Praise Odin! Iceland is Building Its First Norse Temple in Almost a Thousand Years

Available for weddings, funerals, and baby namings

image via wikimedia commons

Sorry Marvel fans, but when it comes to worshiping Thor, there’s a new (or, rather, a very, very old) game in town.

Iceland is preparing to break ground on a new temple dedicated to Viking deities like Odin, his wife Frigg, and yes, the god of thunder, Thor. This will be the first major temple built for Norse pagan worship since the religion was the dominant one in the region, nearly a millennia ago. But, while this may seem like a resurrection of an ancient religion, no form of worship is entirely immune to the passing of a thousand years. The Guardian spoke with Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, high priest for Ásatrúarfélagið, which serves as an association of Norse deity worshipers, who told them:

“I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet [...] We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.”

So, no expectation that prayers will actually be heard hammer-wielding thunder gods or their malevolent trickster sibling. Instead, The Guardian explains, the temple – located on a hill outside Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik – will host worship around life-cycle events such as weddings, funerals, and namings for some of that county’s 2,400 adherents of the old Norse faith.

While most in Scandinavia may not follow that region’s ancient deities, the lasting cultural impact of their Viking heritage is still quite easy to find. Just this week, Icelandic strongman (and Game Of Thrones’ “The Mountain” actor) Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, shattered a weightlifting record famous for having been set by legendary (that is to say, literally out of a legend) Viking strongman Ormur Stórólfsson, 1,000 years ago.

That Björnsson is so ecstatic (“Victory! Victory!”) is both a testament to his astonishing physical achievement, as well as, I think, an acknowledgement of his place in a long Viking tradition that stretches back a millennium. And soon, those wishing to celebrate that ancient heritage through spirituality, rather than heavy lifting, will have a new house of worship in which to do just that.

via Michael Belanger / Flickr

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