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In 1000 C.E.Iceland converted to Christianity as a nation. Leaving Sweden to be the last hold out to the ancient faith until the year 1085 C.E. Now for the first time in over 1000 years a temple to those ancient Gods has been built, the first Ásatrú temple.
Ásatrú (Belief in the Gods) is based off of the surviving historical record. The Ásatrúarfélagith (Icelandic Ásatrú Society) was founded in 1972 by Sveinbjörn Beintersson. It was originally called Vorsithur (our custom). Iceland is 80 percent Lutheran with another 5 percent of the population identifying as Christian. Ásatrú is the largest non-Christian religious group and is the fastest growing religion in the country.
One of the reasons Norse Paganism was able to stay relevant is through “sacred persistence”. As defined by Jonathon Z. Smith a religious historian, sacred persistence is when there are collective activities to preserve and sustain cherished forms of approaching, understanding, and experiencing the sacred.”
Christianity was adopted in 1000 C.E. for political and economic purposes (Strmiska 2000). Icelandic Christianity was built upon the previous pagan beliefs. Iceland never really lost its pagan roots. They did not experience the burning times, and many of their place names hold pagan roots (Strmiska 2000). The Eddas are the most respected representation of Iceland’s cultural heritage, and are a focus point of Icelandic nationalism, though they have become less of a priority in recent years (Strmiska 2000). Norse Mythology and the practices of the Ancient Norse were recorded almost single handedly by historian and mythographer Snorri Sturluson in the 13th Century.
Thangbrand, a Saxon priest and missionary, brought Christianity to Iceland under the direction of Norwegian King Olaf Tryggvason. Thorgeir a heathen Priest said to Iceland in Njal’s Saga: “We cannot live in a divided land. There will never be peace unless we have a single law. I ask you –heathens and Christians alike–to accept the one law that I am about to proclaim. Our first principle of law is that all Icelanders shall henceforth be Christian. We shall believe in one God–Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We shall renounce the worship of idols. We shall no longer expose unwanted children. We shall no longer eat horsemeat. Anyone who does these things openly shall be punished with outlawry (Outlawry meant that you lost all protections from the law and were thus exposed to theft and murder. (Ashliman 2001)), but no punishment will follow if they are done in private (Ashliman 2001)”. This prevented civil war, and made for a much smoother transition.
Now in 2015, the first Ásatrú Temple is being built. The temple was designed with the principles of nature in mind. The temple is built into the side of a hill. One wall is the natural stone within the hill. There will be a skylight allowing for natural lighting, waterfalls that end at pools within the temple itself, and the golden ratio was used throughout to give it a pleasing look (McMahon 2015). This is all we know, finding information on the details of the Temple is a challenge. Maybe once it’s been built, its mysteries shall be known to only those who have have stood in its halls.
Ashliman, D.L. “Iceland Accepts Christianity.” Iceland Accepts Christianity. 2001. Accessed May 8, 2015.
McMahon, Neil. “Iceland’s Asatru Pagans Reach New Height with First Temple – BBC News.” BBC News. February 14, 2015. Accessed May 8, 2015.
“Religion in Iceland.” Wikipedia. April 25, 2015. Accessed May 8, 2015.
Robinson, B.A. “Asatru: Norse Heathenism.” ASATRU (Norse Heathenism). February 6, 2011. Accessed May 8, 2015. http://www.religioustolerance.org/asatru.htm
Statistics Iceland. April 1, 2015. Accessed May 8, 2015.
Strmiska, Michael. “Asatru in Iceland: The Rebirth of Nordic Paganism?” Nova Religio 4, no. 1 (2000): 106-32. Accessed May 8, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/nr.2000.4.1.106.
“Quick Facts.” Quick Facts. Accessed May 8, 2015.