22 July 2011

Icelandic folklore: Finnish Breeches

Time for a bit of folklore for a change.

Dead Man’s Pants or Finnish Breeches were believed to be a useful item for a person who wanted to always have money. To make them, you had to make a deal with someone you knew, allowing you to flay off their skin when they are dead. When the person in question had died, you had to go by night to the cemetery and dig up the body. Then the whole of the skin between ankles and waist had to be carefully flayed off in one piece and put on like a pair of pants over bare skin. The skin had to come from a man because the money would be drawn into the scrotum. 

In order for the pants to work their magic, the owner has to steal a coin during mass on one of of three big Christian holidays (Christmas, Easter or Whitsun), in the time between the reading of the epistle and the gospel, and put it in the scrotum of the pants. The coin will draw in more coins and the scrotum will never be empty when one needs money, but the original coin must not be removed or the magic will fail. 

Dead Man’s Pants are difficult to get rid of, because it is impossible to be rid of them unless you can find someone else to take them and wear them. The wearer must slip his leg out of the right pant-leg and the new owner must put it on while the other still has his left leg in the left pant-leg. Once the new owner has put his right leg into the pants, the left will follow automatically. In this way, the pants can be passed on indefinitely.

Copyright notice: The wording used to tell this folk-tale is under copyright. The story itself is not copyrighted. If you want to re-tell it, for a collection of folk-tales, incorporate it into fiction, use it in a school essay or any kind of publication, please tell it in your own words or give the proper attribution if you choose to use the wording unchanged.

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