Norse Religion Rises Once Again
Today is a Super New Moon, Spring Equinox, International Day of Happiness, and a Solar Eclipse. At the future site of the Asatru temple, people gathered to observe the Solar Eclipse, which took place at 9:38 am on Friday, March 20. At 10:38 am, Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, head of the Asatru association, broke ground to commence the construction of the new temple.
“The last time there was a solar eclipse was 61 years ago,” said Hilmar. “I thought it was an opportune moment today. There’s also the equinox later today, so it’s the perfect occasion.”
The solar eclipse ceremony was simple, but alluring. Longhaired men and fur-wrapped women sang hymn-like songs to the beat of soft drums. Hilmar spilled beer from his drinking horn, while horns honked in unison to announce the coming of the eclipse.
“People say this is a Christian country. Yes, it is, but I think deep in the heart of the people we are really Heathens,” said Gunnar. “It calls back to the beginning. If we are so Christian in this country, wouldn’t we be seeing our vessels and our buildings being called Christian names? We have the names of Oðin and Þór and Baldúr. Our helicopters, our equipment, they all have the God’s names. It connects to that time.”
Norse Gods have been making a comeback in popular culture, with Thor and Loki now staples of the summer box office. In Facebook, memes that some would consider blasphemous, thanking Odin, the chief Norse God, for ridding the world of ice giants while some presently practiced faiths make promises that haven’t come to pass. And in folk songs about the many Gods of World Religions throughout history, the song’s point being there’s a lot that the many Religions have in common.
But the Ancient Religion is also making a Spiritual comeback.
An old Religion is reemerging in Iceland. A wire report said that a major temple to the Norse Gods is being built, the first one since the Vikings were in power about 1,000 years ago. It will be circular, with a dome for sunlight, on a hill with a view to Reykjavik.
Asatruarfelagid, a Neopagan organization, plans to start construction next month on the country's first Norse temple since Christianity arrived in the island nation roughly 1,000 years ago.
The Asatruarfelagid, which began in 1972, says on its website that its values are "based on tolerance, honesty, honor and respect for the ancient cultural heritage and nature," and follows the principal that "each person is responsible for themselves and their actions," according to a Google translation.
The Reykjavik City Council has donated land for the temple, but the group has to raise nearly $1 million for the building itself, which will be set into a hillside and topped with a dome to let in sunlight, the BBC reported.
Once completed, the temple will accommodate 250 worshippers. It will host weddings, funerals, naming rituals, initiation ceremonies and more for the group's 2,488 members, which Reuters says is triple the number from just a decade ago.
It will be a place for traditional religious ceremonies such as weddings and funerals, but they’ll be adapted for the 21st century; Iceland’s Neopagans already celebrate a sacrificial ritual, Blot, without the animal sacrifice.
So maybe the Norse Pagan Religion never actually went away. It got shifted over to mythology, alongside the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, and many dismissed deities, and woven into Western consciousness. Is mythology where Religions go to die, when they're appreciated as stories rather than supernatural influences on people and nature? Or is that when they find greater truth, as stories with wide appeal, stripped of the limitations of a particular faith tradition?
The high priest of the Norse faith in Iceland, Hilma Orn Hilmarsson, was quoted, “I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet,” Odin. He instead spoke of story, saying, “We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.”
Putting the emphasis on story makes the Religion approachable, places it on a human level. It brings in the sacredness of our sharing one to another, and shows our fondness for tales of inspiration, adventure, and love. It’s the common practice of talking and listening, of education and entertainment.
May the religious seekers who find their way to the Viking revival have comfort in the tales of these figures called Gods. May the literature help them in this world in which it’s nearly impossible to comprehend, much less manage, the forces of nature and human psychology. And, please, may the ice giants stay away.