Category Archives: Art

Reading Iceland

The technique is exquisite. You let the sun and gravity break off a bit of a glacier, you soak it for a few days in salt water, then cast it up on a beach of black volcanic sand. After a night of the waves splashing sand all over it, it sets in the sun. It’s really fun to chase this art form down,. Here’s a troll with a monk in its belly, holding Christ as a child. And isn’t the Mjalður the Bell Ram off to the left? Why I think it is.

If you haven’t read Gunnar’s Advent, it’s time.

Of course, you could just go right to the source, though.

The Family Dragon is the Best

Iceland is a society of cairns. Cairns are artificial humans made out of stacked-up skulls, which allow the living to find their way in the footsteps of those who came before. Here’s one in the Berserker Lava Fields.


Here’s one in Borg.

And an artful one in Reykjavik.

And back to the Berserker Lava Field, where a modern cairn, a 4×4, moves as the driver anticipates where you are going to be, but you have to show up there to find it. Unlike the others, it isn’t a visual cairn. It’s more like one or the whole body.

Skull training starts young. Here’s a pretty standard kid’s playground, with a build-it-yourself dragon.

The dragon you make yourself is not the one that’s going to hurt you.

Country of the Wind

In Langadalur, you can find a country where humans can only exist as the companions of elemental powers. To walk here is to be utterly naked in the universe. To do so with a community of people is no help. You must enter with a community of things, and live within them until you have crossed. What the Icelanders have learned in 1100 years is that when the boat doesn’t come, you had better be good at making a new community of things.

You must halter yourself to the Earth, lest you are blown away. You could say that Gunnar returned to Iceland in 1939 because he loved his land, which is true, that he was romantic, which is also true, that he was afraid, which was reasonable in 1939, and you could say that this fold east of Bifrost is an instance of creativity, which is also true, but those are just words. You pick up the Earth one stone at a time, and move them to create a body that shelters you. It is your companion. It is yourself. From their to haunting is not far.

Iron Age Iceland: An Archaeological Field Trip

Over in Lágkotstangi, iron age ruins are not hard to spot.

Because of recent tree-planting initiatives in the North and East, it is slowly being replaced by a rudimentary Wooden Age.

Because Iceland has been isolated so long, history is coming very quickly now. Even as we speak, both iron and wood are giving way to the Age of Plastic. They’re not going down without a fight, though.

Look at Iron and Wood trying to be useful (and sneaky) still!

Icelandic Knitting Patterns

You can keep warm with a good woven sheep.

As for sheep, they knit landscapes like this, in Breiðafjörður, one stitch at a time.

Nice  banding  work!

Nice  banding  work!

Suðurdalur

A labour of love.

It requires some skill with clambering and counting stitches.

Valpjofstaður

But sheep, ah, sheep…

… they seek out tears in the knitting.

Sheep are tricksters. You can find them there.

Ásmundarstataðá

In this way, you can stay warm dressed in the cold land.

Grund, November

In Iceland, No Tree is Just a Tree

The altar at Hólar is an example of what a tree can be made into, in a form of technology imported to Iceland.

The rowan tree in the graveyard outside is an example of how pre-Christian symbols can use a tree for the same ends of contemplation and memory. The cross is a third example.

Iceland’s history walks between these poles, but always the green tree is honoured most deeply, and at the least expense. It’s good to have one’s symbols take root and look after themselves, because there’s work to do.