About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."


Eldmessa - The Mass of Fire

Two hundred thirty one years ago this Sunday, exactly on July 20, 1783 (which also happened to be a Sunday) the Reverend Jón Steingrímsson preached his famous sermon - Eldmessa - “The mass of fire.” Earlier that summer, on June 8th (which that year was Pentecost) the volcano Lakagígar (also known as Laki) erupted with ferocious force just north of his South-Icelandic home Kirkjubæjarklaustur. It was one of the largest known Icelandic eruptions. It produced 3.4 cubic miles of lava and changed the global climate for the next several years: for instance next winter the Mississippi River froze over at New Orleans and ice floated in the Gulf of Mexico.
    On Sunday July 20th a mighty lava flow was about to enter the Kirkjubæjarklaustur village and the church was likely the first to be swallowed. Everyone was ready to run but their minister coolheadedly insisted on keeping the last Sunday service before they left. When they went to the service, they could see the lava flow creeping forward, but after the service, the lava stopped and never moved again. Their home village was spared!
    Was it just a coincidence? Was it the power of worship? Was it the stubborn recklessness of an old minister? Was it his observational talent, realizing that the lava flow was about to stop? He was after all a real man of the Enlightenment, a true polyhistor with a Renaissance personality: physician, historian, naturalist... He wrote and published articles about volcanism before and after this eruption. We will never know for certain whether
it was an educated guess or a miracle, but one thing I know from my direct experience: everyone in Iceland knows and proudly shares the story of Eldmessa and the Rev. Jón Steingrímsson - their eldklerkur  -“fire-pastor.”
Signature of Jon Steingrimsson
He used this disaster and miracle to build up community spirit and cohesion, thus preparing his parish for upcoming years of severe hardships, crop-failures, livestock demise and widespread famine.
    Disasters are unavoidable. They might be natural, they might be human-made, they might be human-complemented, but the important thing has always been how people chose to narratize and remember them. Disasters are by definition beyond our control, but we control the stories, we control what we say in those stories. Those stories are important, they have real impact in our world, they influence human behaviour, our reactions to disasters: for instance how prepared and willing we are to help. Thus these narratives have power to disclose a lot about our understanding of the world, about our understanding of God, about our society and about us. We will try to achieve just that as we continue looking at Volcanic Yahwism and more specifically the volcanic story of Dathan and Abiram (Datan and Aviram) from the Book of Numbers.

South Icelandic sod chapel (not in Kirkjubæjarklaustur).

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