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On Sunday morning (only two days ago!) we were bathing in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland as the Golden Winter Sun suddenly rose over the mountain ridge and everyone gasped.

Iceland and Greenland are the places my soul calls home. My soul compass points north, always. While others dream of tropical beaches and a permanent sun tan, I dream of Icebergs, polar bears and the Northern Lights. While others plan to visit relatives, I plan to visit ‘Huldufolket’ – The Hidden Folk!

Our 9 year old son Brendan shares my obsession for the North. This Autumn he kept asking us when we were going to Iceland. One day my husband sat down with him and said: “OK Brendan, let’s book flights and do it! ” We asked our ‘resident teenagers’ but the older boys said: no thanks, we’ll do Iceland as part of our GSCE Geography trip with school. (They are at an age where you don’t want to be seen travelling with your parents, if you can help it…. How stupid can you be? Exactly!)

After we booked the flights Brendan informed us that we were going to Iceland in January 2014, Greenland in September 2014 and Antarctica in the Summer of 2015. Right! We do of course encourage our children to dream and my husband told Brendan that is he up for project Sailing to Antarctica, together with Brendan, on his gap year after his A Levels! That is only about 9 years away Brendan! Dream on!!!

In  the creation stories of Norse mythology the world came into being as the region of primeval fire (Muspellsheim) met the region of primeval ice (Niflheim). Between those two regions stretched the yawning void or abyss of the Ginnungagap. Where heat met cold, the ancestral giant Ymir appeared and from his armpit the first man and woman were born (Ask and Embla). From his legs the Frost Giants were born.

We are all familiar with the song ‘Poetry in Motion’ but to me Iceland is ‘Geography in Motion’. In Iceland you can see very clearly that Creation is an on-going dance, a never-ending process. Where Fire and Ice meet, islands and mountains are created, volcanoes erupt, and there are plenty hot springs and ‘hot spots’ for humans to bathe in and receive the healing powers of the elements.

In shamanism we know that the so called ‘elementals’ (forces or beings representing the elements) can be observed and consulted. If we connect with them and invite them they will come forward and ‘take form’ to communicate with us. Iceland is the perfect places to visit the elementals, be awe-struck by them, learn from them.

A lot of people have heard that in Iceland human beings coexist peacefully with otherworld (supernatural) beings such as elves, trolls, gnomes, land wights. Before human beings make major decisions that involve the landscape (like building a road, or a dam) the ‘Huldufolket’ (or Hidden Folk) are consulted. This is why some roads in Iceland weave and wind their way around significant (sacred) features in the landscape.

So, what did we do? We stayed in Reykjavik and rented a car – just an ordinary car, not even a four wheel drive! We drove to Geysir where the geyser Strokkur put on a magnificent display erupting (and drenching us all!) We visited the half frozen great waterfall at Gullfoss. We visited some thermal springs where we had the place all to ourselves. My husband and Brendan even managed a quick dip in the arctic waters (the outside temperature at that point was 0 degrees Celsius!)  before running back to the hottest spring to regain body heat. (See final picture below this blog!)

We had hoped to visit the island of Vestmannaeyjar but gale force winds did not allow this. We were very keen to visit the puffin colony there! Instead we had to make do with buying Brendan a cuddly puffin in Reykjavik. Instead we visited the Snaefellsness Peninsula and it was like ‘driving on the North Pole’, endless expanses of snow, only broken up by the cratered ‘moon landscapes’ of the lava fields. Here many lava formations have sprouted that look like sentinels guardian other worlds. Some look like dinosaurs. In Iceland the other world is always just one step, one foggy breath or a will-o-wisp away.

On Sunday morning we explored Reykjavik on foot. We found out that hiring towels and bathrobes at the Blue Lagoon is ridiculously expensive so we went out and bought some cheap tourist tea towels with puffins on them instead! They did the trick (if nothing more).

The Blue Lagoon is amazing. It had doubled in size since husband and I visited Iceland in the year 2000. They had clearly done some excavating and landscaping – but tastefully so. Another invention were the big pots of mud with ladles where you could help yourself to a facial!

Brendan was dragging his heels as the time approached to fly home. He says he know wants to live in Iceland permanently. He had started referring to our rented accommodation in town as ‘Our Reykjavik Apartment’. If Brendan really wants to live in Iceland he will need to learn a very tricky new language. Icelandic is like an ancient parent tongue of the modern Scandinavian languages and it has kept all its cases and inflections as well as the, so called ‘post positive article’ that is characteristic of all Scandinavian languages today (i.e. the article is glued on to the back of a noun!) For Brendan improving his Swedish would be a softer option (his Dad is Swedish and Farmor – his Swedish Grandma – is already teaching him) but his heart is now set on Iceland and so is mine….

Is there any way of moving to Iceland without marrying a handsome Icelander? That could get  a little messy as I am already married to a Swede! I will look into this and Brendan too is planning to do some research….

The Allfather of the Norse Gods Odin, passing through the world of the giants  (jötnar), found two beautiful young giants named Sol and Mani, Sun and Moon. They were brother and sister (in Norse mythology the Sun, Sol or Sunna is female!) and Odin decreed that Sol and Mani should drive the chariots of the sun and moon across the sky. To ensure that their journey was steady and ran exactly ‘on schedule’  he appointed two wolves and placed them in the sky to pursue those chariots and devour them if they caught up with them. Those wolves were called Hati and Skoll.

Ragnarok (‘The Doom of the Gods’ or end of the world/universe in Norse Mythology) will be preceded by Fimbulvetr, the winter of winters. Three such winters will follow each other with no summers in between. Conflicts and feuds will break out, even between families, and all morality will disappear. This announces “the beginning of the end”. The wolf Skoll will finally devour the sun, and his brother Hati will eat the moon, plunging the earth  into darkness. The stars will vanish from the sky.

Please make sure you visit Iceland well before Ragnarok!

Imelda Almqvist

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