Almost 1,000 years after Christianity superseded Norse paganism, Iceland now intends to build its first public shrine to likes of Odin, Thor and Frigg. Names that enter our public consciousness through big budget Marvel franchises.
The neo-pagan Ásatrúarfélagið is growing in popularity but members prefer allegory when understanding the complexities of nature and human psychology. Census data from Statistics Iceland noted that membership of Ásatrúarfélagið tripled to 2,400 in a decade (of a population of just 330,000). Its Facebook has almost 10,000 ‘likes’. The Asatru Association formed in 1972 as a means to ‘protect ancient ways’ and its membership stagnated below the one hundred mark for its first two decades.
Ásatrúarfélagið released a strongly-worded statement last year that addressed their increasing popularity (in English):
“We always welcome visitors from abroad, as well as Icelanders, with an interest in our cultural heritage and spiritual traditions. We respect everyone‘s interest in the Ásatrúarfélagið and our religious traditions, but we do not necessarily agree with every visitor’s ideas of the form that Ásatrú should have in our modern world. Visitors should not assume that we automatically agree with or endorse their own views and practices.
We strongly oppose any attempt by individuals to use their association with the Ásatrúarfélagið of Iceland to promote attitudes, ideologies and practices rejected by the leadership of the Ásatrúarfélagið. We particularly reject the use of Ásatrú as a justification for supremacy ideology, militarism and animal sacrifice.
It should also be known that visitors have no authority to speak on our behalf. There is no advisor to the Ásatrúarfélagið and there is no spokesman other than our allsherjargoði. We respectfully request that visitors not claim any such authority based on their association with us.”
The temple will be built upon a hill overlooking the nation’s capital Reykjavik, with a dome that allows sunlight to enter. It will offer a space for weddings and funerals. Members of Ásatrúarfélagið will also confer names and initiate teenagers (like other traditional religious communities). Neo-Pagans in Iceland also celebrate Blot (an ancient tradition of ritualistic slaughter).