What are they?
The Vikings believed them to be animated corpses with an actual continued life, similar to a zombie, or a vampire. What they are is uncertain. They live off the flesh of the living, but not necessarily of humans, just off of flesh in general. They are animated corpses that come out of their graves, or they are the dead who show uneasiness at the prospect of burial.Their corpses are said to swell to enormous size, but not bloat, and their skin is described as pale or light blue.
They also exhibit magical powers, in the way of shapeshifting, the ability to slide through solid earth and stone (which, by the way, I'm sure is very handy for entering and leaving their gravesites), an ability to see the future, and to a lesser degree, to control the weather. All of these things combined would make the draugr a formidable opponent in any battle.
If you are killed by a draugr, then it is possible to become one yourself, but the situation must be right. A draugr has immense strength, and your body must survive the attack in order for it to rise from it. If you body is intact, then it is possible that after burial, or several days after your attack, you will arise from the dead as well.
Where do they live?
Usually, the draugr prefer stone built burial chambers or large burial chambers that are roofed with rafters and covered in dirt mounds in Scandinavian countries. These burial sites are often said to glow with an eerie "foxfire" glow at night. No explanation is forthcoming for the light over their graves.
How can I protect myself?
Most of the time, the draugr will be happy to leave you alone, content to mess with only whomever trespasses on their territory. However, there are ways to keep your loved ones from becoming draugr in the first place:
- Lay a pair of scissors on the dead's chest
- Lay small pieces of straw crossways under the shroud of the dead
- Tie the big toes together, so their legs cannot be separated
- Push needles into the soles of the deceased's feet
- When the coffin is carried out, the bearers must raise and lower the coffin three times in different directions to form a cross
- When the coffin leaves the house, you have to knock over all the chairs and stools that the coffin rested on
- Also, after the coffin leaves the house, you must turn all the jars and saucepans in the house upside down
- When the parson in the churchyard prays for all the dead, he must bind the dead to the grave with magic words, to keep him fast
Okay, say you've done all of that, and your loved one still rises from the grave. An extra precaution may be taken by using a corpse door when removing the loved one from the home. Be sure to take the corpse from your house feet first so that he or she does not have a clear view of the path they are using to leave the dwelling (because they must re-enter the way that they exited), and to brick the door up as soon as you can after leaving the house.
How do I kill them?
Iron weapons are always best when fighting the draugr, but you must be a hero of some strength to actually pull this off. First, you must actually grapple with it, hand to hand, which, in itself, is quite scary. Remember the part about immeasurable strength? Believe it. You must match it.
After the draugr is subdued, you must then decapitate it with a sword found at its own burial site. After the beheading, burn the corpse to cold ashes, and bury the ashes, or throw them into the sea. Once the ashes are well and truly disposed of, you should be rid of your demon for good.
Sources: The Viking Answer Lady- http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/ghosts.htm, Wikipedia.com, H.F. Feilberg, The Corpse Door: A Danish Survival, and personal experience with the undead crawling in my head and through my windows at night. Scary, scary, stuff.
This is all her fault.