Nordic gods are making a comeback

Nordic gods are making a comeback

Norway was a bit of a Johnny-come-lately to Christianity, which only reached the nation around 1,000 years ago.

But after it fell victim to one of  the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on humankind, Norwegian king Olaf I decided to impose the death cult on his Scandinavian neighbours.

According to Nordic lore, a mighty warrior missionary named Thangbrand was despatched to Iceland to spread the good news, which he enthusiastically did, along the way spearing dead a great many heathens. But he returned with his pious tail between his legs.

According to Wiki:

Thangbrand the priest came back from Iceland to King Olaf, and told the ill success of his journey; namely, that the Icelanders had made lampoons about him; and that some even sought to kill him, and there was little hope of that country ever being made Christian.

Although Icelanders never went a bundle on Jesus, the religion did eventually take root – albeit without much enthusiasm.

Michael Strmiska, of Orange County Community College, who is currently researching modern Paganism in Eastern Europe, Iceland, Scandinavia and the USA, explains:

From the time of Iceland’s formal adoption of Christianity as the official state religion in the year 1,000 CE, Iceland has never been a fanatically Christian country nor particularly orthodox in its Christianity.

A strong case can be made that the acceptance of Christianity was motivated more by economic and political considerations than authentic Christian fervor … Good political and economic relations with Christian Europe depended on at least a semblance of Christian conversion, and so this semblance was achieved.

Not since the collapse of the Viking age has anyone overtly worshipped at the altar of a Norse god in Iceland, which banned such displays of reverence with the rise of Christianity.

But, according to this report, the old Norse gods have once again “emerged from the clouds to claim a people once theirs”. For the first time in more than ten centuries, Icelanders soon will be able to worship Thor, Odin, Frigg and others at a new temple if they so desire.

The circular temple will be dug 13 feet deep into a hill and peer down upon Iceland’s capital. A dome above will allow sunlight to filter inside.

How enthusiastic are Icelanders  – among the most atheistic people on the planet – about embracing the old gods?

While many take solace in the traditions of the Norse gods, they didn’t necessarily believe in them. “I believe in nothing,” one member told Strmiska. The academic wrote:

What he did not ‘believe’ in was the literal reality of the gods or other such beings, accepting them only as metaphors and guiding figures in cautionary tales.

Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, a high priest of the Norse god church, Asatruarfelagio, added:

I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man [Odin] 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.


According to statistics kept by the Icelandic government, membership in the Asatru Association rocketed. Founded in 1972 by an Icelandic poet named Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson as a means to preserve ancient ways, the church had a membership below 100 in its first two decades. Today, nearly 2,400 are in its ranks.

While not a large number on an international scale, it is for Iceland, which has a population of around 320,000. The church claims to be the largest non-Christian church in Iceland.

Beinteinsson and friends assumed the name of “Asatru”, which means “belief or faith in the ancient gods,” said Strmiska.

• The top picture above shows the high priest of the Asatru Association, Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, leading a procession of Asatru Association members at Pingblot  Photo: Reuters

17 responses to “Nordic gods are making a comeback”

  1. L.Long says:

    They remind me of the SCA and people dressed up for cosplay make believe.

  2. Broga says:

    I quite fancy this. They seem much more fun than the Christian god. And “The Vikings” with Kirk Douglas made them exciting. Also I have Dupuytren’s Contracture which is said to be inherited by people whose ancestors were Vikings so I am buying into that as well. They also produced a good literature e.g. Njal’s Saga which hits the ground running from the first sentence.

  3. 1859 says:

    The saga about ‘Eric The Red’ shows clearly how christianity took root in Iceland. Eric wouldn’t convert, but his wife did. When Eric returned home one night full of lustful thoughts, his wife rose up from their bed brandishing a crucifix and – so the saga relates – refused to have sex with Eric until he converted to christianity. It didn’t take him long to change his mind….his wife was an attractive woman. He went on the discover Newfoundland about five centuries before Columbus.

  4. 1859 says:

    Hey Broga! I have Dupuytren’s Contracture too – in my left hand – where did you hear it was a Viking trait? I guess it was all the time spent sharpening their axes?

  5. Cali Ron says:

    Overtime: I’ve been off the grid for a week and was catching up on my “Freethinker News” when I saw it was Barry’s B Day. So a belated Happy Birthday to Barry!

    Iceland was always on my lists of places to visit because it has some of the most beautiful and unspoiled natural places with fantastic photo opportunities (amateur photographer) and who doesn’t like Viking lore, but now I have another compelling reason-less christians, more atheists. Now if they could do something about their dismal diet!

  6. Robster says:

    Do hope the purveyors of the Norse god(s) don’t use this come back as another BS resurrection story. The abrahamic religions have exploited that little gold mine and the cupboard is bare. It’s becoming de rigeur for gods/prophets/virgins/hoary old myths to be resurrected so they need a new angle. Perhaps given the Icelandic climate, the gods could be found in a glacier and defrosted in a big microwave. I know it’s still resurrection, at least it’s not quite as nonsensical as the rest of those resurrection stories, they are a dime a dozen.

  7. tonye says:

    It’s a no brainer.

    Christians, on death, an eternity in hell or worshipping at the feet of a vain and useless god for eternity (not sure which one is the punishment).

    Vikings, on death, an eternity in Valhalla drinking wine and mead, fighting for sport and chasing valkyries for eternity.

    Where do I sign up?

  8. Newspaniard says:

    For my fellow ignoramuses, I looked this up on Wiki :

    “Dupuytren’s contracture (also known as morbus Dupuytren, or Dupuytren’s disease and slang terms “Viking disease” or “Celtic hand),[1] is a fixed flexion contracture of the hand due to a palmar fibromatosis,[2] where the fingers bend towards the palm and cannot be fully extended (straightened). It is an inherited proliferative connective tissue disorder that involves the hand’s palmar fascia.”

    You know, even after reading this, I’m still not sure.

    Anyway, Asatru sounds a lot more fun than those enjoyed by those barbarians of islam.

  9. Vanity Unfair says:

    Dupuytren’s contracture: most famous recent sufferer: Margaret Thatcher.
    Vikings: noted for looting, pillaging and exterminating less bellicose cultures.
    No, I see no connection.
    Other sufferers, Ronald Reagan (USA readers please draw your own conclusions; being British I do not trespass on other nations’ sensibilities), David Gower and me.

  10. Marky Mark says:

    ““The Vikings” with Kirk Douglas made them exciting”
    …Good movie but total bullcrap. Archeological digs have proven that the Vikings were NOT cursing the coastlines and pulling in every now and again to pillage and rape their way to fame…They were actually peacefully assimilated into such communities and probably through trade.

    These Archeologists who dig in ancient battle sites KNOW what an ancient battle field should reveal…broken bones, broken weapons, even the color of the earth soaked in ancient blood. They have search the entire British coast where such stories of Viking pillage and murder supposedly took place…and nothing found, except a bloodline through DNA of Viking heritage found in many members of a coastal village that was traced to an ancient village servant who was a viking…they were selling their labor as many immigrants do today to clean and do laundry.

    Apparently, Kirk Douglas at a washboard than hanging laundry out to dry would be a more accurate portrait of “The Vikings”.

  11. Marky Mark says:

    And by the way…It was a British priest who coined the term “Norseman” and “Anglo-Saxon”, who is also suspected of starting many of the rumors of pillage and rape by these “Heathens with different Gods. And since most all common folks were illiterate at this time, this priest wheeled much power with his pen and not one Viking to write a counter script to his claims…so the stories took hold and were passed on by word of mouth, most likely by the village priests who were literate.

  12. Cali Ron says:

    England may have been spared raiding and plundering by the vikings, but Ireland was not! The history of Ireland includes the Viking period that is broken down into the first attacks (795-902) and the second attacks (914-981). The first attacks were generally small bands from Norway, and later from Denmark making quick attacks on coastal villages plundering and then leaving. The second attacks were of larger groups, mostly from Viking settlements elsewhere in Britain. The famous “round towers” of Ireland were built for the monks and town people to hide in when the Vikings attacked. The doors were high up so they could go in, pull up the ladders and wait for the marauders to plunder their village and leave. Ultimately the Norse were absorbed into Irish society. Most of this info comes from written history of Ireland, but there is archaeological evidence supporting it. For details Wikipedia and the National Museum of Ireland are good sources. History

  13. Cali Ron says:

    Opps, lost the end of my post.

    History…. lesson over! Please correct if inaccurate.

  14. Maggie says:

    Cali Ron, Ireland was a stop-off for the Viking slave trade. English captives, slaves, were taken to Ireland for onward ‘shipping’ to Scandinavia.

  15. David Anderson says:

    I used to like The Saga of Nogin the Nog.

    Broga: Another person with Duputren’s is the actor Bill Nighy (in both hands I believe).

  16. lucy 1 says:

    Iceland is a fantastic country. No sign of religion having any power or influence, the most gender equal country in the world,(possible connection there) brilliantly funny and welcoming people, effectively free power and heat, hot open air pools all the year round, really good food, especially cakes, which they excel at. not wildly expensive, (like London so not very cheap either) No, I do not work for the Icelandic Tourist Board.

  17. gedediah says:

    I like the fact that they like the rituals and histical aspects but they’re not daft enough to believe it’s actually real.