Category Archives: Huldúfolk

Gathering the Living and the Dead

When the winds reach 125 kilometres per hour, I tell ya, the walls of a graveyard are welcome shelter.

The black church at Buðir still has the power to draw people to it, even though its town pretty much vanished long ago.

When you’re out there in the midwinter wind, it’s pretty clear, though, that the church is an expression of Budir, not Budir an expression of the church.

In other words, here under the volcano (cloaked in fog of its own making), in a lava field blown with dunes of stinging orange sand, the broken bits of old scallop shells, in a wind the volcano sends out to sea like a searchlight, there is power and light that exceed our understanding.

It is good to honour them.

It is good to remember that the living have been given their life by the dead. Even our words, even these words, are the work of ancestral voices meeting the world, often in winds so strong you don’t breathe the air, it breathes you. (I am not writing these words. My ancestors are. That kind of experience. To them, I am a mouth — a door.)

Gunnar wrote a book about some of this, called Vikikvaki, a story of the dead coming to life and dancing on New Year’s Eve.

He meant Iceland.

(The wind has passed now in the mid-day solstice light)

The dead meant life. They meant the wind. It is good to enter these forces. It is also vital to have shelter.

Tourist Herding in Iceland, a Class Act

There is an uncanny resemblance between these images. Note the object of the photo watching from within it.

Note how she looks off to the side, leaving the balancing point as white ice.

Note the reaching out and goofy eagerness, set against nature as if it were a part of it.


Note the cool self-assurance by which the non-human actors make the real statement in the scene.

Note the fragile sense of vulnerability of modernity and the troubled gaze out of class, strengthened by class achievement yet never certain.

Note the deliberate dissemination of confusion. You are being led around by people who have been herdsmen and fishermen for 1100 years, after all. As Margret told me last summer, you never know who is the elf and who is the human. You never know,.

Note how Icelanders dress as the visitors do to make everybody comfortable with these arrangements.


Funky, eh. Yeah, well, be strong.

Or blend in.