Tag Archives: Norse mythology

Iceland Spirituality in a Culture of Settlement

Settlement is the foundational theology of Iceland. In countries such as mine, Canada, or that of my ancestors, Germany, foundational theologies tend to be about colonization, either of the land and bodies of other people or of the self. Not in Iceland.

In Reykholt, Snorri Sturluson wrote the texts that define Norse theology. If you visit Reykholt, you will soon see that these books represent the landscape around Reykholt more than any historical theology.

In short, they are more a way of settling the land the of claiming it.

Witness the chosen motif for the altar of the old church in Reykholt. The White Christ rises as the sun…

… much like the mountain up the valley, capped with its glacier from before human time.

It is a world in which ancient binary forces, ice and fire, create a human habitat, the world, which is a kind of whirlpool in the sea of the universe, which is, really, the sea.

Human activity has eroded the primal world, but that pre-human time still delivers water and the power that defines humans.

The church itself, exists within an ancient, pagan forest, blessed as the source of nationalism. It is an accurate depiction of Icelandic culture. Sure, it’s planted, but that’s part of the point of living within a settlement.

When summer comes, Icelanders don’t take to the sea, they take to the forests. They already live in the sea. It is settlement they celebrate, and that includes placing them within the forest like the old church at Reykholt. Tourists drive through the birch forests below, take a few pictures, and drive back and away to claim that they were there, but Icelanders turn off into them and settle for the summer.

Just to the north, at Bifröst, they do it right at the bridge between worlds, and that’s the key to Iceland: this settlement right at the point at which power erupts from the land. It’s stubborn.

Perhaps, travellers to Iceland see a forest in the image below (taken at Geysir to the south east).

Perhaps they will call the old pre-human world nature …

… perhaps they will even realize, in a breathless moment, that this nature is not the Garden of Eden…

…and realize that you need tools to settle your panic in the face of such power, such as the fire hydrant in downtown (!!) Reykholt above, one of Iceland’s major urban centres, or in the pre-Christian tools facing the altar from the door to the world of the Reykholt Church below.

Balance, that’s the thing.

I mean, for those of you who can’t just drive on, because when you are at the intersection of all power in the world, either here at Bifröst …

… or here at Reykholt …

… or here in Reykjavik…

… the frame is not the golden power and will of God coming to the world out of nothing …

… but immediate and present power without symbols at all.

It’ll change you.  Do you dare settle, within, in a point of balance?

Or will you make a claim, to display your presence, such as these (illegal) tourists cairns below, above an Icelandic summer village at þingvellavatn?

Or will you turn the ancient forest into the outflow for a hydroelectric dam?


Lagarfljot at Hallormstaðir

Don’t expect the Icelanders to tell you. They don’t have to decide these things. They already live here.

On Middle Earth.

What Are We Looking At?

Yesterday, I surmised that the Nordic eye that is neither thought nor memory, and thus not consciousness, is the body, looking out, and asked what it was that we are looking at with that eye. I suggested vision, a presence of being rendered physical.

If that is what we are looking at, it is quite foreign to the contemporary world. Today, human eyes look out to see the social, at all times.

But in a one-eyed landscape, is it really social, or is that just a contemporary, North American word placed on a far different manner of presence?

At any rate, it’s quite different from a human/non-human relationship of being, such as Iceland-outside-of-Reykjavik:

But, here’s the question: is that relationship social, too? But not “social” in terms of human-to-human interactions? 

And so, we come, as we seem to always do, to another question: if there is a non-human social relationship, what is it with, or, perhaps better put, what is a human social relationship when it includes non-peoples?

And what does that say about interhuman social relationships? Something to dream about overnight!

Thought, Memory and All the Wisdom in the World

Oðin, the wanderer, threw his eye into the pool at the root of the world tree, to gain wisdom.

The Icelandic Green Party Reassembles the World Tree in the Election of 2013

The nature of the wisdom a supplicant received was determined by the quality of the gift. For an eye, he got two ravens, Thought and Memory, and what else is consciousness? That’s it, for sure. Here are a few pictures of Thought and Memory in Iceland, to show you how it works.Church, Battery, and Water for Horses.

Sheep and World War II US Army Surplus

Abandoned Cruise Ship and Fish Bins, Lagarfljót

Thought and a Door… Or is That Memory and a Mouth?

Window Remembering the Sky and Thinking of the Wind

Forest, Remembering, in Front of a House Thinking of a Waterfall

The Cow at the Hamburger Factory, Remembering Its Days as a Reality TV Show

Pretty cool, for sure, but here’s the haunting thing: what is the other eye doing? The one that is not consciousness? This?

This? Not at all. If it’s a human image, it’s conscious. The other must have been the eye of vision. The one that doesn’t stop and notice, but flows on.

There is, at any rate, something that’s not conscious, that is aware. So often, thought speaks of the Huldufolk, the elves and trolls that “live within the rock.” Are they the other eye? Are they us?

What are we looking at?

A Jewel on Thor’s Shield

Myth is not a literal device. Thor’s Shield is a volcano in Iceland, in Middle Earth. It is rimmed with cinder cones. What follows is wit: poets competing with kings, using words alone. It’s smith-work, just as sword-forging is: what is svart is black, what smarts, hits. There are sparks. The words are all one word. The shield is a shield. That’s the wit of it.

Knowing this was the business of kings.

 

Thought and Memory on the Black Road

When the god Oðin plucked out an eye to receive all the wisdom in the world, he received two ravens: Thought and Memory.p1310979

Here they are in Kerlingardalur, thinking and remembering. What else is consciousness?

 

p1320923Skaftafellsjökull

Well, yes, ice, but that comes from beyond the world. That is unconsciousness. That is what you need thought and memory for, lest they have you.

ravens

That’s the way of the black road.