Basque Now Free To Visit Westfjords Without Being Murdered - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Basque Now Free To Visit Westfjords Without Being Murdered

Published April 26, 2015

Photo by
Anna Domnick

Visitors to Iceland from Basque country can rest easy knowing a medieval pronouncement to kill all Basque in the Westfjords has been rescinded.

Reykholar.is reports that Jónas Guðmundsson, the sheriff of the Westfjords, was amongst those who attended a ceremony at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery last week, for the formal inclusion of artefacts connected to an infamous event from Westfjords history that took place 400 years ago.

In 1615, Basque whalers ran aground in Strandir, in the far northern reaches of the Westfjords. They were not exactly warmly welcomed. The Westfjords sheriff at the time, Ari Magnússon, declared that any Basque people found in the Westfjords could be legally killed on the spot. 32 sailors were killed in all, with murders extending over a wide swath of the Westfjords.

While the open season pronouncement went ignored over the centuries, it was never officially rescinded until last week. Jónas announced the end of the license to kill at the museum ceremony, culminating in a symbolic gesture wherein Xabier Irujo, descendant of one of the murdered Basque whale hunters, and Magnús Rafnsson, descendant of one of the murderers, performed a ceremonial reconciliation.

In point of fact, Icelanders have improved relations with the Basque greatly over the centuries, as evidenced by the existence of an Icelandic-Basque Association.

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