Yes you read that title correctly in Iceland there will soon be a place to worship Odin, Thor and Frigg. Construction will begin later in the month and will be the first temple built to the Pagan gods in over 1000 years.
This is occurring because a modern version of Norse paganism has been gaining popularity in recent years. The followers of this form of paganism appear to have the right idea and view the stories as metaphors for life not worship of the gods. The worship of the pagan gods gave way to Christianity over 1000 years ago but that will not stop the increasing interest in the Old Norse gods.
“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, (don’t attempt to pronounce them use google).
He does however cheerfully admit that the rituals and “Blods“ or gatherings that the group practises are no more than an educated guess or even a creative reimagining of how pre-Christian Norse people related to their deities. “So yes, it’s partly a ‘romantiquarianism,’” he says of his faith. “But at the same time, we feel that this is a viable way of life and has a meaning and a context. It is a religion you can live and die in, basically.”
Hilmarsson would continue to say, “We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.” Members of the Ásatrúarfélagið have tripled over the last decade to 2,400 last year. That figure may appear small but the population of Iceland is that of a small city here in England with only 330,000 calling the country home. These figures show that just less than 1% of the population now self-identify as following the religion with the precise percentage being 0.72%.
The temple will be circular and will be dug 4 metres, 13ft, down into a hill overlooking the Icelandic capital city, 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, when completed will host: weddings, funerals and will also confer names to children and initiate teenagers, similar to other religious communities, such as Catholicism.
This new generation of neo-Paganism in Iceland also still celebrate the ancient sacrificial ritual of Blod. They do this with music, reading, eating and drinking, but nowadays leave out the slaughter of sacrificial animals. This kind of attitude to religion can only be encouraging and if these stories give a new light to people who are we to argue who they worship?