"Ingleborg," Peter Nicolai Arbo, 1868, Wikimedia photo. For this poem Brithe.
“Ingleborg,” Peter Nicolai Arbo, 1868, Wikimedia photo. For this poem Brithe.

Her clan settled an ancient volcanic land,
Steaming geysers, bubbling lava pits, deep
Grumbling rifts, tumult of edging ocean
Plates, forming Icelandic promontory. Fearful
Of deadly fire-ash, Brithe and her family
Built sod-stone houses, grazed sheep and
Cattle at ocean’s edge, protected harbour,
“Cove of Smoke” known as Reykjavík.

For two summer moons, early years of 800,
Papar monks’ arrival, Ljósufjöll mountain
Glowed hot at night, smoke in rancid plumes
Spiraled upward, black and billowing, des-
Cending southward, origins of Helluhraun.
Sickness gripped the land, Viking families
Coughing, eyes burning, livestock in fields,
Unmoving yet alive, curse of primeval gods.

Following explorations of heroic Naddoðr,
Climber of high-fells, Christian cross-carrying
Brithe ventured to smoky realms, Hel hearth
Fires, goddess of underworld, domain of
Burning rock, seething and devouring. For
Days Brithe trekked across timeworn lava
Beds, creeping ever seaward, heath-growing
Wasteland of fire-folded igneous rock.

iceland-volcanoBeyond desolate fields, lofted burning fuma-
Roles, steam-smoke in poisonous clouds, lava
Flowing, deep craters belching fire-spume.
Death by breathing, pain of burning, Hel fires
Spilt over crater edge, flowing towards Brithe,
Viscous lava-falls. Beneath leaden clouds, day
To shadow went, and grave-earth rumbled,
Throwing Brithe to her knees.

“Child, by what right do you come to Hel’s
Domain, carrying a Christian cross?” fiery
Female voice erupted in her mind. “In name
Of Odin-Christ, old Æsir goð-faith, I seek thee,
Hel’s voice,” stated Brithe, “for illness has
Fallen upon our land, burning breath and
Eyes, cows cannot milk.” She lifted a neck-
Lace from her breast, Helm of Odin Awe.

Confronted with Brithe’s polytheistic faith,
Knowledge of primal good and evil, Hel
Was forced to decide where she stood,
Amongst noble twelve Æsir, of which Odin
Was lord-chief, or with deceivers of gods
And men, disgrace of Vikings far and wide,
Blasphemers of Christian faith. Hel’s fires
Retreated, hissing lava turned crusted-black.

Given one-month Hel reprieve, Brithe and
Vikings left Reykjavík for safety of Green-
Land shores. As illness eased and livestock
Mended, more longboats took to sea, making
New life amongst high-sloped fiords, pastures
Thick and green, for Ljósufjöll did erupt,
Killing all on Iceland’s western shores, those
Refusing to heed Brithe’s learnéd prophesies.

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