REYKJAVIK, (RNS) Icelanders will soon be able to publicly worship at a shrine to Thor, Odin and Frigg with construction starting this month on the island’s first major temple to the Norse gods since the Viking age.
Worship of the gods in Scandinavia gave way to Christianity around 1,000 years ago but a modern version of Norse paganism has been gaining popularity in Iceland.
“I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet,” said Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, high priest of ‘Asatruarfelagid’, an association that promotes faith in the Norse gods.
“We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.”
Membership in Asatruarfelagid has tripled in Iceland in the last decade to 2,400 members last year, out of a total population of 330,000, data from Statistics Iceland showed.
The temple will be circular and will be dug 4 meters (13 feet) down into a hill overlooking the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, with a dome on top to let in the sunlight.
“The sun changes with the seasons so we are in a way having the sun paint the space for us,” Hilmarsson said.
The temple will host ceremonies such as weddings and funerals. The group will also confer names to children and initiate teenagers, similar to other religious communities.
Iceland’s neo-pagans still celebrate the ancient sacrificial ritual of ‘Blot’ with music, reading, eating and drinking, but nowadays leave out the slaughter of animals.
(Reporting by Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir; Writing by Daniel Dickson, editing by Simon Johnson and Gareth Jones)