26 October 2010

Icelandic "Necropants" explained

If you want to make your own necropants (literally; nábrók) you have to get permission from a living man to use his skin after he's dead.

After he has been buried you must dig up his body and flay the skin of the corpse in one piece from the waist down. As soon as you step into the pants they will stick to your own skin. A coin must be stolen from a poor widow and placed in the scrotum along with the magical sign, nábrókarstafur, written on a piece of paper. Consequently the coin will draw money into the scrotum so it will never be empty, as long as the original coin is not removed. To ensure salvation the owner has to convince someone else to overtake the pants and step into each leg as soon as he gets out of it. The necropants will thus keep the money-gathering nature for generations.
I suppose it's reassuring to note that sorcerers in Icelandic folklore got informed consent before flaying a dead person's corpse.  But I think I see a trick in the guarantee: the scrotum will never be empty as long as the original coin is not removed.  Well, duh (perhaps some subtlety has been lost in translation). 

Text from the website of the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, via Got Medieval. Photo via Flickr user HelenPaisson of a latex reproduction housed in the aforementioned museum.


  1. Uh, is it just me or does this have a kinda "leatherboy" thing going on? Not that there's anything wrong with being a leatherboy, (it's just one of those things that I don't get, like Katie Perry..), especially the scrotum, etc bit. I really don't want to think about how that is worn.

    Also, uh what about the, um, "non-continuous" bit in the back?

  2. The word for scrotum and money pouch is the same in Swedish, possibly the same in Icelandic.

  3. Yes to the comment above. A word in Icelandic "pungur" translates to both the scrotum and a money pouch.

  4. Similar in German. Just the word "Sack" for change purse is kinda outdated. But still.
    Honestly though, I think it has more something to do with the shape than with necropants. :)

  5. ♫ Who lives in a dead man's sack under the sea?

    Spongebob Necropants!♫

  6. I may be a bit late, but it's the same in French, "bourse" translates to both the scrotum and a money pouch.

    1. You're late for most readers, but I review all the comments on this blog, and I appreciate yours. Thanks, anonymous person.


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