Weird History People In Ancient Iceland Allegedly Made Pants Out of Corpse Skin For Good Luck  

Lisa A. Flowers
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What are necropants? Precisely what they sound like: pants made from corpse-legs. Ones that are fashioned by skinning a (male) corpse from the waist down – testicles and all –drying the skin out, and climbing into the resulting pair of all-natural britches. This macabre and whimsical fashion statement (otherwise known as "nabrok," which translates, literally, to "death underwear") comes to us from the great nation of Iceland. However, said death-trousers weren't the result of some elaborate Spanish Inquisition-esque torture ritual, as one might assume. Rather, they were all about the quest for good fortune: the magic necropants were said to bring great luck to their wearer. And the desiccated scrotum that hung betwixt the dehydrated legs was where the enchantment really happened.

Though the pair of necropants on display at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft are an ingenious replica rather than a real corpse suit, they're still quite something to behold. If you thought the flesh mask donned by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre's Leatherface was disquieting, you ain't seen nothing yet: read on to find out everything you need to know about the unique function and rich folk tradition of necropants in Iceland.

They Involved A Pre-Corpse Pact (That Was Largely Concerned With Testicles)

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Photo: Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Naples)/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Though the mere sight of them conjures up images of The Silence of the Lambs' Buffalo Bill and his flesh-suits, necropants actually had nothing to do with murder. On the contrary, they could only be gleaned by way of explicit permission from the trouser-donor. As Atlas Obscura explains it:

"The sorcerer [e.g., the wearer] must make a pact with a friend that he can skin the friend’s body from the waist down after the friend dies of natural causes. Once the friend is dead, the greedy magician must then wait until the friend has been buried, dig up the body, and then skin the lower half of the corpse without creating any holes or tears. Once the 'necropants' have been created, the caster must don the purloined pantaloons against their bare skin."

Note: it was particularly important that the testicles remained intact, as the next stage of the process stipulated that the wearer "steal a coin from a destitute widow" and set it in his dead friend's dried scrotum-sac. This ill-gotten penny had to be accompanied by a piece of parchment with the Icelandic stave symbol etched upon it. One then put on the trousers, and voilà: the suit's private parts would magically fill with coins, which would just keep on coming (no pun intended). 

The Pants Were Not Socially Acceptable, And They Could Get You Burned At The Stake

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Photo: Cult of Weird/Strandagaldur Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft

It's worth noting that necropants weren't exactly a run-of-the-mill clothing item that nobody looked at twice. In fact – at least according to lore – they were profoundly frowned upon, and the nature of both their acquisition (i.e., digging up your friend's corpse) and their application (i.e., wearing your friend's corpse) was highly illegal. So much so that it could get you burned at the stake. As Atlas Obscura points out

"The practice was no more accepted in 17th century Iceland than it was in colonial Salem, Massachusetts, and a number of accused parties were burnt at the stake, although interestingly the majority of the victims of the Icelandic witch hunt were male as opposed to the overwhelmingly female victims in other parts of the world." 

Dying With Your Necropants On Was A Huge No-No

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It was all well and good to walk around letting your corpse-scrotum fill with coins while you were alive, but if your death was imminent, your necropants represented an equally encroaching peril. As a documentary put out by The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft explains,

"[A man's] spiritual well-being is at risk unless he gets rid of the necropants before he dies. If he dies with the pants on, his body will become infested with lice as soon as he passes away. The sorcerer must therefore find somebody that is willing to take the pants, and put his leg into the right leg before the sorcerer steps out of the left one. The pants will keep on growing money for generations of owners."

In other words, necropants were a lot like the sex-entity in It Follows... only with the option of a good outcome.