FACTS ABOUT ICELANDIC HISTORY
The country discovered by the first Viking settlers in the late 9th century A.D. was a terra incognita, a virgin land. Seafaring Celtic monks may have reached Iceland ahead of the Norsemen but the material evidence for this is equivocal. In any case, these hermits sought solitude rather than a new land to claim and colonise.
Most of the first Icelandic settlers worshipped the pagan pantheon of gods and goddesses: Þór, Óðinn, Freyr, Freyja and others. The worship of these old gods was not a centralised or organised religion, however: individuals chose which gods they favoured especially.
One of the four landvætti ("guardian spirits of the country") said to protect the four quarters of Iceland from invasion is a mountain giant (South). The others are a poision-spitting dragon (East), an eagle whose wingspan fills whole valleys (North), and a ferociously bellowing bull (West).
Álagablettir ("enchanted patches") are still found in some fields today: farmers will not mow here on account of the ill consequences that might follow if the elfish huldufólk ("hidden people") within are disturbed. If you walk in a lava field at dusk, you will see how the looming rocks and shadows quickly take on the appearance of otherworldly creatures.
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