Hraesvelg and the Ash - Eyjafjörður, Iceland

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Hraesvelg and the Ash - Eyjafjörður, Iceland

 
 
 

King Gylfi, still disguised as Gangleri, persists in his efforts. He aims to obtain as much information from the great Trinity of Gods as his trickery can muster.

 High, Just-As-High, & Third ( Hár, Jafnhár, & Þriði ) and Gangleri, deep in conversation (Icelandic comic strip, XVIIIth c.)

High, Just-As-High, & Third (Hár, Jafnhár, & Þriði) and Gangleri, deep in conversation (Icelandic comic strip, XVIIIth c.)

 

After hearing about the universe, cosmos and creation, Gangleri finally asks a question on the lips of all travellers having braved the harsh Icelandic elements.

Whence comes the wind? It is so strong that it whips the great oceans and stirs up fire. But as strong as it is, no one can see it. It is so wondrously made.

 'The Wind! Sometimes it's there, sometimes not. Where does it come from?' Gangleri scratches beard ponderously

'The Wind! Sometimes it's there, sometimes not. Where does it come from?' Gangleri scratches beard ponderously

 

Then High answered : 'That I can tell you well. At the far Northern end of Heaven, sits a Giant named Hraesvelg. He is clad in eagle's feathers. And when he beats his wings to take flight, the winds arise from under them. (The Prose Edda 18.)

And so, from the northernmost part of the cosmos, Hraesvelg, 'who knows many things', sends gusts of wind rushing onto the bare Icelandic mountains. Carving the landscape even as did the sons of Bor. 

"Hraesvelg, he is called,

who sits at Heaven's End

a Giant in Eagle's shape.

From his wings it is said, the Winds

blow over all men"

(The Sybil's Prophecy. 37)

 Rare stillness. A gift from the Giant in Eagle's shape

Rare stillness. A gift from the Giant in Eagle's shape

 

However, Hraesvelg is not alone on the edge of the universe (which, as everyone knows, is a big tree). Between his eyes rests a hawk, Veðrfölnir, 'wind-bleached' clear and bright. Not to be confused with Odin's ravens...

And one shouldn't imagine that the feathered friends are undisturbed. The cosmos-tree Yggdrasil leads with its roots down to three planes: the divine one, the one where matter was formed, and the evil one (Æsir, 'where Ginnungagap used to be', and Niflheim). And underneath the lowest root, there where serpents abide, the monster Nidhogg gnaws at Yggdrasil.

Between this lowest plane and heaven's end, a squirrelRatatosk is up to all kinds of mischief. He carries 'gossip and insults' between our winged giant and the evil monster. Yes, really. A squirrel. But to be fair to him, older sources than the very recent Prose Edda (XIIIth c.) state simply that 'Ratatosk is the squirrel who there shall run, On the ash-tree Yggdrasil; From above the words of the eagle he bears, And tells them to Nidhogg beneath.' Which is more straightforward and less controversial for our little friend.

In the midst of the branches, four stags rummage around 'devouring the tree's foliage'. But hey. Stags do what stags do. It's a stag's dues. There's  no stag don'ts. Just ... yes you got it. And the lads are: Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór.

See if you can identify this merry band of beasts...

the whole picture.png
 

Although, actually, the Gods are frustratingly unclear about one point: whether Hraesvelg is that same eagle, or, if a separate eagle, non-wind-related, sits there with a hawk between his eyes.

The second one there is much more likely... But how else was I supposed to bring up the squirrel??

Surely wider concepts hide here in the branches of Yggdrasil. Do you see in it the cosmos, a metaphor for the body, or an Scandinavian's very creative prose? Interestingly, this representation echoes many concepts of Euro-Asian mythology (see the eagle Garuda who triumphs over serpents, and the serpent-like kundalini at the base of the spine in the Hindu faith). The disrupting serpent Nidhogg resonates quite well also with the one who tempted Adam and Eve to fall out of Heaven. Food for thought no doubt!

Noble creatures and restless beasts, grace, threaten and defend the great tree of life Yggdrasil. However, it's really hard to picture any of it being the truth behind our reality, when faced with the calm beauty of an early evening by the fjords of Eyjafjörður.

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Thanks for reading/viewing! If you've made this far, do drop a comment! It's fantastic to know when (if?) someone actually makes it through the whole thing. May Hraesvelg's mighty winds arrive to you as light guiding breezes.

The drawings in this post are from the manuscripts here (XVIIIth c.) and here (XVIIth c.). Feel free to click ahead and practice your olde Icelandic.

This musical adventure through Iceland is made possible with the participation of the lovely and crazy people at awesome Kuku Campers, and with the participation of CloudMusic Ukuleles, which are the ukes you see me wandering and musing with here on the island!

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Who knew - Myvatn Baths, Iceland

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Who knew - Myvatn Baths, Iceland

 
 
 

If you travel completely unprepared, first of all, hi, hello, welcome to the club. And also, you've probably noticed there are two sides to our globetrotting coin. First, it's great to be surprised... (and that really helps the song-writing!)

But then again, sometimes, it's possible to really feel a fool, not to have packed one of the most important things you had no idea you needed.

But I mean, who knew those were important here?

  Route 1, on the way to Reykjahlíð...

Route 1, on the way to Reykjahlíð...

 

Iceland's freezing, and driving through it in the cold season is certainly beautiful, but won't make anyone feel like undressing. Then again, travelling here, you may need something more than just warm clothes...

Who knew, who knew? Who knew that on this globe's coldest isle, who knew, that where it's cold all the while,

who knew, who knew, that in the land of 'Vatnajökull', where ice comes in the hugest of chunks,

you must pack as a goldenest rule, your...

 
 

...swimming trunks.

It's clearly no secret to anyone who has previously opened an Iceland guide of some sort: you need to pack a pair.

Personally, I didn't know. I mean, I'm travelling to the icy-est, harshest place I've ever set foot, and I'm an idiot for not packing swimming trunks ? ... Yes.

Iceland is located on a rift of continental plates which means: volcanoes, and also, very hot water. In the 'Mývatn Nature Baths' for example, North of the island, you swim in naturally heated water, which is brought up from the ground at about 250°C. Luckily for swimmers, with and without swimming trunks, it is cooled with a sort of circular system before it arrives in the baths. Bit hot otherwise.

 Finally useful information on this Blog ! The Mývatn Baths opening times. No mention of swimming trunks though. Turns out you need some.

Finally useful information on this Blog ! The Mývatn Baths opening times. No mention of swimming trunks though. Turns out you need some.

 

You can go for a swimm in Mývatn,

You can stand on Strokkur, and then Boum,

You'll fly in the air, flown by the 'Geyseir'... *splash*

Who knew, who knew, who knew, that on the island of glaciers and frost

You must pack a pair at all cost

So come over to a hot pot for a small dunk

But don't forget your...

Something you don't get from my sing-song is the wonderful view! But in the cold season, there's approximately 25 minutes of daylight per day -which really isn't enough for me to get the song right. So I copy/pasted a low res picture from the official website of the baths. There you go. What a view (that I didn't see) !

  Who knows, who knows, who know  s who this guy is...

Who knows, who knows, who knows who this guy is...

 

Another couple of things not too well transmitted by video/audio media: the slight smell of eggs which comes from the sulphur in the water, and also, how incredibly soft that water makes your skin ! Really, a swim in there and you are once again graced with skin as delicate as a baby's. That's the magic of Icelandic minerals.

Now is a good time for another photo. Too bad I don't have any. So I guess, I'll just share the other side of the sign. Interesting information on there too. And that way, I don't have to go on about it myself.

'Enjoy, Relax, Experience, Become Super-Extra-Soft'

 

The Song Glossary - what am I going on about?

Vatnajökull:  A big big ice cap on the island, actually the biggest of them all! It's cold, it's impressive, and you don't need swimming trunks there.

Mývatn: Hot baths these adventures are talking about in this very post. Hopefully you noticed.

Strokkur: The most active geyser of all geysers. Situated right next to the geyser called Geysir, that gave its name to all other geysers. That name being geysers.

Hot pot: Very common throughout the country, these are small pools of naturally hot water, made out of all sorts of things, stones, concrete, ex-agricultural tubs... they're warm and cosy, and often come with a view (yes, unlike my video)

Thanks for reading!

These Ukulele Road Trips are travelling through this majestic island of Ice and Fire with a fine van from Kuku Campers

and singing about the whole thing with CloudMusic ukes - tested to be hot-bath-water-resistant.

 
  "floats away..."

"floats away..."

 

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Kuku Cooking On The Go - Iceland

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Kuku Cooking On The Go - Iceland

 
 
 

All travellers know this. Exploring Iceland in the cold and misty season is not to be taken lightly. You need to make sure you have everything you need to not die. That includes, of course, having a heated mode of transport that you won't freeze in. If you don't know that before landing in Iceland, hopefully a couple of locals will explain the importance of it to you before you get on the road (...thank goodness for the conversation with Ásgeir and Hjalti).

 The trusted heated steed of these ukulele adventures in Iceland. And a guy waving a ukulele.

The trusted heated steed of these ukulele adventures in Iceland. And a guy waving a ukulele.

 

A very important part of keeping warm, is eating warm food. And another part of it is the nice warm fuzzy feeling you get when the food is delicious. If you're lucky and/or super smart, you'll be touring the land of easily upset giants with a mobile house that has everything you need to do both! And as I was pretty lucky, I did just that.

 The kitchen, living room, bedroom and music room all parked next to the Borgarnes Church

The kitchen, living room, bedroom and music room all parked next to the Borgarnes Church

 

So, to demonstrate survival with a taste for tasty food, a first in these Ukulele adventures, a cooking show straight from the Icelandic roads:

 
 

As you can see, the trick is to adjust the dosage of the butter.

Not only is it a useful and probably necessary way to survive, cooking can also be a welcome distraction from the vast stretches of fog.

 "Fog!"

"Fog!"

 

If ever it feels like you're driving on the moon, and the landscape is more repetitive than a charts song, except with lots of fog, just pull over, and make soup.

 
 

The trick is to use an instant soup, and then add small bits of random vegetables. It counts. It's cooking. And the bread was fried in butter, so, definitely, cooking.

Not vital, but also very important: cleaning up after the warmth of the food has settled into your body.

 Keeping the workstation orderly: number two priority

Keeping the workstation orderly: number two priority

 

These Ukulele Road Trips are cooking, driving, and all round adventure-ing with Kuku Campers, the life saving exploring-enabling very nice people from Reykjavik., and playing and singing with CloudMusic ukes, perfect for misty mornings. And afternoons.

Support the adventure by donating or on Patreon !

 
 another picture of the fog, in case you mist it

another picture of the fog, in case you mist it

 

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Bárður's Lament - Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge, Iceland

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Bárður's Lament - Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge, Iceland

 
 
 

Lost in the bewildering Snæfellsnes peninsula, West of Iceland, a natural landmark speaks volumes of a grief still bare. In an eery ravine carved in the wayside mountain, the walls echo the pain of loss, the water trickles with restless doubts, and birds above swirl like unwanted memories of wrath-filled deeds.

 Down by the entrance of 'the ravine of Rauðfeldur'

Down by the entrance of 'the ravine of Rauðfeldur'

 

It is in the Rauðfeldsgjá gorge, in the IXth Century, that the revered and powerful half-giant Bárður, blind with fury, committed the murderous irreparable:

Two of his young nephews had been playing with Bárður's beautiful daughters. The eldest daughter, after a tussle, landed on an iceberg by accident and drifted away to the North. The half-giant, fuming with anger, took his nephews high up into the mountains. One of the them, Sölvt, was pushed off a nearby cliff, and the other one, Rauðfeldur was thrown to his death in this very ravine, which now bears his name (Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge means the Gorge of Rauðfeldur in Half-Giant).

 The bare landscape of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, where the Giant Bárður's still roams

The bare landscape of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, where the Giant Bárður's still roams

 

It is believed that Bárður to this day, comes by this open tomb still. And as you sit by it, and wings flutter above the gorge, you may hear wandering thoughts, the pain of the one who did wrong, and unbearable answers, though never question asked.

 
 

After breaking the skull of one boy from a cliff and throwing the other in the ravine, Bárður was confronted by their devastated father, his half-brother Þorkell. They fought and Bárður broke his borther's leg, leaving him to crawl home.

"When I do wander, aimlessly far,

When the whirlwind brings thoughts from a distance,

And in the walls of my dungeon, the ceaseless blame of the water

Cousins do lay in the canyon, echoes of a grief I did father"

 Rauðfeldsgjá gorge, themystical crime scene, home to sea gulls and echoing grief

Rauðfeldsgjá gorge, themystical crime scene, home to sea gulls and echoing grief

 

After this event Bárður became unstable and recluse, the tormenting grief getting the better of him.

"And I've had many a sleepless night, beneath this roof, and beneath these stars

Where I lay my weary head, and doubt builds a stronghold,

For to see the guilty let free and roam,

or to bear the pain of the one who did wrong, I hear their distant call, piercing from beyond"

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Bárður is an essential charachter of Iceland's history and this tragic event changed him forever. Son of a titan and of Mjöll, a beautiful human woman, he led the very first expedition to establish a settlement in Iceland when refusing to pay tax to the Norwegian King. He brought many men as well as his 9 daughters with him.

Waging war, fighting, killing Titans and traitors were no strangers to Bárður's life. But after the events at the gorge, he left his farm Laugarbrekka  with all his belongings and retired secretly to caves inside the mountain. After this disappearance, the repentant warrior came to be known as Bárður Snæfellsás, ever watching over the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

 Bárður would later be revered as a God and called upon for blessings and the safety of the Snæfellsnes peninsula

Bárður would later be revered as a God and called upon for blessings and the safety of the Snæfellsnes peninsula

 

If you like happy endings of sorts, or irony, you'll be glad to know that Bárður's daughter Helga was actually fine. She drifted for a few days, landing in Greenland. She stayed there for a while with one of her dad's friends who happened to have settled there a year before. She then made her way back to Iceland a couple of years later via Norway.

But the peninsula will have been marked forever by these dramatic events.

 A view from onto now peaceful (probably because it's Winter) peaks of Snæfellsnes

A view from onto now peaceful (probably because it's Winter) peaks of Snæfellsnes

 

Thanks for reading,

The adventure #GoingNorth is made possible by the good people on the Patreon, of which you can become one here,

and by KukuCampers as well as the ukes I'm travelling and singing with on this frosty adventure, CloudMusic Ukuleles.

 
  Checking the itinerary at the wheel of the Kuku Camper Van, you don't want to get lost on the peninsula and bother   Bárður

Checking the itinerary at the wheel of the Kuku Camper Van, you don't want to get lost on the peninsula and bother Bárður

 

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A Landscape 'from Ymir's Flesh' in Djúpalónssandur, Iceland

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A Landscape 'from Ymir's Flesh' in Djúpalónssandur, Iceland

 
 
 

"From Ymir's flesh

was the earth created,

from the bloody sweat, the sea,

cliffs from bones,

trees from hair,

and from the head, the heavens"

from "The Lay of Grimmir" quoted in "The deluding of Gylfi"

Many men and women, through centuries and civilisations, desire to know how the Universe was born, how it all came to be. A small number of those only, refuse to have their thirst for knowledge unquenched.

Gylfy, a King, was one such man, defying ignorance.

He tricked his way into the company of the great trinity of Gods, High, Just-as-High and Third. And then he asked them:

'Who is the highest or the oldest of all the Gods? Where is he, what is he capable of?'
High replied: "The wisest most powerful God, the All-Father, lives through all Ages and governs all things in his realm." Then Just-as-High said: "He made heaven, earth and the skies and everything in them." Then Third said "Most important, he created man and gave him a living spirit that will never die, even if the body rots to dust or burn to ashes."
'What was the beginning or how did things start? What was there before?'
 High said: "Early of ages when nothing was. There was neither sand nor sea, nor cold waves. The earth was not found nor the sky above."

High said: "Early of ages when nothing was. There was neither sand nor sea, nor cold waves. The earth was not found nor the sky above."

 

Gangleri's quest for knowledge is rewarded with stories of Seeresses, Wizards, Sorcerers and Giants. "The old frost giant, him we call Ymir". As the icy rime melted it revealed a cow, which then nourished the 'evil' Ymir. And as the cow fed herself, licking salty blocks of ice, Buri, the first man, beautiful and strong, appeared from them. He had a son called Bor.

'The sons of Bor killed the giant Ymir.'
'They took Ymir and made from him the world. From his blood they made the sea and the lakes. The earth was fashioned from the flesh, and mountains from the bones. They made stones and gravel from the teeth, the molars, and those bones that were broken'.
 Blood, sweat, flesh and bones of an ex-frost Giant on the black beach of Djúpalónssandur

Blood, sweat, flesh and bones of an ex-frost Giant on the black beach of Djúpalónssandur

 

Gangleri is well impressed:

'It seems to me that they accomplised great things when the earth and the sky were made, the sun and the moon set in their places and the days divided.'
 Surrounded by a living landscape...

Surrounded by a living landscape...

 

"And from his eyelashes

the gentle gods made

Midgard for the sons of men;

and from his brains

all the oppressive

clouds were formed"

 The remains of a tooth, on Djúpalónssandur beach. I think it's a molar?

The remains of a tooth, on Djúpalónssandur beach. I think it's a molar?

 

As recounted in Snorri Sturluson's The Prose Edda 

Thanks for viewing/reading. This #GoingNorth Adventure is strumming away on CloudMusic Ukuleles and travelling in the coolest vans of Kuku Campers !

If you're as brave and gracious as a son of Bor, you can (if you fancy) donate to the adventure or support me on the Patreon !

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