Tag Archives: Videy

Maria of the Elves

Women were put to death for visiting elves here on Viðey in Reykjavik Old Harbour. Now there is a shrine to Maria made out of cut glass in their honour and in honour of birth and motherhood in general.

On the other side of the island is the John Lennon Peace Tower, which beams light up into the winter darkness.

Iceland. Giving Peace and Light a chance since 870.

Plus picnics.

Gunnar Turns Over in His Grave

In March 1940, Gunnar told Nazi Germany about Icelandic architecture that blended with the land. He meant a mixture of German and Icelandic styles, such as his house at Skriðuklaustur, designed by the Hamburg architect Fritz Höger and, well, countrified by its Icelandic workmen, who substituted Icelandic river stones for square cut German ones. Ooops. Nice turf roof, though. Blending in.

He was trying to avoid this:

Albert Speer’s Volkshalle (Hall of the People): architecture that luckily never was.

What the American occupation of the war gave Gunnar’s East Iceland was this:

Dang. The poor man is turning over in his grave.

Got the turf right, though.

Gunnar’s Grave

When Gunnar was a boy at ValÞfjösstaður Farm, he was given a walnut for Christmas: one walnut. It was an unimaginable gift of wealth. He ate the nut, and with the one half intact shell, he made a boat and set into the stream, the ValÞfjösstaðurá, that flowed off the Ogre’s Stairway above the farm, and chased along beside as it went. Out of that walnut, he dreamed of ships crossing the sea, and of leaving isolation to be a full citizen of the greater world. He did, and then he came home, and then he went to Reykjavik. He’s buried now on Viðey, the holy island in Old Reykjavik Harbour. I tried to bring him a stone from home four years ago, but it was late in the year and the ferry wasn’t running. I promised to come back. I did, just last fall. I brought him a gift from across the sea.skald

Do you see the walnut shell there, for his travels? Fare well, dear Gunnar, on whatever seas bear you.

How Winter Comes to Reykjavik

It comes over the mountains from the glaciers, who draw it from the sky and send it back to the sea as an image of themselves.winter

November 5, 2016, Viðey

It comes as a flood. It comes in a fog river many kilometres in width. It doesn’t come from the Atlantic. That is Caribbean water out there. Up in the sky, well, that is a far different thing. That is not this world at all.

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?


Christmas Between the Worlds

On the woman’s hill on Viðey, it is possible to walk between worlds.p1340121

It is here the stones speak a language that is neither Icelandic nor English. It is an eruption of physical presence.


Whatever words we who are human speak, it is no less and no more than this ability to walk through bodies lifted into the air until they become it, and then to breathe them in the same moment as our walking.


This breathing is our way of talking to our ancestors, who the living call the dead. They’re hardly dead.


Not as long as we keep walking among them.


Not as long as we continue to honour them with devotion to each other.


Let us listen with all that we are.


Let us trust the old paths of care.



Let us honour the conversation and the giving forth and the point at which we become the earth at the point that it becomes us.


For it either goes on without us or with us, and we can so be there.


Let us go give thanks by being there.p1310489

Let us be honourable children. Let us be there.


Let us give praise, however we can.

p1310671However you can, let us find the silence at the heart of speech. Let us stand aside. Let us give each other that much honour.p1400536 Let us be the speech at the heart of silence. Let us be gathered in.


For we are all the living.


We have much to talk about. bright2

We have much to walk together through the stillness that gives us movement and stills us at the same moment.troll


Let us rejoice.