Once there was a student at the Seminary at Hólar. His name was Loftur; he practised magic, and tried to interest others in this practise. Loftur kept to his sorcery studies until he had learned everything contained in the spell-book Gráskinna (Grey-skin-cover). Then he sought to gain even more hidden knowledge from other sorcerers, but nobody knew more than he did.

Early one winter Loftur spoke to a schoolmate, who was thought to be brave, and asked him to help in calling back to life the ancient bishops. The student did not want to do this,
but Loftur threatened him with death if he did not agree. The student asked Loftur how he would be able to help, as he knew no magic. Loftur answered that he was to just stand in the belfry and hold the bell rope. He was forbidden to move at all, but rather was to watch Loftur and then ring the bell as soon as he saw Loftur make a hand signal.

Loftur explained that he wanted to raise the dead because: "Those who have mastered magic in the way I have can only employ it to work evil, and they will surely perish when they die - and yet if one knows enough, the Devil will no longer have any power over a man and must serve him, without getting control over the sorcerer. Anyone who knows that much can use his knowledge as he will. But this knowledge is hard to come by now, ever since The Black School was closed, and Bishop Gottskalk the Evil had the book Rauđskinna (Red-skin-cover) buried with him. This is why I plan to call him from the dead and get the book from him by magic."

After others had gone to their beds they went to the church, beneath the moonlight. The student stopped in the belfry. Loftur went up into the pulpit and began chanting. The long dead bishops arose from their graves, one after the other, and some of these begged him to stop, but Loftur did not stop his chant. Three of the dead bishops wore crowns, the first, the one in the middle, and also the last one.

Despite all this, Gottskalk still did not come from his grave - so Loftur started chanting as never before. He turned the words of the Psalms into praises for the Devil and made a sorry confession of all his good deeds. The three crowned dead bishops kept as far away as possible from Loftur and faced him with their hands raised - the other dead bishops looked at them and kept their gaze away from Loftur. At last a heavy sound was heard, and a dead man arose bearing a staff in his left hand and a red book under his right arm. He did not waer a crucifix on his chest, and he looked unkindly at the other dead bishops. He gazed at Loftur, who chanted all the more during this. Gottskalk moved a little closer to Loftur and said scornfully: "You chant well, my son, and better than I would have expected. But you will not get my Rauđskinna." Loftur then seemed to turn himself inside out and chanted in a way he had never done before. He changed The Blessing and The Lord's Prayer into praises for the Devil, and the church shook like a straw in the wind. The student, watching in the belfry, thought he saw Gottskalk move again closer to Loftur and he seemed to thrust a corner of the book towards the magician. He had been frightened all this time but now he shook with his terror. He thought he saw the bishop lift the book and Loftur stretch out his hand. So he pulled the bell rope as hard as he could and everything that had appeared vanished into the floor with a whispering sound.

Loftur stood still for a while in the pulpit. Then he staggered down and found his companion, and said: "Now the worst has happened. I could have waited for the dawn and the bishop would then have had to let go of the book, but he was too strong for me. He made me so wild that if I had but chanted one stave more the whole church would have collapsed into the ground - and that was what he wanted. I saw the faces of the crowned bishops and became worried, but I knew that you would faint by the bell rope and ring the bell. The book was so close, I thought I could reach it. I tried my best and even managed to touch a corner. But I could not get a good grip to hold it. Things must be as they are, and thus I will be doomed."

Loftur felt sure he would die on a certain Sunday. His friends advised him to flee and ask help from the priest at Stađastađur, who was thought very religious and had helped people in trouble before. Loftur stayed with the priest until that Sunday arrived. On this day the priest had to leave home to give the last rites to an old friend and Loftur felt so ill that he could not go with the priest but stayed behind in his home. No sooner had the priest had left than Loftur became well. He walked to the next farm and there got the farmer to take out his boat and go fishing with him. Although there was no wind that day, the boat has never been seen since. One man thought he had seen a grey furred hand rise from the sea when the boat had just been launched, grab the stern where Loftur was sat, and pull everything under the waves. But who can say for sure?

Source : A popular Icelandic folktale retold here by Shaun D. L. Brassfield-Thorpe