Bridges Between Worlds

Spirits and Spirit Work in Northern Iceland

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Corinne G. Dempsey
  • New York, NY: 
    Oxford University Press
    , October
     2016.
     256 pages.
     $74.00.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9780190625030.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Description

This book explores Icelandic spirit work, known as andleg mal, which features trance and healing practices that span earth and spirit realms, historical eras, scientific and supernatural worldviews, and cross-Atlantic cultures. Based on years of fieldwork conducted in the northern Icelandic town of Akureyri, Bridges between Worlds excavates andleg mal's roots in layers of Icelandic history, and examines how this practice steeped in ancient folklore functions in the modern world. 

Weaving personal stories and anecdotes with accessibly written accounts of Icelandic religious and cultural traditions, Corinne Dempsey humanizes spirit practices that are usually demonized or romanticized. While andleg mal may appear remote and exotic, those who practice it are not. Icelanders today are among the most highly educated people on the planet, well-connected to global technologies and economies. Andleg mal practitioners are no exception; many of them are members of mainstream society who work day jobs. They often keep their spirit involvement under wraps because, though their spirit encounters are celebrated, they can also be frightening and embarrassing. For those who claim the "gift" of openness to the spirit world, andleg mal offers a means of daily spiritual support, helping to diminish fear and self-doubt and providing benefits to those on both sides of the divide.

While recent years have seen an unprecedented boom in tourist travel to Iceland, Dempsey sheds light on a profoundly important, but thus far poorly understood element of the region's culture. Her aim is not to explain away andleg mál but to build a bridge of comprehensibility through empathy for the participants who are, after all, not so different from the reader.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Corinne G. Dempsey is Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Director of International and Global Studies, and Rose Marie Beston Chair for International Studies at Nazareth College. She is author of Bringing the Sacred Down to Earth: Adventures in Comparative Religion (OUP 2011), The Goddess Lives in Upstate New York: Breaking Convention and Making Home at a North American Hindu Temple (OUP 2005), and Kerala Christian Sainthood: Collisions of Culture and Worldview in South India (OUP 2001).

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