Be inspired on this International Women’s Day by the heroic explorer of the ancient Icelandic Sagas, Gudridur Thorbjarnardottir and the prophecy about Gudridur.
She was among the first settlers from Iceland to explore and settle in Greenland with Erik the Red and with Thorfinnur Karlsefni to North America at Vinland. She was the mother of the first European child born in North America, Snorri. She made 8 ocean journeys, crossed Europe twice on foot, and explored and settled new lands. In 1010 she made a pilgrimage to the Pope in Rome then returned to her son Snorr’s farm at Glaumbaer.is., now a historic site in north Iceland. You can also visit a reconstructed settlement at L’anse aux Meadows National Historic Site and Unesco World Heritage Site in Newfoundland, Canada.
The prophecy about Gudridur
According to the Saga of Eirik the Red, while she was in Greenland, Gudridur was pressed into the service of a völva or seeress. The völva needed to enter her soothsaying trance to the accompaniment of certain ritualistic traditional chants called varðlokkur, “ward chants”, and only Gudridur, a Christian now forbidden to sing these songs, knew them. The varðlokkur were sung to attract spirits to the seeress so she could transmit their wisdom. For the survival of her starving village Gudridur sang “so well and beautifully that people there said they had never hear anyone recite in a fairer voice,” according to Eirik’s Saga, and the völva delivered her message.
Then the seeress said this to Gurdridur: “And you, Gudridur, I will reward on the spot for the help we have received, since your fate is now very clear to me. You will make the most honourable of matches here in Greenland, though you won’t be putting down roots here, as your path leads to Iceland, and from you will be descended a long and worthy line. Over all the branches of that family a bright ray will shine. May you fare well, now, my child.”
From The Sagas of Icelanders, in translation, edited by Ornolfur Thorsson and Bernard Scudder, with a preface by Jane Smiles, Penguin Books, London, England, 1997
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Photo: Arden Jackson at Glaumbaer, Iceland