Tungustapi in Sælingsdalur - the Church of the Elves in West-Iceland - Icelandic Folklore
While travelling in Sælingsdalur Valley in West Iceland you will notice a hill called Tungustapi. This hill is also called Álfakirkjan or the Church of the Elves, and some believe it to be the Cathedral of the Elves!
Álfar is the Icelandic term for elves. There are many places here in Iceland named after the elves and the hidden people of Iceland, and there is still some belief amongst Icelanders that we share Iceland with these hidden people.
Top photo: Tungustapi
Tungustapi as seen from Guðrúnarlaug
Many psychics have seen these hidden people of Iceland and there are many tales available of encounters with the elves and the hidden people in Icelandic folklore.
The following folklore from Þjóðsögur Jón Árnasonar - the Collection of Folklore by Jón Árnason, tells the story of two brothers at Tungustapi. Their names are not mentioned, but we nickname them Sveinn and Arnór.
I roughly translated the story into English and recapitulated it:
Hiking on Tungustapi
Sveinn and Arnór lived with their family at the farm Sælingsdalstunga. Their father was a very wealthy farmer.
In the wintertime, the boys living on the farm would slide on sleighs on Tungustapi hill in the snow making a lot of noise, but Sveinn didn't play with them.
He was a loner and spent a lot of time by Tungustapi or in the church. And there were talks amongst people that he could talk to the elves.
He scolded his brother and the children for making such a noise on the hill, but his brother mocked him and told him that he was not worried about disturbing the elves.
Sveinn told him that he would regret doing this and that he would have to pay for his actions. Every New Year's Eve he would wander off and disappear.
Tungustapi and Sælingsdalur valley
One night his brother, Arnór, went to Tungustapi to look for him. All of a sudden Tungustapi opened up and it looked like a church inside with a lot of lights shining and beautiful singing.
Sveinn was inside and several men in livery surrounded him. It looked like Sveinn was being ordained. Arnór called for his brother to come out and that his life depended on it.
My husband on top of Tungustapi
Sveinn stood up to go to his brother, but the pastor of the elves ordered for the door to be closed and for Arnór to be punished for disturbing their peace.
He then told Sveinn that the next time he would see him in livery Sveinn would die, seeing that he wanted to leave the service and go to his brother.
Almost on top of Tungustapi looking in the direction of Dalahotel and Guðrúnarlaug
The elves then chased Arnór on horses and rode him down and almost killed him.
The farmer at Laugar found Arnór in the morning, while he was on his way to matin, and Arnór told him what happened and then died.
Since then the slides have been called Banabrekkur or Death-slides.
His brother Sveinn never recovered from this tragedy and never went back to Tungustapi or even looked in that direction.
He became a monk at the Helgafell monastery. He sang such a beautiful mass that nobody had heard a more beautifully sung mass.
The view from the top of Tungustapi
His father was getting old and asked Sveinn to sing mass for him in church on Easter Sunday, and he wanted to die in the mass as his time had come.
Sveinn was reluctant to do so and made one condition, that nobody would open the church door during the mass.
On top of Tungustapi
But while Sveinn was singing the mass a storm blew the door open and he saw directly into Tungustapi, from which massive light was shining through an open door.
Sveinn collapsed and died and his father died just moments later.
Sveinn had looked straight into the eyes of the bishop of the elves, who was singing mass at Tungustapi.
The doors of the old Icelandic churches are usually pointed to the west, but the doors of the churches of the elves are pointed in the opposite direction.
The church was moved after this happened so that the farmhouse is now between the church and the Church of the Elves. This was done so that such a tragedy would never repeat itself.
There is no church in Sælingsdalur valley now, apart from Tungustapi - the Church of the Elves.
On top of Tungustapi - there was no guestbook in the box
The folklore is much longer and more detailed, but I translated parts of it into English to show you that a hill can have an interesting story behind it.
Dramatic, eh? It is possible to walk to the Church of the Elves if one dares to do so.
The elves are believed to be good people if you help them out but don't dare to disturb them
Tungustapi and Sælingsdalur valley
There are many stories about the revenge of the elves. Respect is the keyword when dealing with the elves of Iceland.
I told the elves in my mind that I wanted to hike on Tungustapi rock and asked them for permission to do so and promised not to make any racket while enjoying the view and taking photos from the top of Tungustapi.
I could feel their positive response, so I happily hiked to Tungustapi and spent some time there in beautiful sunny and still weather after spending the night at Dalahotel by Guðrúnarlaug hot pool.
Guðrúnarlaug hot tub in Sælingsdalur close by Tungustapi
Even nowadays we don't dare to disturb the elves and roads are made around rocks, which are believed to be the homes of the elves, instead of destroying the rocks to make a straight road.
There are some incidents of the machinery breaking down or there being mishaps when trying to blow up these rocks.
Then a psychic is invited to talk to the elves, asking them to move. Or if they don't want to move the road is made around the rocks.
The view from the top of Tungustapi
Sælingsdalur is located in West Iceland, some 167 km north of Reykjavík, which is 2.5 hours of driving.
Here you can see the location of Tungustapi on Google Maps, it is not yet marked.
I have not seen any guided tours in this area, but you can rent a car and drive there yourself from Reykjavík.
The hike to Tungustapi is short and easy
And if you want to see what another elf-church looks like then I have written another travel-blog about the elf-church at Laugarvatnsvellir plains:
Have a lovely time in Sælingsdalur :)
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