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.
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.
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).
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.
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