Sunday, January 4, 2015

Giants: Iceland

Today, we move on to Iceland. Though a rather isolated island in the far north, it shared its concepts with the Norse who settled it.

Source:  Just offshore from the black sand beach in Vík, the balsalt rock formations, Reynisdrangar, stick up out of the Atlantic like fingers. As the folklore goes, these spindly rock formations are actually trolls frozen in time. You see, trolls are night dwellers. They were trying to drag three ships ashore when they were caught in the sunlight and turned to stone.

Source: Dimmuborgir, located in the north of Iceland, literally translates to “Dark Cities”. As we explored Dimmuborgir with our guide, Ólafur, he pointed at the rock formations and said “Do you see the troll faces?” A long time ago, a couple of trolls that were living in the area decided to have a big party during the dark period and invite trolls from all around. The trolls partied so much and for so long, that they forgot the sun would shine again. It is said that the unusual lava pillars are really trolls that turned to stone when the sun came up.

Source:  Skessan. The Giantess, an ogress from the mountains, moved into the Black Cave at the marina in Gróf. She’s a friendly troll that we visited, though she’s sound asleep snoring in a rocking chair in her kitchen. As the tale goes, a little girl named Siggi was sent out to the mountains to play while her mother prepared a surprise sixth birthday for her. Siggi found a giant shoe, which of course belongs to a troll! Siggi wasn’t afraid of the troll, though, and they became fast friends. The Mayor was so impressed with the troll’s friendliness, he built a home for her in the cave in 2008.

Source:  The Icelandic Trolls are human-like in form, they are still inhumanly strong, huge and ugly. The Trolls are very often thought to be fearsome and cruel creatures.

But, like the elves, trolls in Iceland often treat people as they are treated and they return favors for favors, exerting vengeance if harmed.

The Icelandic Trolls live in mountains, caves and cliffs, especially bird cliffs. Like humans, they live together socially. They fish, cultivate land and keep animals. They are very good at handicrafts and hold feasts.

Source:  Surtshellir is a cave mentioned several times in the Medieval literature and said to be a cave of a giant. The first settler in the cave was said to be a giant named Surtur. Later, an outlaw band utilized the cave. 

Interestingly, in an island up to the north of Iceland, it has never been inhabited by humans and yet there were numerous petrospheres found there only 900 km from the North Pole. Josef Franz Land Island is a very curious place. Eighty five percent of the island is glacial year-round. It has never been inhabited, yet it contains numerous unexplained perfect stone spheres, something reported around the world.

In tales of Hollow Earth, supposed witnesses to this unusual location in the arctic circle described very tall people who were strong, healthy, and very advanced, kind of like Atlantis. 

Source:  Olaf Jansen was a Norwegian who gave an account of his voyage to this Hollow Earth. This hearty Norwegian in the 1800s had a father and uncle who encouraged him into ship owning and eventually he was able to sell the business, move to the Midwest of American in 1901, he moved on to Los Angeles. He spent the rest of his life drawing maps of new lands they found.

He recounted (here) that in 1829, he and family members headed to Lofoden Islands in upper Norway in the Norwegian Sea.

They moved on to Hammerfast and heading to Spitzbergen

The sea became icy and they had to dodge icebergs. They then proceeded to lift anchor and head through Hinlopen Straits.

His father wanted to continue on to Franz Josef Land where he had found tusks that brought him good money in Stockholm.

Winds being favorable, they finally landed on the west coast of Franz Josef Land. "One could hardly believe it was the Northland. The place was green with growing vegetation, and while the area did not comprise more than one or two acres, yet the air was warm and tranquil. It seemed to be at that point where the Gulf Stream's influence is most keenly felt."

Olaf wrote in his journal; "My father was an ardent believer in Odin and Thor, and had frequently told me they were gods who came from far beyond the `North Wind.' There was a tradition, my father explained, that still farther northward was a land more beautiful than any that mortal man had ever known, and that it was inhabited by the `Chosen.'"

Olaf preceded to tell a very extremely detailed account of the most unusual world they had entered.

There was not a single man aboard who would not have measured fully twelve feet in height. They all wore full beards, not particularly long, but seemingly short-cropped. They had mild and beautiful faces, exceedingly fair, with ruddy complexions. The hair and beard of some were black, others sandy, and still others yellow. The captain, as we designated the dignitary in command of the great vessel, was fully a head taller than any of his companions. The women averaged from ten to eleven feet in height. Their features were especially regular and refined, while their complexion was of a most delicate tint heightened by a healthful glow.

I never saw such a display of gold. It was everywhere. The door-casings were inlaid and the tables were veneered with sheetings of gold. Domes of the public buildings were of gold. It was used most generously in the finishings of the great temples of music.

Vegetation grew in lavish exuberance, and fruit of all kinds possessed the most delicate flavor. Clusters of grapes four and five feet in length, each grape as large as an orange, and apples larger than a man's head typified the wonderful growth of all things on the "inside" of the earth.

The great redwood trees of California would be considered mere underbrush compared with the giant forest trees extending for miles and miles in all directions. In many directions along the foothills of the mountains vast herds of cattle were seen during the last day of our travel on the river.

Many have claimed to have happened upon this nirvana-like land in Hollow Earth where the climate is beautiful, the lands are rich, the people are tall, long-lived and happy. In fact, even in recent years a voyager got together a team and funds to make the trek to the Northern Seas, though he passed away before it happened.

It is interesting is that an isolated island could carry many legends that include giants when people weren't really inhabiting it until the Vikings landed and settled it in the 9th century. But, with the Vikings came their legends to this new land, passed on to other generations. But, did ancient giants exist in this extreme place before the Vikings showed?

Source:  The Íslendingabók of Ari Thorgilsson claims that the Norse settlers encountered Gaelic monks from a Hiberno-Scottish mission when they first arrived in Iceland. There is some archaeological evidence for a monastic settlement from the British Isles at Kverkarhellir cave, on the Seljaland farm in southern Iceland. Sediment deposits indicate people lived there around 800, and crosses consistent with the Hiberno-Scottish style were carved in the wall of a nearby cave. The oldest known source which mentions the name "Iceland" is an 11th-century Gothic rune carving, while the oldest archeological finds indicating settlement date back to the 9th century. The first written source to mention the existence of Iceland is a book by the Goidelic monk Dicuil, De mensura orbis terrae, which dates back to 825. Dicuilus claimed to have met some monks who had lived on the island of Thule.

Once seeing symbols that appear Celtic in appearance in America and Iceland, it might be that these were symbols of the earlier culture of giants and the languages such as Ogham and Runes were designed by symbols they learned from the culture of giants so it can be confusing as to who actually gets credit for what, just like ancient megaliths that might have originally been built by giants for one purpose were later used by the locals for sacrifices to those gods without understanding the original use of the building was.

When we covered the Inuit giants yesterday, you will see that the giant culture might have been in the northern hemisphere all the way up into the 1350. Many Native American tribes referred to the giants, or original occupants of North America, as the people from the North. And, many references by first explorers in the 1400s report what seem to be the remnants of giant culture still fresh in the Native Peoples' stories. It is possible that the giant culture was still in Iceland to some degree when Vikings arrived if they were still in other regions in the north. 

In fact, there appears to be some issues with the history of the island, as the Norse said there were people on the island and they believed them to be monks because they found crosses carved in the caves where they were set up for people to vent air and have fires. That does not; however, mean they were monks from the Ireland as was assumed, but to a Viking, anyone making a cross-like symbol would be Christian and yet the cross symbol appears in caves of very ancient times - it is a univeral symbol. So, there is no true proof of who was there and what happened to them, but there were definitely occupants before the Vikings arrived. (info here)

Then, there's Egil - SOURCE:  Egil, the son of Skala-Grim (famous Viking) lived in the 900s AD. He was described as a poet and a traveler, well educated man who died at 80 years of age in 990. Descriptions of him led people to believe he might have had Paget's Disease that deforms the skull. SOURCE: When a church was built at Mosfell [c. 1140], the one that Grim had built at Hrísbrú was taken down and the graveyard dug. Under the altar some human bones were found, much bigger than ordinary human bones, and people are confident that these were Egil’s bones because of stories told by old men. Skapti Thorarinsson the Priest, a man of great intelligence, was there at the time. He picked up Egil’s skull and placed it on the fence of the churchyard. The skull was an exceptionally large one and its weight was even more remarkable. It was ridged all over like a scallop shell, and Skapti wanted to find out just how thick it was, so he picked up a heavy axe, swung it in one hand and struck as hard as he was able with the reverse side of the axe, trying to break the skull. But the skull neither broke nor dented; it simply turned white where struck, and from that anybody could
guess that the skull would not have been easily cracked by small fry while it still had skin and
flesh on it. Egil’s bones were re-interred on the edge of the graveyard at Mosfell. 

Now, considering that Iceland was newly settled by the Vikings, had Skala-Grim taken up with a "Native of tall stature"? Something to consider....


Although the Vikings brought the first real official settlements to Iceland and the legends of the giants with them, there were previous occupants and signs of sacrifices. What did they encounter and how did they get along? Or was there a battle of domination? 

As Icelanders are not keen on revising their history, any archaeological finds there will be attributed to a stray monk afloat at sea and landing there or a Viking who helped settle the land.

It would appear that, by tales of certain rock formations being giants from legends and an island with signs of sacrifices, that there was a culture there that colored the very local stories.