid conflict. It was even thought that they could be influential in a persons dreams.

Draugr often dwelled in their mounds, or burial tombs. Many burial mounds were stone- built chambers roofed with wood and covered with earth. Often stones were placed on the top of these to indicate to passerbys that the dead were here. It was said that a great light could sometimes be seen near the mounds, like a fire. Ellis-Davidson once said this fire "surrounds the howes and forms a barrier between the worlds of the living and the dead, implying it was a thinning of the veil between the living and the dead. In the sagas, there is mention of people using burial-mounds as a doorway through which they travel, or project, to the underworld and other realms. It was also thought to be sacred space for some of the Gods, a connection to them. Some practices, such as mound-sitting, involved a person going to a mound and sitting on or near it while attempting to divine from spirits of the deceased.

Some draugr were believed to simply inhabit their mounds, never venturing out to attack anything or anyone. These draugr were called haugbui. However, due to burial rituals- many mounds contained treasures and valuables of the deceased. Grave robbing did occur because of this. As one saga mentions, grave robbers sometimes unexpectedly came across haugbui who guarded its possessions jealously.

There are accounts in the sagas of brave heroes killing a draugr. Though draugr preferred the night, they were not seemingly affected by the day. Most weapons did no good against this foe, as they were already dead. Iron was believed to hurt them, but not injure them seriously. The best way for most people to rid themselves of a draugr was to force it back into its burial mound, then seal it off. There are some cases in which a person beheaded the draugr, burnt the body, then threw the ashes into the sea as a way of ensuring that the draugr was permanently gone- with no physical form to return to

There were many methods of prevention that folks followed: As noted by H.F. Feilberg, sometimes the toes were tied together so that the legs would not separate. Needles were sometimes run through the soles of the feet and when the parson prays for the rest of the dead, he is supposed to bind the dead to the grave with magic words to keep him fast. Sometimes special doors, known as corpse doors were built into homes- as many people believed the dead could only enter a home in the same way they left it.

Aptrgangr is the term for a draugr with harmful intent who is not bound to its burial mound. Draugr is an overgeneralized term, but the one most commonly recognized. Haugbui are draugr that do not leave their burial mounds. They do not actively seek to harm anything or anyone, but will act defensively if their mound is intruded upon. Fyrirburdir is a term sometimes used to refer to a non-corporal form of the dead, who seemingly appear but do not interact with people.

Note: this is just a concept from lore, though an interesting one. Draugr, much like vampires and werewolves and other fantasy, are not real.

Sources:

Stranded in Midgard by Fernando Guerrero

The Walking Dead by Viking Answer Lady

The Walking Dead Draugr and Aptrgangr in Old Norse Literature by Unknown

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Re: The Walking Dead
By:
Post # 2

Some of things mentioned in this article have similarly been attributed to post-Viking Icelandic lore on Dokkalfar, or dark elves. Things such association with the dead (some were considered actual dead while others were just considered close to them), affecting dreams, having literal black skin (mostly attributed to victims of frostbite), and the ability to phase through physical objects.

There is a general mistrust of Alfar in the Heathen community (which is mutual for the most part) and even more so is this true for Dokkalfar. This is in part because of the race historically being attributed to other cultures' spirits including the Mara. Most folk attribute it to sleep paralysis, though there are some modern shared experiences of Njorun residing in Svartalfheim and being a Goddess of nightmares. Aside from folklore and modern personal gnosis, there is no association between dark elves and dreams or nightmares. Personally, I think it's entirely possible that they could be.

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Re: The Walking Dead
By: Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 3

I agree with you on that one, Brom. I would like to explore the relationship between the dark alfar and their relationship to death more indepth, if given the chance.

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Re: The Walking Dead
By:
Post # 4

Why would they not trust the Alfar??

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Re: The Walking Dead
By:
Post # 5
When hear accounts of people pathwalking to all nine realms for their Ordeals, many will talk about not being comfortable in Alfheim and the upper parts of Svartalfheim. Most people choose to take their ordeals from the Dvergar rather than the Dokkalfar because Dokkalfar tend to be more violent compared to the Dvergar.
You see, most people can attest to two things when visiting Alfar, and those are their affinity for illusion and their societies based on nobility systems. This is seen in some Eddic poems and some Sagas. A lot of people tend to view them as distrustful of anyone outside their own societies unless they have been accepted by one of their own. Some view Alfar as kind of snotty because the combination of these two aspects (which I do not find true, personally).
Ljosalfar are not violently inclined, but it is also advised that you do not anger them, either. I have not had direct experiences with Ljosalfar, so I can only go off of the experiences of others to tell what they are like.
Let's also take into consideration how many Heathens actually directly work with Alfar and not the "generic Pagans" who needlessly clump them in together with Sidhe because "Fae is an umbrella term, yo". That would be.... maybe five or six people including myself that I've encountered on the World Wide Web. Every single person I have met that directly works them are Oath bound to secrecy. I only knew of two of them because I was considered 'one of their own'.
Basically saying, Humans who work with Alfar, that I know of, are few and far between because most humans and most Alfar distrust each other or don't want anything to do with each other. I sincerely wish more people would work with them, however.
While there are a larger number of people who do honor them, they do honor them as a main focus of their practice. And even then, a good portion of those people honor them coupled with Disir because they believe that because Alfar is a masculine word in Iceland, and that there are males who "ascend" to Alfhood in Sweden upon death, that Alfar are really just male ancestors. While this could be true, that does not encompass all of Alfar as this view completely ignores the vast majority of poems that cite them as females and as a race separate from humans (there are males, by the way, just not references by name as much).
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Re: The Walking Dead
By: / Knowledgeable
Post # 6
This reminds me of the resent "walking dead" of Liberia from the Ebola virus. Two women "came back to life" after suffering from the virus and being pronounced dead. People are calling the now perfectly healthy women "ghosts" and claiming they shouldn't exist. It shows that the lore isn't a bunch of crazy talk and that unexplained "resurrection" still happens! To me, that just proves that we still don't know everything about what the deciding factor between life and death really is. I am betting that the mind/will has a lot more to do with it than the heart and blood like most science states.
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Re: The Walking Dead
By: Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 7

Thank you for the information about the Alfar, Brom. I've always expressed an interest in wanting to work with the Alfar. However, from my own UPG they come across as you described. I don't particularly feel that the Alfar have much care or trust for those outside their realm, and therefore I never felt that I could trust them the same either. They do have the capacity for violence (I work with the Jotnar, so I'm no stranger to that) but to me they are more... sneaky. Nothing wrong with them, just not my cup of tea!

That's an interesting point you made, White! Thank you for that!

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Re: The Walking Dead
By:
Post # 8

*When hearing

I need to check my posts before I post them more often. I've actually made a point not to be oath bound to secrecy, and considering the Alfablot, I feel that Alfar are not honored nearly as much as they were in the past and I kind of wonder if it has anything to do with matters beyond folk not knowing much about them and the mutual distrust.

Also, I find that there have been plenty of cases where people have been clinically dead, yet able to have been "brought back" and in every single case, the folk pronounced dead were revived before their brains started realizing that the body was dead, thus starting the process of decay. What I'm trying to say that true death of the physical body is when decay sets in: true death is the death of form. Thoughts?

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Re: The Walking Dead
By:
Post # 9
Thanks for the post Personified. It was extremely detailed, and interesting.
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Re: The Walking Dead
By:
Post # 10
Great post personified. I like this story. It's clear and it is a good story. I should use it to scare my cousins. Just kidding. Anyways great post. :)
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