Updated: Jun 6, 2021
Today, 24. June, is a special day on the Icelandic calendar called Jónsmessa or St. John's Day.
Did you know in Icelandic folklore this day is magical? Cows speak in human language, seals turn into humans, and there are special Magical Stones. If you roll around on dewy grass (naked of course), you can receive unbelievable medical healing. While you are down in the dew, be sure to make a wish.
There is an ancient story found in Ireland, Iceland, Norway, and Scottish mythology about a seal woman.
On the 24th of June, a man came upon a group of women dancing under the moon. He found a pile of seal skins and he grabbed one. He brought it to his home and locked it in a trunk. The next day, he went back to the cave where a very beautiful and young woman was naked and crying in the cave. He gave her some clothes and brought her back to his house. They lived together and married. They had children together and they got along well. However, at times, she would sit and stare out at the sea in a disconnected and melancholy way.
One Christmas, the man left for church and the woman stayed home ill. He had always carried the key to the trunk but this day, he forgot it in his work clothes. The woman was curious as to the contents of the trunk and opened it. She was so surprised to find her seal skin! When he returned from church, his wife and the seal skin were missing.
The story goes …. She was deeply torn by the choice she had to make but she bid farewell to her children and before diving into the sea she whispered:
“Where have I to flee? I've seven children in the sea and seven children on the land.”
The man was stricken with grief. After she left, whenever he went fishing, a seal would often swim around the boat. He thought there were tears coming from the eyes of the seal. Each time the seal came near his boat, he always had a lucky day of fishing.
The children would often see a seal swimming along the shore when they were playing near the sea. Sometimes the seal would toss some pretty shells for them but they never saw their mother again.
Jónsmessa and the historical Saint, John the Baptist, are important in the Christian faith. John was the son of a priest named Zachary in Jerusalem. John's mother, Elizabeth, was related to Mary. The Angel Gabriel told Zachary that this baby would come even though Elizabeth was an old woman. John baptized Jesus. His mission was "to make people prepared for the Lord." Eventually, he was arrested by King Herod Antipas and beheaded. His death is honored in August.
Icelandic folklore is interwoven with religion, pagan stories, and heroic ideals. Share these stories with your family!
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