The draugr (also called an aptrgangr) literally means “one who walks after death. There are many Norse myths and tales about the draugr and its creation.
The person may become a draugr if he has unfinished business after death, or if he is infected by another draugr. Some believed that anyone who was mean, nasty or greedy could become a draugr after dying. Others believed that a draugr arises because he felt he was wronged in life.
A corpse can be identified as a draugr if it is found in an upright or sitting position. If seen walking around, a draugr will have several distinctive characteristics.
- A pale, deathly skin tone
- Superhuman strength
- Stench of decay
- Large, bulky body
A draugr was said to be able to shape-shift, control the weather and see into the future. He would rise from the grave as a wisp of smoke and float through rock. Most are active at night, but there isn’t any proof that they are sensitive to sunlight.
Some myths about the draugr claim that the spirit may have some form of intelligence and ability to communicate.
The draugr would slay his victims, devour the flesh and drink the blood. After drinking the blood and consuming the flesh, it was thought the draugr would grow larger.
A draugr could be destroyed by beheading or burning. If the spirit is burnt, the ashes need to be poured into the ocean.
There are different methods of preventing a draugr.
- Place a pair of open, iron scissors placed on the chest of a recently deceased.
- Hide straw or twigs inside the clothes of the deceased.
- Tie the big toes together.
- Drive needles through the soles of the fee to prevent the deceased from being able to walk.
- When lowering the coffin, lift and lower it three times to confuse the draugr’s sense of direction.
Denmark spread the belief that a corpse could only rise and return from the dead by walking through the door it entered. Norse culture adopted the same belief; they would prevent the return of a deceased by surrounding the body with people and carry the deceased feet-first through a door. The door was then bricked up so that the draugr could not enter it.