Also known as:

Draugar; Draugr is singular and plural



The Draugr are the living dead: animated corpses who emerge from the grave to roam about, causing havoc, trouble, and mayhem, not to mention panic. Draugr may be the walking dead, but they’re not horror movie zombies. They are not mindless, slow, or plodding. Instead, the Draugr develops magical powers. They become oracular, possessing information from past, present, and future. Some Draugr can shape-shift, making them even more dangerous as they gain access to people and places not normally given to walking, decaying corpses.

The Draugr is simply unable to rest in peace. It’s hostile toward the living in general, although Draugr tend to target their own relatives first. It is insatiably, eternally hungry and cannot be sated. The Draugr is not a ghost with a mission who will go away once that mission is accomplished. The Draugr seems unable to fully, completely die and is angry, resentful, and violent. At daybreak, they return to their graves only to rise again at night.

A clue that a corpse will become a Draugr is if it displays “restless behavior” during the funeral or en route to burial. Those who are killed by Draugr may be destined to join them. Their graves often give off eerie lights, sometimes even supernal flames. If a potential Draugr is suspected, precautions may be taken:

• The corpse is bound to the grave with magical incantations and bindrunes.

• The corpse’s big toes may be tied together to hobble and prevent it from walking.

• The corpse is removed from the home via special corpse doors, bricked up when not needed, so that it can’t find its way home. (It will still walk, but it won’t come home—or at least not quickly.)

Draugr chase livestock until the animals drop. Sometimes they ride them. They torment and torture people, especially those walking alone at night. People are warned to beware of knocking after dark as it may be a Draugr, although it’s unclear why the Draugr bothers to knock. It’s powerful enough to break down doors.

Iron amulets protect against Draugr. If one does rise, methods of stopping it do resemble horror movies: the Draugr must be staked through the heart or beheaded with its own sword. The corpse cannot be reburied but must be cremated with the ashes dispersed at sea or in remote, secret places, far from people’s residences.


They look like what they are: corpses. The Draugr is not a sexy vampire; they are decaying cadavers, which become huge, bloated, and very heavy. The stench of death emanates from them. Many are shape-shifters, however, and full of surprises.


Draugr activity tends to increase in the winter.

See Also:

Ghost; Vampire


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.

Norse Mythology

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