Tag Archives: Thingveillir

The White Christ

This is Öxarárfoss, diverted a thousand years ago off of  the Kerlingar Lava Field to bring water to the Alþing, or parliament, at þingvellir, the meeting wall.


Here it is up close.


Closer? Sure!


I mention these famous falls because of Gunnar’s book Hvide Krist, or The White Christ. It appeared in 1934.


In 1935, it appeared in German, as Der Weiße Krist.


This term, “The White Christ” doesn’t mean “Racially-white Christ” in nordic culture, although I suspect it was read that way in 1935 Germany, which was attempting to convert the Christian church to its racial programs. It is, actually, obscure. Some theories are that it’s a reference to the white baptismal robes that initiates had to wear in early Icelandic Catholicism, that it’s a reference to submission, a perception of a lack of manliness in the insistence of priests not to father children, and that it’s a reference to Christ’s Origin in the Mediterranean, the White Sea of the ancient cultures at the middle of the earth (Turkey and the Caucasus), who wandered north to become the scandinavians and which the viking founders of Iceland would have known well. Here is the ancient Turkish compassflag

In this conception, the Red Sea is to the South, the Black Sea is to the North, the White Sea (the mediterranean) is to the West, and the blue waters of the Caspian Sea to the East. The map comes into even better focus when overlaid over Jerusalem:


This is the compass. Christ is the eastern direction, towards the rising sun. Now, with that in mind, let’s look again at the Meeting Wall and its waterfall.


From the blood of the birches, bleeding out of the earth, the landscape rises to white heights in the east. The falls are in balance, in the centre. The white mountains can also be viewed as purity, ascension to Heaven, wisdom, or the bald head of an old man, who also signifies wisdom, but that’s likely a stretch. The red blood …



…can be seen as both Christ’s sacrifice and the blood law of the pagans who shared early Iceland with its early Christians. A balance was found at the Alþing of 999-1000; Christianity was adopted, to end vicious, counter-productive blood feuds; paganism was permitted, but not in public. In other words, the Church became the public face of the state; what happened in a man’s house or his heart was his own affair. This dual nature of the country was rearranged violently over the centuries, but that’s another story. In this one, one more issue is important. It’s this:


This is the Oxá, the Ox River, after it breaches the upper rift of the Alþing and enters the parliamentary centre proper. It was here that in the violent history of Iceland’s colonialization witches were drowned and criminals were beheaded, right here…p1330534

… right where the white blood of the glaciers enters Christian law before spilling out onto a plain of blood. An accident? I hardly think so. So, what was Gunnar up to in this book published by the Propaganda Ministry of the Third Reich?der-weise-krist-von-gunnar-gunnarsson-1935


Just telling a Christian story in early iceland? Giving a warning that could be read any way his readers wanted? As a parable of a populist Lutheran belief in a satanic pope at the head of a bloody church, the roman emperor himself and thus the man who threw Christians to lions for sport? As a warning about the dangers of assuming a messianic role, and the blood that would follow? All of them? None? Some for the Germans perhaps, even if not for Gunnar?


Grave Figure, Freiburg, Germany

The Christian Philosopher Martin Heidegger was running the ancient university of Freiburg for the Nazis in that year. He would have known this sculpture well. It wasn’t a year for staying on the sidelines.

1934 was the year that the Third Reich, under its ‘messiah’ Adolf Hitler, who believed in blood as a mystical force, attempted to unify Nazism and Christianity under a nationalist banner: truly a Western and not an Eastern anti-Christ. Only a close reading of Gunnar’s book will unpack Gunnar’s method. Until I get to that, here’s the Christ who glances to the east at death, and, just out the window behind me as I took this image, Gunnar’s grave on Viðey.

p1340064Has this figure been whitewashed? I leave you with this contemplation of the point at which Christianity and the land meet. Is this not, in a land-sense, the cross?


Living With the Volcano

Some farms in Iceland are in the most marginal patches of grass in the midst of lava fields. Here’s Thor’s Shield, the mother of all shield volcanoes, at the peak of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where it crashes into land underfoot. There’s a little bit of grass here in Thingveillir, but not much.p1400536

Lots of wind, though, which makes it a great place to take some of that grass and build a house.



Beautiful, isn’t it. Every farm in the country has ruins of turf houses like this. That’s the thing about Icelandic views: it’s the fact that people live on this land that makes it beautiful. The hard work of warming the land has been done. After all, the story here is one of settlement, not of conquest.