When considering world religions, many leave out those that held prominence long ago. Last month the island nation of Iceland announced that the country will be building the first Norse temple since the Viking age. This comes after a 1,000 year period of Christianity holding precedent over the old gods: Thor, Odin, and Frigg among others.
This pantheon of gods, which has become something of a cultural icon for the science fiction universe, is much more than that. Each of the gods has their own unique powers, and the those who worship them pray to each one differently.
The country has seen a recent surge in the amount of people following the Norse religion. The population of believers in this faith has nearly tripled in the last decade. The country now sports nearly 2,400 people who follow the traditional Nordic faith, of the 330,000 Icelandic people.
The new temple will be above the capital city of Reykjavik, on a mountain overlooking the city. The building itself will be dug into the mountain, dome shaped, and have a skylight to let in natural light.
This new temple will not focus on the teachings of the old religion, as much as on a new spin to the classical beliefs. Instead of worshipping the one-eyed man who rides a horse, this view will focus on the inherent poetry of these teachings. They will look closely at religious texts to determine new meanings.
The High Priest of Iceland’s Norse church, Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, said that the stories are more of, “poetic metaphors.” With regards to people asking him about the stories of one eyed gods riding and eight legged horse, he said the stories were a “manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology”.
The new temple will host community events such as celebrations, weddings, and funerals. The religion and its followers still celebrate the ancient festivals of the Vikings of the past. They still hold the feasts and parties that come with the festivals, but the slaughter and hunting of animals for the holiday is no longer practiced.
– Xan Daven-Thomas