‘I take it as a threat’: Nithing Pole Erected at Local Commune

A nithing pole topped with the severed head of a horse was erected on the land of a spiritual community known as Sólsetrið in Kjalarnes in the capital area this weekend, RÚV reports. Nithing poles derive from ancient pagan tradition and are erected to curse the receiver. The residents of Sólsetrið have been involved in disputes in recent months, and believe the pole is related to these feuds—or media coverage of them.

Linda Möll runs Sólsetrið as a spiritual community whose practices include cacao ceremonies, singing, dancing, and drumming. The community also holds what have been called “tantric festivals,” and it’s these events that have recently drawn criticism and ire. “That’s the basis for all of this and I respect that,” said Linda Möll in a recent interview. “At the same time, I also respect that I’m an individual who is different, who is approaching life in a different way, is choosing a way of life that perhaps poses another worldview and maybe I can build a bridge to a better world.”

Residents avid equestrians

The underlying threat of the nithing pole did not escape the residents of Sólsetrið, who as avid equestrians, were doubly distressed by the event. “I take this as a threat,” said resident Kristjana Þórarinsdóttir. “That’s just the way it is—there’s no other way to take it. My husband Guðni is the chairman of the national chapter of equestrian associations—how else are we supposed to understand this? We’re horse people and I think if anyone knows Guðni or knows anything about him, the first thing that they’d think of is that he’s a horseman. That’s what characterizes him best and you can’t read this as anything other than a threat,” she concluded. Even so, it’s difficult to say who specifically the threat is directed at: Kristjana and her husband, or Linda Möll and the people she lives with.

After discovering the nithing pole, Kristjana said she rushed up to their stables to make sure that the horse wasn’t one of their own. Luckily, all of her animals are safe, but Kristjana says she’s afraid to return home for now. “I feel ill,” she said. “It’s disgusting.”

Well-publicized feuds

Kristjana also stated that she didn’t think that Linda Möll herself was behind the atrocity; the community’s feuds have been much-discussed of late in the media and she believes anyone could be behind it.

The residents of Sólsetrið are still trying to make sense of the event. “This can’t be because of some neighbor dispute,” Linda Möll concluded. “We could have had this conversation over a cup of cocoa. And who deserves to receive a message like this? I don’t think anyone deserves this.”

Police and the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority removed the horse head around noon on Friday and the incident is under investigation.

The nithing pole in the sagas

One of the most famous uses of a nithing pole appears in Egill’s saga (ch. 60, here translated by W. C. Green in 1983):

And when all was ready for sailing, Egil went up into the island. He took in his hand a hazel-pole, and went to a rocky eminence that looked inward to the mainland. Then he took a horse’s head and fixed it on the pole. After that, in solemn form of curse, he thus spake: ‘Here set I up a curse-pole, and this curse I turn on king Eric and queen Gunnhilda. (Here he turned the horse’s head landwards.) This curse I turn also on the guardian-spirits who dwell in this land, that they may all wander astray, nor reach or find their home till they have driven out of the land king Eric and Gunnhilda.’

This spoken, he planted the pole down in a rift of the rock, and let it stand there. The horse’s head he turned inwards to the mainland; but on the pole he cut runes, expressing the whole form of curse.

 

Out of National Horse-Riding Team Due to Sexual Assault Conviction

jóhann rúnar skúlason jockey

Veteran jockey Jóhann Rúnar Skúlason has been removed from Iceland’s national equestrian team due to a sexual assault conviction. Mannlíf reports that in 1994, Jóhann Rúnar was convicted for raping a 13-year-old girl the previous year, when he was 24 years old. The jockey was also recently convicted for domestic violence in Denmark, his country of residence.

Guðni Halldórsson, chairman of the Icelandic Horse Association (Landssamband hestamannafélaga, or LH) told Vísir it was a difficult decision to remove Iceland’s “biggest competitor and biggest name” in the sport from the national team, but added that “sexual offences, especially involving children, cannot and will not be tolerated on our watch.” Guðni stated that he first heard of the conviction when Mannlíf reported on it late last month and that he is not aware of any other sexual assault cases coming up within the association previously.

Sexual violence within sport has been a big topic in Icelandic media lately after several cases of sexual violence emerged connected to the national men’s football team. The Football Association was accused of silencing victims of violence and sexual assault in cases involving team members. “It’s a different discussion and a different way of dealing with issues today than it was five years ago,” Guðni stated in reference to the cases involving football players. “This decision was made based on the environment and the situation today and we stand by it.”

In 2019, Jóhann Rúnar was a triple world champion in horse riding and was also nominated for Iceland’s Athlete of the Year award.