Iceland to Build First Temple to Norse Gods Since Viking Age
A modern version of Norse paganism has been gaining popularity in recent years as followers see the stories as metaphors for life, not worship of the gods.
ICELANDERS WILL SOON be able to publicly worship at a shrine to Thor, Odin and Frigg with construction starting this month on the island’s first major temple to the Norse gods since the Viking age. (ILLUSTRATION: High priest Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and fellow members of the Asatru Association attend a ceremony at the Pingvellir National Park near Reykjavik.)
Worship of the gods in Scandinavia gave way to Christianity around 1,000 years ago but a modern version of Norse paganism has been gaining popularity in Iceland.
“I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet,” said Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, high priest of Ásatrúarfélagið, an association that promotes faith in the Norse gods.
“We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.”
Membership in Ásatrúarfélagið has tripled in Iceland in the last decade to 2,400 members last year, out of a total population of 330,000, data from Statistics Iceland showed.
The temple will be circular and will be dug 4 metres (13ft) down into a hill overlooking the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, with a dome on top to let in the sunlight.
“The sun changes with the seasons so we are in a way having the sun paint the space for us,” Hilmarsson said.
The temple will host ceremonies such as weddings and funerals. The group will also confer names to children and initiate teenagers, similar to other religious communities.
Iceland’s neo-pagans still celebrate the ancient sacrificial ritual of Blot with music, reading, eating and drinking, but nowadays leave out the slaughter of animals.