Park rangers at Þingvellir are these days kept busy cleaning up change from the bottoms of Flosagjá, Drekkingarhylur and Öxará—thrown in by travelers who appear to think them some sort of wishing wells.
Drekkingarhylur, or Drowning Pool, got its name from the women executed there by drowning between 1590 and 1749. In earlier centuries death sentences were rare, and did not exist in the law until 1262, when the Old Covenant was signed, bringing Iceland under Norwegian rule.
At that point they became much more common, and increasingly so in the 16th century following the Reformation, especially for crimes relating to fornication and adultery.
Men were routinely hanged or decapitated, but women drowned.
The condemned women were forced to stand on the edge of the pool to be judged by onlookers—their heads covered with a cloth bag and a rope tied around their middle. They were then pushed into the pool, and held down with a stick until they stopped moving.
“We do not appreciate people throwing money everywhere. Throwing it in Drekkingarhylur is particularly paradoxical considering its role in our history. Making it out to be some sort of wishing well,” Guðrún Kristinsdóttir, head park ranger at Þingvellir, told Vísir.
While clean-up at Flosagjá and Öxará has gone swimmingly, cleaning up Drekkingarhylur has proven a difficult task, since it is very deep and diving there hazardous.
The coins are collected in a jar at the park rangers’ office, and donated to the Icelandair Special Children Travel Fund, for chronically ill and disadvantaged children.
“I know this sounds terribly cliché, but when I go abroad I take the change with me and put it in the collection envelope aboard the plane. We don’t like to throw it away,” said Guðrún.
Throwing money in Nikulásargjá, better known as Peningagjá or Money Gorge, has been practiced since the beginning of the 20th century, and tourists are asked to redirect their coin-throwing to there.
It is however, not a wishing well, and never has been, the head park ranger reiterates.
“Even though they feature in European mythology, wishing wells have never existed in Iceland.”