Monday

A millennium after it was banned in exchange for Christianity, Icelanders are returning in their thousands to the Heathenism of their Viking ancestors.

Teresa Drofn, a 25 year old student of ancient Icelandic manuscripts, has been a Heathen since she was 16 years old. For Teresa, Heathenism takes its supernatural stories less literally than monotheistic religions often do. Instead she describes the appeal of unique spiritual relationship with nature.

The story of how Christianity arrived in Iceland, according to Nordic lore, reads like a scene ripped from “Game of Thrones.” A millennium ago, Christianity had just taken over Norway. So the Norwegian king dispatched a mighty warrior missionary named Thangbrand to Iceland to spread the good news. Thangbrand did, along the way spearing dead a great many heathens. Then came a test that would decide whether the icy island would accept Christianity or stay faithful to Thor and the other Norse gods.

But now the old Norse gods have once again emerged from the clouds to claim a people once theirs. For the first time in more than 10 centuries, thousands of Icelanders soon will be able to worship Thor, Odin, Frigg and others at a temple on which construction begins this month.

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

Indeed, even as Christian governments authored increasingly restrictive measures on non-Christian faiths, the old ways glowed.


Even today, when walking the streets of Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik, pedestrians will find many streets named after Norse gods. And “a very large number of Icelandic personal and surnames are formed from ‘Thor,'” wrote Strmiska.
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