In Norwegian folklore, a deildegast is a type of ghost connected with the sanctity of border-stones, and what happened to those who dared to move them.
In Norwegian, "gast" approximately means "ghost", but ghosts in Norwegian and Scandinavian folklore differ greatly from the modern perception of ghosts, often having a corporeal body and being violent in nature. "Deild" is an archaic word for "border-stone". The approximate translation of deildegast then, is "border-stone ghost". The first mention of a deildegast in literature comes from Draumkvedet, written near the end of the middle ages. The belief itself might be considerably older, though there exists no proof for this.
In human form the deildegast looked like a normal human, except for his clothes. Often having died many years ago, the deildegast wore the clothes of its own days, which often meant that they looked very outdated to those that saw it.
A deildegast does not receive peace in the afterlife, as a result of (in life) moving the border-stone dividing his own and his neighbours territory, and through this enlarging his own territory. After dying, and becoming a deildegast, the person was forced to haunt the area near the border-stone until he was able to lift it back to its correct place. This feat proved impossible, however, as the stone would always slip, causing the deildegast to emit a sorrowful scream before trying again, still to no avail.
The deildegast was also said to be able to transform into a bird. Most often this bird was a species of owl, called "gasten"("the ghost") by the local people.
Function of the story in society
The deildegast served several functions. First of all, the threat of becoming a deildegast most often deterred any attempt at tampering with border stones. Secondly, as a result of this, land disputes were kept under control. Thirdly, it might also have prevented people who suspected that their border stones had been moved, from enacting physical revenge on their neighbours, in safe knowledge that they would get their metaphysical revenge when the wrong-doer died.
- Hodne, Ørnulf (1995). Vetter og skrømt i norsk folketro.
- Sivertsen, Birger (2000). For noen troll.