Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Iceland Building First Pagan Temple in 1,000 Years

For the first time in 1,000 years a new pagan temple is being constructed in Iceland’s capital city that will house a shrine to the Norse gods Thor, Odin and Frigg.

“We see this as so much part of our heritage,” said Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, high priest of the Asatru religion.

The temple is ten years in the making and is currently under construction. The 4,000 square foot facility will overlook the Icelandic capital and be completed in 2016. It will give Icelanders the opportunity to publicly worship at the shrine to gods.

“Some people love the idea, they really want to go back to the Viking era,” Hilmarsson said.

Iceland was originally founded by pagan settlers. Asatru remained the sole religion of the country for over 100 years until it gave way to Christianity in the year 1000. Some Icelanders experienced religious conflicts with northern European countries.

“Some Icelanders converted to Christianity, but it was a business deicision because some business owners would not trade with pagans,” Hilmarsson said.

The high priest tells Norse that paganism experienced a revival in Iceland beginning in the 1970s that has paved the way for the new temple.

The temple will serve as a place of worship, but it won’t be a lively or organized celebration.

“It’s more like coming together, sanctifying the movement, having a sacred space,” Hilmarsson said. “More close to Hindu ceremonies.”

Hilmarsson said Thor, Ordin and Frigg are important deities in the religion. Thor is the protector of mankind, Ordin is the god of wisdom and poetry, and Frigg is the goddess of domestic and love.

If names like Thor ring a bell, it might be because some Asatru gods have recently seen a surge in America thanks to Marvel’s blockbuster films about them.

“There is a skewed vision because the Marvel version is like a Shakespeare,” Hilmarsson said. “We certainly enjoy them but don’t see them as religious in any sense."

The priest said the gods are viewed as mystical and symbolic. Most modern worshipers don’t consider them to be living beings that are capable of flying down from the clouds.

“We don’t tend to be literal in our beliefs in Iceland, not even the Christian ones,” Hilmarsson said.

The Asatru religion might describe itself as poetic--but if some Christians, especially those in the Western hemisphere, were to take a literal look at the new altar to pagan gods they might consider it satanic. Hilmarsson says Norse is the opposite of devil worship.

“There is nothing remotely satanic or demonic in this,” Hilmarsson said. “This is a very gentle movement on how to be a good friend, good to your family and an honorable person.”

Hlynur Gudjonsson, the Consul General and Trade Commissioner of Iceland’s consulate in New York, tells that most Americans might not understand what Asatru is, but those who do realize it’s a peaceful practice.

“I’ve never met anyone who has anything negative to say about it,” Gudjonsson said.

Finn, Matt. 2015. “Iceland Building First Pagan Temple in 1,000 Years”. Discovery News. Posted: February 8, 2015. Available online:

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