Flowing through Þingvellir National Park is Öxará river, which falls into the massive Almannagjá canyon to form the park’s most iconic waterfall, Öxarárfoss.

On a cold New Year’s Eve, a long, long time ago, two priests stayed up late in their cabin at Þingvellir. The older kept the younger company while he wrote the speech he planned to deliver on New Year’s Day.

Around midnight, the younger priest had become thirsty. He took an empty bottle to the river, but when he returned, he noticed that the water he had collected was red.

Hesitantly, he tasted the water, only to find out that the bottle now contained the finest of wines—and so both priests enjoyed the rest of the night immensely.

Just before dawn, they placed the bottle on a windowsill between their beds, but when the sun rose they saw that what was left of the wine had turned back to water.

The spring and summer that followed were filled with good fortune at Þingvellir; the fields flourished, yielding good crops; the lakes and rivers teemed with fish; the people were in good health and not a single baby was born still.

The next New Year’s Eve, both priests stayed up late, hoping to recreate the events of the year before.

After midnight, the younger went to Öxará river to fill his bottle. Upon returning to the cabin, he noticed that although the contents were red, the liquid was thicker than before. Excited, the older priest took a sip, only to realise that the bottle was now filled with blood.

The priests placed the bottle on the windowsill, and at dawn, the blood had turned back to water.

The following spring, a brutal battle broke out at Alþingi; the fields were warm with blood, and the children cried as the corpses around them piled higher.

And so we now know, that should Öxará river run red with wine on New Year’s Eve, there are prosperous times ahead—but should the river turn to blood, conflict, chaos and confusion are coming.