The Deacon of the Dark River
It’s spooky season and Icelandic folklore is filled with many spooky stories.
With Halloween just around the corner and the veil between the world of the living and the dead becoming much thinner, we would like to introduce you to a tale called: “Djákninn á Myrká” “The Deacon of the Dark River“
Once upon a time the Deacon of Dark River rode to the farm of Bægisá to ask Guðrún the pastors housemaid to a Christmas party at Dark River. When Guðrún happily accepted, the deacon rode back to Dark River, after promising to pick her up the day before Christmas.
A big storm hit the deacon on the way back and the river between the farms became full of water and ice.
The deacon tried to be careful while passing the river, but he fell off his horse, hit his head and drowned in the river. The next morning the people of Dark River found the deacon’s lifeless body. He was buried in the churchyard, but sadly the news of his deathcould not be passed over the river, because it was still full of water and ice.
On the day before Christmas, Guðrún was excitedly getting ready. When she had put everything on except one sleeve of her jacket, there was a knock on the door. The deacon took Guðrún on the horse towards Dark River. He seemed to be in a hurry and his horse tripped. Then Guðrún saw a terrible white spot on the deacon’s head. Then the deacon said: “The moon fades, death rides. Don’t you see a white spot on the back of my head, Garún, Garún.” The deacon could not say her name because ghosts can not utter the name of God – or Guð in Icelandic.
When Guðrún and the deacon arrived at Dark River, the deacon suddenly tried to pull her into his open grave. But she managed to escape and run towards the bell tower and ring the bells. The sound of the church bells made the deacon fall back into his grave. The next day the people of Dark River got the priest to come over to bless the grave, so the deacon wouldn’t return – The priest also put a huge boulder on the grave, that can still as of today be found on Dark River – or Myrká in Icelandic. Guðrún was never the same again.
Illustration by Sigrún Hreinsdóttir.