The old Vikings had a word for it. I learned about it last night as I was reading the thirteenth century Saga of the People of Eyri (also known as the Eyrbyggja Saga).In it, we learn about Thorolf Moster-Beard who dedicated a temple to his namesake god, Thor, atop Helgafell, a smallish hill near his farm at Thorsnes (now called Stykkishólmur) along the south shore of Breidafjórd. Let’s use the words of the skald who wrote the saga:
He named this mountain Helgafell and believed that he and all his family on the headland would go there when they died. At the place where Thor had come ashore, on the point of the headland, Thorolf held all court sessions and he established a district assembly there. He considered the ground there so sacred that he would not allow it to be defiled in any way, either by blood spilt in rage, or by anybody doing their elf-frighteners there—there was a skerry [small rocky islet] named Dritsker (Shit-Skerry) for that purpose.
Now this is a longish lead-in to the point I am trying to make, which is that television and the other news media are so full of people saying such ridiculous things leading variously to outrage (on the part of all right-thinking people) or pride (on the part of American Conservative wing-nuts). I am referring to people such as Wayne LaPierre; the “Reverend” Pat Robertson; Ted Nugent; Senators Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Jim Imhofe of Oklahoma, and Rand Paul of Kentucky; Michele Bachmann; Sarah Palin; and Rush Limbaugh. Whenever they move their lips, all that comes out are various shapes and scents of dritskers and elf-frighteners.
Perhaps there should be a skerry someplace to which they can all be transported and where they can practice their creativity without scaring the dogs and children.
If you want to see more pictures of the area around Helgafell, where I will be visiting this June, check out The Magic of Iceland, from where I hijacked the above pic, which is actually one of the least interesting of the bunch.