Iceland in the 17th century was awash with tales of witchcraft and sorcery. Unlike the Salem Witch Trials most people are familiar with, Icelandic witchcraft was most frequently practiced by men, and the accusations weren’t based on hysteria. The people of Iceland actually practiced witchcraft – whether or not it was effective is doubtful at best. They actually have an entire museum dedicated to witchcraft which you can check out here.
There are plenty of relics and spell books from the time, showing that people actually practiced these rituals. Strandagaldur, the Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery, has been gathering these artifacts since 1996. One of the most fascinating – and disgusting – artifacts on display at the museum is a pair of necropants.
Necropants are pants made of human skin, and when combined with the proper ritual, are said to produce wealth for the wearer. The most important part of the ritual is that a deal must be struck with a living man, who must grant permission to use his skin after he dies. Murder is not part of the ritual.
Once your friend dies and has been buried, you must unbury him and flay his skin from the waist down, all in one piece. Then you step into the pants, without cleaning them or treating them, and they will stick to your skin. (Because of this, it seems like a good idea to make sure your friend is roughly the same size as you.) You must steal a coin from a poor woman (reminder: this part is illegal), and draw a runic symbol on a piece of paper, then place both in the scrotum of your new pants. As long as that first, stolen coin is never removed, it is said your purse will always be full. To ensure “salvation,” you must get a relative to take over responsibility for the pants, stepping into them as soon as you step out of them. Doing this will ensure prosperity for generations.
The museum has the only surviving pair of necropants in the world (though I believe the pair on display are a reproduction). Other exhibits at the museum include displays that demonstrate elaborate and esoteric spells, recreations of tilberi (monsters that could be summoned to steal goat’s milk), as well as plenty of history about the time period.