Elf school in Iceland

I am a graduate of the Elf Academy in Iceland. Why, you might ask. Sometimes there are things that you not so much want to do, but you want to say you’ve done, just to say it. That’s the way it was with Elf School. It may also be a factor that there was nothing else to do on Friday and also it was raining. The class was attended by 7 of us, HY, an English journalist, a San Francisco lawyer, 2 Swiss women, one a teacher and one a human resource worker, a student, and myself. Magnus H. Skarphedinsson was the instructor. In additional to Magnus, his male husband was also around sometimes and another woman who was perhaps a secretary sometimes appeared. The class, since it was smaller than usual, was in his small office, not the classroom upstairs,which was filled with books, paintings, statues, memorabilia, some elf related and some not.
According to surveys, 54% of Icelandic people believe in the existence of elves, and 36% of people “don’t mind” which I guess means entertain the possibility of elves. Altogether 90% of people believe somewhat in elves. That’s an amazing statistic. In this modern day scientific world, Iceland stands alone perhaps as an economically advanced society that still holds onto its folk-lore based beliefs.
Magnus H. Skarphedinsson is the founder, headmaster,and sole proprietor of the Elf School and he is larger than life in every way. A huge man physically, he also projects a huge presence into the room. When he talks to you, you feel like you are under an intense spotlight. He speech is theatrical to an extreme, his timing perfect, his pauses are heart wrenching, and his voice, a precious instrument. Think of Orson Wells or Pavarotti, and you will be close. Is he crazy? A crackpot? An opportunist out to swindle tourists like myself? Maybe, but I think not. He has undertaken to investigate this strange phenomena of his country. He has done it scientifically, extensively, and doggedly. What makes him different than a regular scientist? In a few words, he sums it up. “I believe the witnesses.” A regular scientist would find reasons why the claims couldn’t be true. You were drinking, ; you were tired; you were crazy; you were high. Magnus believes them. He believes in their feeling, in the details that they give, in their motives; they have none, they are not profiting from this in anyway. He has interviewed close to 800 people who claim to have had direct experiences with elves. The class consists mostly of telling these stories. And he does have his way of checking the stories. He records them, then often visits the people a year or 2 later and checks to see if the details are the same. If they are, he believes them for sure.
He has systematically studied and classified the subject. First of all, who sees elves? Psychic people tend to be the ones who see them. 90-95% of all witnesses. Many of the experiences occur in dreams or dreamlike states. There is the story of the farm woman who had a dream about an elf who came to her and asked for her help, because the elf woman had a baby and couldn’t make enough milk for it. She knew the farm family had 3 cows and wondered if the elf family could borrow one cow for some weeks. The farm woman agreed, happy to help out a neighbor, human or not. The next day her husband was alarmed because one of the cows was gone. The woman tried to explain but the farmer ridiculed her. 6 weeks later the cow reappeared and looked much stronger and healthier. The milk was sweeter and fatter too. “I guess the elf grains were better than ours”, the farmer decided. He wouldn’t talk about it though to Magnus. Most of the people refuse to talk about their experience with elves for fear of being teased.
80-85% of the experiences involve a situation where the person can see the elf but not hear or touch them. 10-15% can see and hear. In rare cases, everyone can see, hear, and feel the elf.
Actually elf is a general term, and Magnus counts 13 kinds of elfs including, true elves or forest,mouse, or flower elves. These account for 30% of all elves. Also there are hidden people who account for 50-60 % of all elves. They are very shy and humanlike in every aspect. They always wear blue. Generally Magnus feels that elves are friendly and have helped people tremendously, though there are stories of mischievous elves who have moved things and brought them back much later. Some people have had long friendships with elves, especially the Vikings were known to have these.
In Iceland there is a tradition of leaving food out for elves on Christmas Eve. Magnus interviewed an old woman who as a child stayed up to watch them eat it. Finally they came and they called their parents. The entire family saw them and even saw them stuffing food into a bag for later.
In addition to stories and elves, we got to hear Magnus’s philosophy, his view of the universe and political believes. Overall it was well thought out and comprehensive. It all fit together well. The universe is not only the one we see, there are other dimensions. Many psychic, supernatural, and even cosmic events can be attributed to these different dimensions intersecting. When dimensions do overlap, there can be a confluence of energies that can cause anomalies. This is, what he believes, allows some people to see into other dimensions at times. That is also why sometimes you can only see and perhaps not touch or hear sometimes. It all depends on the angle of intersection of the dimensions. By the way, this is, he believes the same phenomena that accounts for other paranormal events like UFO’s, seances, etc. He didn’t mention it until I asked him, but he was aware of the new theories of physics called string theory which predicts 11 dimensions, but he thinks there are many more than that, hundreds more.
He told us the story of a Canadian woman that he interviewed who played with an elf as a child and didn’t see it again for many years. While swimming in the ocean,she got caught in a rip tide. Despite her best efforts she couldn’t swim in. The face of her childhood elf friend appeared and told her to swim parallel to the shore for about 25 meters, which she thought was crazy, but she did. Out of the rip tide, the normal waves carried her into the shore safely. In fact, there were countless stories of people who he interviewed who told of elves helping people time and time again, and he thinks they have saved thousands of lives in Iceland alone since people first arrived in the 800’s.
In 1997 he interviewed a woman whose father was a poor fisherman that worked for a farmer. As a child her father worked in a crew of 10 fisherman who went out everyday to catch fish. One of the workers could see elves and the elf fisherman. One day, he noticed that the elf fisherman were not going out. He told the others in his crew about it and how he thought they also shouldnt go out. Some were skeptical and others, not. They decided they couldn’t go back and tell their boss about not going out, as he would beat them, so instead they decided to go out but stay near the coast. That afternoon, there was a terrible sudden storm that lasted 2 1/2 days. It was assumed that they were all lost. When they came back 3 days later people were amazed. After that they always went out if the elves did and didn’t if they didn’t.
There was a woman who worked in a fish salting factory. These factory workers worked long hours after the fisherman came in with a big catch in order to get all the fish salted before they went bad. One of the workers could see and talk to elves. They became friends. One day the elf told the woman they could talk again on saturday. The woman was confused as there was supposed to be a big catch coming in then and she had to work. The fisherman came back on Saturday empty handed and the woman spent time with her elf friend. Tis happened more than once. It’s believed that elves have knowledge of future events and can use this knowledge to help people.
The highlight of the Elf School though had nothing to do with elves at all. It was the blintzes filled with cream, coffee, and chocolate that he brought out midway through the session. Magnus magnanimously helped himself to triple helpings of the chocolate and then complained that he could never lose weight while teaching this class (my guess is that he weighed in at a good 260 pounds).
He went into the reasons why there were more elves and more elf believers in Iceland than in other places. It has to do with the fact that the Enlightenment movement which swept through Europe in the 1600’s and made things more scientific and less arbitrary morality, didn’t make it to Iceland for many man years later, in the 1800’s because of the isolation. Although there were many good aspects of the Enlightenment, a negative aspect was the loss of folk believes ad the loss of faith in higher powers. This has, Magnus believes, been devastating to the soul of modern man. Look at the high alcoholic and drugs rates in the world. He attributes this to loss of faith in the world. I think he has a point too.
Another interesting historical fact he threw out was that he believes that volcanos in Iceland were responsible for the French Revolution. In 1783 there was a big volcano in Iceland that darkened the sky around Europe for many years to come. This caused crop failures and famine, and eventually brought about political upheaval.
Lastly, Magnus is a supreme optimist. He even believes that the people who died in world war 2, didn’t die in vain. Out of it came a united Europe that has kept the peace for many years. He also sees South Africa’s peaceful transition from apartheid as a shining example of goodness and the progress mankind has made. Also the German people he believes have created a humane society built from the rubble of its moral collapse. And maybe elves have been there in the background helping out.
The 3 hour class went on and on until about 630 pm, turning into an almost 6 hour marathon. Magnus showed no signs of tiiring, but we did. With 24 hour lightness our internal clocks were frazzled anyway, so we finally agreed to stop. But wait, one more story. I had to pee but i thought i could wait. That last story took another 30 minutes, each agonizing climactic pause, wrenching my bladder, till i finally had to excuse myself. “Ill wait for you he called out. “”Dont bother, “i called back. ” Ive got the gist of it.” When i got back, thoroughly relieved, they were wrapping up. It was a fitting end, as Id had enough, and was overflowing. Finally you may be wondering, Do I believe in elves? No after all that I still don’t, but on the other hand, I don’t mind.


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