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The Guardian

A Job for All Time

A Job for All Time

On my first day in Reykjavik on June 20, I had a challenge: To stay awake until it was time to go to bed on Greenwich Mean Time.The problem is, I started the day on Pacific Daylight Time, which added seven hours to the usual twenty-four.

By the way, there is no Daylight Savings Time in Iceland because—duh!—it’s the Land of the Midnight Sun, and it remains light at all hours.

One way I managed this was to take GoEcco’s Haunted Walk of Reykjavik. From my readings in the Medieval Sagas, I was already interested in Icelandic ghosts, so it was a natural for me. I was fortunate that the walk was given by a historian familiar with the Sagas (shown below).

Say, Isn’t That a Ghost on the Left?

Say, Isn’t That a Ghost on the Left?

One of the places we visited was Fossvogur Cemetery near the University. Our guide told us an interesting story about an old Icelandic custom:

Icelandic folk beliefs hold that the first person to be buried in a cemetery will be its ’guardian’ and that the body will not rot but serve to watch over those arriving later.  In Fossvogur the ‘guardian’ is Gunnar Hinriksson, a weaver, buried there on 2nd September 1932.

The tombstone of the cemetery guardian contains the image of a lit oil lamp as shown in the top photograph. Now, not everyone wanted their loved ones to serve as the guardian of the cemetery for all time; and, in fact, a number of people who died prior to 1932 were buried there.

Fossvogur is one of two cemeteries I visited in Iceland. The other was on Heimaey in the Westman Islands. I remembered videos of the 1973 eruption of the volcano Eldfell that showed a fall of ash and lava that covered the cemetery to a depth of several feet. It was cleaned up and is now in immaculate condition.

6 thoughts on “The Guardian

  1. Ugh, jet lag. At least you had some fun with it. Yes, that’s a ghost in your photo, no doubt.

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