Old Norse, mystics and race cars: is Älvdalen the weirdest village in Sweden?

Photo of Old Norse, mystics and race cars: is Älvdalen the weirdest village in Sweden?
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It is the place where the witch hunts began – and it still boasts its own language and strange rituals. Photographer Maja Daniels relives three freezing years in a cabin in Älvdalen

In 1926, the yearbook of the Swedish Tourism Association described the village of Älvdalen as “a community with a dark insular spirit” where locals were “shadowed by distrust and unease”. It was there in 1668 that the Swedish witch-hunts began, resulting in the execution of 19 girls and one man suspected of occult practices. One senses that the tourist association thought the stigma had lingered on into the 20th century. “It is not easy to get close to them,” the yearbook added, “particularly if you don’t speak their language.”

Today, Älvdalen, in the west of Sweden, still has its own language, Elfdalian, which has been traced back to Old Norse, the tongue of the Vikings. Swedish-born photographer Maja Daniels spent many childhood summers there, in a cabin built by her grandparents in the woods by the river.

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