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The Ghosts of Iceland-book Report Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Oct 15th, 2021

Different mysteries and secrets of Iceland excite the great minds of numerous people. A well-known writer, literary critic, and physician-anthropologist Robert Anderson from Scotland gives his life to science and carefully studies medical anthropology. The author is also interested in religion and alternative medicine. In his ethnography “The Ghosts of Iceland” Robert Anderson discloses brightly the reality of contemporary Iceland, he highlights the problem of religion as itself. There are many variants of interpreting this term, but let us set the author’s understanding of this phenomenon. Religion is a unity of beliefs that, as a rule, are at work due to different supernatural forces or in the presence of supernatural beings. The term “supernatural” can be explained as an existence beyond the rules of visibility and observation. It can be regarded as an existence against the laws of nature. Nowadays inhabitants of Iceland are well-educated, modern, and patient people. They believe in “another” world and visit churches very seldom. Almost half of the population of Iceland has implicit faith in communication with spirits, who leave the dead, and cannot find peace in their new world. Icelanders can be characterized as people, whose belief is grounded on science. They believe in naturalism rather than religion. Just because different séances of spiritualism, cases of contact with mediums, conversations between the living beings and the dead ones are very popular in Iceland. Robert Anderson, being a native, shows the reader the real situation and gives a chance to understand the essence of the people, who live in one of the most mysterious places of the world, in Iceland. The author tells about the culture of Iceland from the point of view of religion. One of the greatest merits of this work of literature is that Robert Anderson portrays the co-existence of state religion and spiritism. As a result, there is no contrast between people of two different faiths. And it is very important. Nothing can help in a difficult situation except faith.

The theme of globalization can be observed on the pages of this masterpiece. Robert Anderson estimates the modern spiritualism not only in Iceland but also in England and New York. In order to understand the thoughts of the author, the parameters of the text can be examined. From the point of view of temporal parameter the life of contemporary Iceland is considered with its foundations, moral principles, different customs and beliefs. Reader observes the feelings and emotions of people, who cannot put up with hardships, they suffer from grief, inconsolableness, depression, anguish, vexation. No one can help them, they search for calming communicating with mediums, visiting séances of spiritualism where they talk with spirits of dead people. For them, all these visits can be regarded as a last straw. And only due to the people have some hope, that their beloved live in peace. People feel the presence of some powerful and omnious beyond force. Sometimes there appear things, that odd, hardly probable, and mysterious at the same time. It is difficult to understand and accept them. From the point of view of ideological parameter the author discloses co-existence of state religion and spiritism and explains it through the scientific approach. He finds scientific backgrounds proving the possibility of its existence. People do not even think why their minds support this or that thing. They just simply believe. Only their hearts can answer this question. For Robert Anderson, it is not enough. All his studies at different educational institutions help him.

Taking a close look on the work of literature the reader can notice that every chapter concerns a certain sphere of the author’s specialization. Icelanders like stories about horrible, ominous ghosts. A lot of people know about the hauntings in mountain caves. Usually shepherds notice them. One of the most famous mountain ghost is Starkaður. The man died under horrible circumstances. Rock Starkaður fell on the man, his wounds were so deep, and he died immediately. The ghost of the man lives in the cave, frightens people and tries to find calmness in the holes of the cave. It is very hard to portray, that is invisible. Descriptions of ghosts can be found in the Sagas, which were created in the years of establishing Iceland. Some people firmly believe that they are still behind us. There is a certain characteristic feature about Ancient ghosts. As a rule, they have arms, as in the past they were warriors, they defended their lands from the enemies. The most horrible ghosts are infants. It happens when parents do not baptize an infant child. And soon he or she dies. It is horrible, as a child cannot speak because of the age, he or she just constantly cries and disturbs the silence. The old people consider the cry of an infant ghost as a change. Usually this change is concerning the weather. They believe in a couple of days the weather will change for the worse. Unfortunately some women leave their child somewhere because of much work or different troubles. This fact will not be a secret. They will be punished in many years. Even some scientists find ghost in their laboratories. These ghosts appear due to combinations of some substances. One such representative is Eyjaselsmóri of Fljótsdalshérað. Iceland has many seashores well-known for their ghosts. Men who were sailors and died in the fight with sea power usually come to their darlings. Eyes of these ghosts are sad and full of tears. Those people who drowned become mean ghosts. They scare and attack people.

All these cases of appearing ghosts are very popular. The problem of their existence stirs not only this writer. Studying the works of modern writers, one can discover a lot of books with the same thematic concerning the life of ghosts among the people. Professor Hans Holzer, the creator of more than 120 books from New York, expounds his thoughts and first impressions from the supernatural kingdom in his well-known paranormal book Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond. This book is a real treasure, as the author describes more than 200 cases of meeting ghosts in old castles, crashed ships, and abandoned houses. The places of visit are so unforeseeable and amazing, that the learning to keep in touch with the “other world”, taking a close look on the genuine pictures of spirits bewitch the reader and it is hard to put the book aside. Hans Holzer portrays the cases that are more difficult than those about small white ghosts in the attic. The author makes a close study of the difference between “true” ghosts that appear themselves to people and impressions of the presence of ghosts which have some people all together in a particular moment. This book can be regarded as certain guidance in behaving with ghosts. Even photographers will find useful information, how to take pictures of ghosts. The American writer from North Carolina Sheila Turnage, in her book Haunted Inns of the Southeast, tries to prove or reject the rumors about the existence of ghosts that live in inns. For this purpose, she works with guests, owners, and eyewitnesses from 90 inns with the reputation as the best haunted inn, trying to confront all their stories. If the reader wants to feel the presence all ghosts from nine states of the USA, the book Haunted Inns of the Southeast will be a great guide in the “other world”, as the reader can find even prices, addresses, telephone numbers in case if he or she has a burning desire to visit this horrible inn. There are a lot of common features in the works of these writers. They disclose the life of ordinary people in the co-existence with the creatures from the “other world”. For some people, it may sound odd, but how can we explain some noise in attics, cries on boards of ships, white shadows in halls of old castles without beliefs in ghosts, paranormal forces, mediums, and spirits. Believing in such phenomena, people try to find the scientific backgrounds, hide their weaknesses, misunderstanding of the material world and to know more about themselves. Scientists cannot prove the existence of the spiral of “other beyond worlds” with the help of the laboratory experiments. But I firmly believe that in the future world science will be able to explain these phenomena.

Works Cited

  1. Anderson, Robert. The Ghosts of Iceland. Belmont, Ca: Wadsworth, 2004.
  2. Holzer, Hanz. Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 1997.
  3. Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. North Carolina: John F. Blair Publisher, 2001.
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