High priest Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson with a procession of fellow members of the Asatru Association, a contemporary Icelandic pagan society, at the Pingvellir National Park near Reykjavik in 2012. (Silke Schurack/Reuters)
…the old Norse gods have once again emerged from the clouds to claim a people once theirs. For the first time in more than 10 centuries, thousands of Icelanders soon will be able to worship Thor, Odin, Frigg and others at a temple on which construction begins this month. Not since the collapse of the Viking age has anyone overtly worshiped at the altar of a Norse god in Iceland, which banned such displays of reverence at the rise of Christianity.
The degree of religiosity among the church’s denizens, however, is a matter of debate. “I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet,” Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, a high priest of the Norse god religious church, Asatruarfelagio, told Reuters. “We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.”
The people of Iceland were never sold on Jesus. “From the time of Iceland’s formal adoption of Christianity as the official state religion in the year 1,000 C.E., Iceland has never been a fanatically Christian country nor particularly orthodox in its Christianity,” wrote scholar Michael Strmiska ofSUNY Orange. “A strong case can be made that the acceptance of Christianity was motivated more by economic and political considerations than authentic Christian fervor. … Good political and economic relations with Christian Europe depended on at least a semblance of Christian conversion, and so this semblance was achieved.”
Indeed, even as Christian governments authored increasingly restrictive measures on non-Christian faiths, the old ways glowed. Even today, when walking the streets of Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik, pedestrians will find many streets named after Norse gods. And “a very large number of Icelandic personal and surnames are formed from ‘Thor,’” wrote Strmiska.
Read the whole article here.