The Arctic Henge is a monument to Asatru, the beliefs of the Old Norse. It is located in the northernmost settlement of mainland Iceland.
Photo by ActiveSteve
The Arctic Henge is a site consisting of many stone arches and statues, arranged as a monument to the Norse pagan beliefs. Specifically, the piece was inspired by Völuspá, a poem from Edda, the ‘Bible’ of Norse Mythology. Völuspá translates to the Prophecy of the Seeress.
This poem describes both how the world was created and how it is doomed to end; it also describes the first man and woman created, and catalogues many mythical characters, including thee dwarves. 72 of these dwarves, who are said to be symbols of the seasons of the world, are represented at the Arctic Henge, each as an individual block inscribed with a name.
These blocks encircle four greater stone arches, which in turn encircle a great column of four pillars. The stone arches on site are arranged to capture the light of the Midnight Sun as it moves across the sky in summer; on June 21st, for example, it aligns perfectly with the south arch. In this way, it is somewhat of a modern Stonehenge.
The Arctic Henge is still under construction. The central column, for example, will be tipped with a prism glass that refracts the sun’s light, and the Throne of the Sun, where you can sit to admire the celestial bodies, will soon be added. Also in the works are the Hall of Rays, a place designed for spiritual renewal, and the Altar of Fire and Water, where rituals, ceremonies and weddings will be conducted.
Edda was compiled by medieval writer and historian Snorri Sturluson, who spent most of his life in Reykholt, Iceland; it is the primary resource for understanding what most Icelanders believed before the nation converted to Christianity in 1000 AD. In spite of religious oppression over the centuries, there are Icelanders and others who follow this form of paganism, thus the Arctic Henge is a sacred site.
The Arctic Henge is located in north Iceland, in a village called Raufarhöfn. This settlement has just 188 inhabitants, in spite of once being a leader in herring-fishing and exports. Due to the manner in which the town was abandoned when herring stocks disappeared, it has many old buildings and factories that are worth exploring.
Both the Arctic Henge and Raufarhöfn overlook the Arctic Ocean.
Raufarhöfn is located on the Melrakkaslétta Peninsula, which reaches the northernmost latitudes on the Icelandic mainland; only Grímsey, an island community on the Arctic Circle, is further north. As such, it is one of the country’s furthest settlements from the capital Reykjavík, which sits in the south-east. The drive between the two takes almost eight hours, although this can be shortened by taking a domestic flight to Akureyri Domestic Airport.
The drive from Akureyri to the Arctic Henge takes just under three hours; drive the Ring Road eastward, before turning right on Route 85. Follow this road through Húsavík, and take the left fork when you see the signpost to Raufarhöfn. The Arctic Henge will be clearly visible as you approach the village.