an epitaph for hildur rúna

my skull is my cathedral
where this matrimort takes place
when i was a girl she sang for me
in falsetto, lullabies with sincerity
i thank her for her integrity

my ancestress’s clock is ticking
her once vibrant rebellion is fading
i am her hopekeeper
i make sure hope is there at all times

my ancestress has left all manners
her pulsating skin rebelling
the doctors she despised
placed a pacemaker inside her

when you’re out of time
how you look back changes
did you punish us for leaving ?
are you sure we hurt you
was it just not “living” ?

she has idiosyncratic sense of rhythm
dyslexia, the ultimate freeform
she invents words and adds syllables
handwriting, language all her own

i don’t have that story in my mouth
when you die, you bring with you
what you’ve given

the machine of her breathed all night
while she rested
revealed her resilience
and then it didn’t
you see with your own eyes
but hear with your mother’s
there’s fear of being absorbed by the other

by now we share the same flesh
as much as i tried to escape it
this is no mediocre debris
my ancestress
this is the odour of our final parting
those have been the perfumes of separation
for centuries
ancestress !

nature wrote this psalm
it expands this realm
translucent skin
let go of a cold palm



Ancestress est le 3e single de Fossora. Son fils Sindri Eldon chante sur le titre.

Une version moins aboutie du morceau sans la voix de Sindri est présente sur les premiers pressages de l’album.

on my new album, fossora, i wrote 2 songs to my mother. this one, ancestress, is written just after her wordly funeral
and is probably an impulse common with musicians :
to make your version of the story, later
only recently did i discover that this song is probably somehow inspired by an icelandic song "grafskrift"
which is somehow a very direct and patriarchial account of someones life
a list of dates of births and deaths, professions and partners
i probably wanted to approach this in a more feminine way
so those 2 songs are an attempt to tell her biological and emotional story
i am very grateful to my son, sindri eldon, to arrange and sing vocals in the choruses
as he has a sublime voice and was very close to her.
for 20 years i have not been able to attend funerals as something in them rubbed me the wrong way.
possibly a big part of it is after having lived a life of thousands concerts, i probably have too strong ideas on how a ritual should be,
too bossy about what kinda sound, musical structure, words it should include
and it took me all this time to discover that for me all funerals should be outside.
probably what was offending me most was how can one set off the spirit in such a claustrophobic environment as a church ?
when the soul sets off, it needs to be outside so there is room for how enormous it becomes when it merges with the elements
so therefore i asked my friend andrew thomas huang to help me film this outside, in a valley she often picked herbs in
to create a procession of musicians celebrating her life
i am grateful for my brother to carry her ashes and take part
also to james merry to make masks for all of us including an ocean of musicians
and erna ómarsdóttir to choreograph my mother’s spirit and her helpers


Two songs, Sorrowful Soil and Ancestress, are tributes to Björk’s mother [...]. Having trained in alternative medicine, she wasn’t happy to be surrounded by white coats when she got ill towards the end of her life. “She didn’t agree with all that,” says Björk. “She was in the hospital a lot and it was really difficult on her. It was quite a struggle.”
Björk is steely as she recounts those distressing couple of years in and out of hospital.
Hildur Rúna was 72 when she died. “That’s quite early. I think me and my brother were not ready to … we thought she had 10 years left. So we were like : ‘Come on,’ and getting her to fight and … and it was like she had an inner clock in her and she was just ready to go.”

The Guardian

He lends his handsome voice to “Ancestress,” a seven-minute, string-laden stunner about Björk’s late mother, Hildur Rúna Hauksdóttir. Björk said she wrote it and the elegiac “Sorrowful Soil” as rejoinders to a centuries-old Icelandic song that lists the mere facts of a dead man’s life (“how patriarchal,” she said). Her songs, by contrast, form a “biological or emotional obituary,” with impressionistic scenes : Hildur singing lullabies to Björk as a child, Hildur losing coherence on her deathbed.

The Atlantic

It’s a different mood. Really, it’s my eccentric way of doing an epitaph or a eulogy. Normally epitaphs are patriarchal in nature in that they only list the facts about a person : she was a mother, a furniture maker, or had such-and-such university degree.

Björk - Elle

It’s her story in biological terms, not cold statistics, and it’s emotional. So, in Sorrowful Soil, I say : All women are born with 400 eggs, but each woman will only make 2 or 3 nests. So, it’s a biological epitaph of a woman. And to me, that’s more important than detailing her career or listing her birth and death dates.
After writing this song, I understand better when people say that a funeral is about celebrating people’s lives. There’s more joy there. There’s sorrow, of course, but it’s a time to reminisce and remember the person’s good qualities. It’s a chronological story starting with my childhood, and each of the seven stanzas tells a story before I say goodbye to her in the end.

Björk - Iceland Review



  • Sindri Eldon
  • Soraya Nayyar