|The Pond (Tjörnin) and Vonarstræti. The tall building is the Oddfellow building on Vonarstræti 10. The house built on Vonarstræti 12 has been moved to the lot behind it. Photo by Ziko van Dijk.|
Unnur Skúladóttir Thoroddsen (1885-1970) was a woman of privilege and high intelligence. She was kind-hearted, loving and altogether a beautiful soul. As a young woman she was known for her beauty and never lacked in the selection of men. There was something else, though that made Unnur stand out even more. She had multiple otherworldly experiences which many would consider dreams, but in her own words:
"They [mystic experiences] can't be called dreams. The awareness is so much clearer than in ordinary dreams, where everything becomes confusing and from one thing to another. This is much more likely to be visions, after all, it always starts out by someone approaching me, usually in my sleep and usually strokes down my left shoulder and speaks in a mild yet decisive manner: 'wake up!' And I feel like I'm waking up and traveling all over. And it has happened that I see myself, what we call lying behind in the bed." (translated by author of article).
The house that once was located on Vonarstræti 12 was built for her father, editor and Thingman (member of the Althing/Parliament), Skúli Thoroddsen. In 2010 the house was moved to the lot behind it as an addition to the Althing House. The architect, Rögnvaldur Ólafsson (1874-1917) also worked on other known structures in Iceland. Among them within downtown Reykjavík is the Free Church (Fríkirkjan), the Sales tower (Söluturnin), the Minister´s House (Ráðherrabústaðurinn) and the old post office on Austurstræti.
|On the right is the Oddfellow building. To the left is Unnur´s home on Vonarstræti 12. If you look closesly, you can see the original lot stands empty and the house has been moved to the lot behind it.|
Unnur worshipped her father and he adored her equally. The loving relationship was perhaps reflected in the similarities of their personal characters. She received good education when home-schooled at Bessastaðir (which her dad purchased in 1899 and is now the President's residence) and after that she was sent away to Scotland to study languages and arts. When she returned, she married the newly graduated Dr. Halldór Stefánsson (1884-1948).
Just like her father, she was actively engaged in causes she believed in. She´s most known for her work in the committee to support mothers (Mæðrastyrksnefnd). She was also active in the proletariat (working class) national partnership (Alþjóðasamhjálp verkalýðsins) established by Icelandic communists. Unnur considered herself apolitical and didn't look at it from a political perspective, but rather more that of a humanitarian. She never wavered from the preachings of her father about being dedicated to Icelandic causes, freedom and independence.
When Unnur was a young woman in Reykjavík, there was a young man by the name of Guðmundur who was fond of her. They didn't know each other well, but she´d see him out and about and dance with him at dances. Their friendship faded with time and he moved away. She heard that he got married, but was always drunk and getting in trouble. Then in 1925 she read in the newspapers that he had died.
Two years went by and she hadn't really thought of Guðmundur since she read about his death. One evening in 1927 when living at Vonarstræti 12, she felt like something was pulling on her as if she was supposed to leave her physical body. She wasn't able to go leave her body. It felt like something kept pulling her back into it when she tried. She felt as if someone needed her to leave her body and go with them somewhere, but on the other side, it seemed like someone was trying to protect her from something bad.
|Here you see the empty lot the house once stood and the house itself in the background in its new location (beige colored with red roof).|
One night when this had happened and she couldn't go back to sleep, she tried to focus on the day to day type of stuff and fill it with feelings of love for everthing that exists in this world and other worlds. Then she calmly fell back asleep. Soon after she woke up but this time she decided to read. She grabbed a book, and before she knew it she had fallen back asleep.
All of a sudden she had arrived on a strange beach where she could see large rocks, cliffs in various sizes and a desolate beach. In front of her was a large ocean. Far from land out on the water was a ship. The ocean was flat, but seemed heavy and dark red. She didn't like it, but she knew she had to go on that ship. Waves were coming in but she traveled across the ocean with ease, floating right above sea level. It was warmer and brighter there and she was tempted to stay rather than to go onboard the ship.
Then the ship was right in front of her and before she knew it she was onboard. It didn't look like any ship she had seen before. It was all wrong. Besides everything being in the wrong location, the width of the ship was about the same distance as the length.
Not a soul was on deck, but she could feel there was someone there with her. She saw a large opening in the middle of the deck. She went down without using a ladder. She entered a large dim container-looking room. The ceiling was low and it was although large, it was a very tight space. Once down there she saw people and heard groaning and agonizing cries.
Unnur hated it down there. She couldn't stand being there and wanted to leave, but nonetheless she felt she should stay. All these people were begging for help, but she didn't know what she could possibly do for them. She had a feeling that they were all low on the moral totem pole. Every once in a while she'd reach her hands out and when she did it looked like a lamp had been lit for a short moment. The light had a green hue. All of a sudden she heard someone calling her name. She walked in the direction of the voice. It led her to the north-west corner deep inside the dim room.
The floor in the corner seemed to be made of green-brown pond scum and sitting in it was a man. He covered his face with both hands and said: "Finally you have come to help me. I am Guðmundur". For only a moment she saw him the way she remembered him almost 20 years earlier, but then he changed again. He told her how he had messed up in life and so had everyone else in there.
After listening to Guðmundur, Unnur asked him what she could do for him. He asked her to think well of him and pray for him. Unnur got on her knees in front of the corner and tried to pray for help. It was extremely difficult. It was so hard to breathe in there and no one near could help her. She felt a small light approach, but it never quite reach his corner. She needed more help.
In that moment things started to break apart and disappear around her and she floated higher and higher into the bright light and sunny surroundings. Short moment later she was back in her bed.
|Vonarstræti 12 is the large house to the center left. Photo taken in 1910 by Photographer: Magnús Ólafsson.|
This trip affected Unnur deeply. She had never seen such awfulness before.
The next day she went alone up on a hillside in the beautiful weather and sat on a big rock. She sat there for a long time thinking good thoughts about the poor people on the ship. She made sure to pray for them every day and send them positive thoughts.
A couple of years later, Unnur felt herself being pulled out of her body and she was back at the same place as she had been two years earlier. She saw the desolate beach and its cliffs. The ocean wasn't like it had been before. It wasn't as dreary and gray and the air was lighter. The ship wasn't as far from land, either. Unnur got on the ship quickly and didn't have the same feelings of regret as before. The ship wasn't as dark as it was last time, but it wasn't bright either. It was kind of colorless. This time there were a lot of people on the deck, but they disappeared right away, leaving
only one man behind, Guðmundur.
Guðmundur told her he had it much better and that he always knew that prayers and warm thoughts would help. The surroundings on the ship were brighter and he was now wearing white clothes. He was happier. He wanted her and others to know this.
Unnur looked around and she could still see the open black hole on the deck. But the ocean was completely still and in the most extraordinary multicolored scheme of blue, purple, yellow, green, golden and light red streaks. She threw herself into the colors and everything disappeared. Life was calling her.
This is only one of many of Unnur's experiences. She lived in various places in Iceland and had similar vivid dreams or out of body experiences throughout her life.
The mysteries of the Parliament building
The Free church in Reykjavik
Sales tower on Lækjargata
The Minister's residence
The post office
Vonarstræti 12 moved