Tag Archives: North Iceland

The Secret Runes of the North

The old Norse runes are well known.

 

They were repeated many times and developed shared symbolic meaning, aside from their use as an alphabet suitable for carving in stone.

Nonetheless, there are other runes. At Ásbyrgi, for example, long strings of runes, alphabets essentially, written in a bodily script, are written in long lines across the faces of the cliffs.

The more you stare at them, the more they make sense, although each is written one time only, in constant modifications of basic patterns, no two the same.

The pleasure gained from spending a day reading them is no different from that in a gallery on the European continent, in the face of Rembrandt, Vermeer or Van Dyk, or in a vault in Mainz with Gutenberg’s Bible, or in front of Shakespeare’s First Folio in the British Library.

These are masterworks never repeated, but no less masterworks, and no less languages and texts, for being so.

You can’t read them in the pubs of Reykjavik. You are going to have to go north, so far off of Highway 1 that when you learn to read these runes you won’t tell anyone what they say.

The University of North Iceland Graduation Exam for Everyone

In Iceland, so the story goes, you knew you were old enough to go fishing in a small boat on the big grey sea by how heavy of a stone you could lift. A pile of stones was much like a university examination is today. Here is the examination set at Skriðuklaustur, more for fun than anything.

Today no one goes to sea for cod in little wooden ships, but there are still lots of rocks to lift and measure yourself by, and, what’s harder, you can lift the with your mind…


The University of North Iceland

… to learn the language of the rain, now that gravity has torn them from their original story. Much fun can still be had.

The Strength of the Icelandic North

There is a richness in the North that the lush green of the South can’t touch.

Somewhere North of Dettifoss

(Even the Icelandic map doesn’t name this place.)

It’s stark, and “stark”, we know, is “strong.” You feel your strength here. And clambering over all this broken stone let’s you feel your tendons too!

The Art of Cairns

When you are caught by a veið, or a plane of gaping energy, that can devour you without a trace…

… where everything (and soon you too) is thrown, or strewn, around without sense…

… it’s best to create memory, and sense, or you will be lost, literally. Cairns like the one below are the Parthenons of Iceland. Don’t touch.

And don’t make more! That would be like destroying Shakespeare.


Even if the highway-building crew starts it, please resist translating cairns, energy gathered from throws to make wide space close, into an image of yourself as witness. This isn’t magic or art. It’s architecture and language. The path to history through them should remain open. If not, why go to Iceland?

~

Images from between Hafragilsfoss and Dettifoss, as well as on Highway 85 to Vopnafjörður.