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Draugarétt – the Ghost Fold and the legend of Húsafell

2 min read

Just off the road that passes the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, Iceland, is a small circle enclosing more than a dozen rocks.
But look closer and you may see the faces of 18 spirits on their way back to the underworld!
Peeking out from under flinty slivers of grass, they allude to a strange legend in the town of Húsafell. Native rocks of varied shapes, sizes, and colors are inscribed with soulless faces that evoke a certain haunting quality, and the rock-faces are depictions of 18 ghosts who were laid to rest at this remote site.

A man named Snorri Björnsson was the pastor of Húsafell from 1756 to 1803, but prior to that he served as a priest at nearby Hornstrandir.
He seems to have left on less-than-friendly terms, since a local legend tells of how other sorcerers, who were enemies of Snorri, raised the dead and sent their ghosts to kill him.
But Reverend Snorri could turn his reputed superhuman strength not only to the physical labor of lifting heavy stones but to the otherworldly as well, because apparently he drove the ghostly assassins into the ground of the Húsafell churchyard, sending their spirits back from whence they came.

It is this legend that local artist Páll Guðmundsson, a descendant of Reverend Snorri, memorializes in his work Draugarétt, literally Ghost Fold.
The artist, born in 1959 in Húsafell where he still lives and works, is renowned for his sculptures crafted from local rocks, including a stone harp used by Icelandic band Sigur Rós.
On the rocks within the enclosure he depicts 18 faces sinking into the earth, representing the ghosts’ descent into the underworld.
Among Páll Guðmundsson’s other creations is also a similar arrangement of eclectic rock art, located in the valley of Bæjargi.

Images from web – Google Research