Tag Archives: Svartifoss

Svartifoss: River of Blood

Perhaps it’s called Svartifoss (Black Falls) because it shows itself on a black basalt cliff.

Bad Light Helps One See Clearly Here

Perhaps it’s because the red autumn birches turn black with distance, and still the fall flashes.

Autumn Rain Really Brings Out the Light of This Land

In either case, it’s not the cliff that is named but the water.

It seems that when blackness falls it is visible. Of course, that means it’s not black at all…

… or that whiteness is also a blindness, beyond human life. We marvel. Life, it comes from nowhere, flashes with life, and then returns to mystery.

Svartifoss in Its Pool of Birch Blood


Svartifoss, Skaftafell National Park, South Iceland


Mysterious, Humbling, Inhuman Iceland

Welcome to the Black Falls, Svartifoss.

I really think no words have ever been created for this, but talking around its edges for weeks would be enjoyable. I think the lichen gets it.

I know the raven does.

Don’t expect your tour operator to tell you about this. It’s not a human thing, and it’s their job to be a good host and look after your bodily comforts. Bodily discomforts, well, that’s for you to find out on your own.

It is not a human world.

Falling in Iceland









The sense of the ancient word “fall” is preserved in English today in the expression “falling away,” and the word “fell,” denoting a primitive evil. It denotes the state of entering what is not there, of suddenly having no earth holding you up, which the planet does, kindly enough.

It holds you up in all sorts of different ways. And then it lets you go.


Falling to the Centre of the Earth

When I first saw Svartifoss, a waterfall in Skaftafell National Park, I fell in love. When I approached it in late fall four years later, I fell in love again. It was darker now, and somehow even more glorious.

What’s not to love! Just to the left of the fall, the earth reveals the fall’s real story, though:

It’s not the water that falls here, but anything that enters this space, even the earth.

Even me. Even you. That is powerful earth magic for sure.