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Iceland to build first temple to the Norse gods since Viking age

By
Aileen Graef
Thor, the Norse god of lightning, will be one of the gods worshiped at the new temple. Fotokostic/Shutterstock
Thor, the Norse god of lightning, will be one of the gods worshiped at the new temple. Fotokostic/Shutterstock

REYKJAVIK, Iceland, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Iceland is building its first temple to the Norse gods Thor, Odin and Frigg in 1,000 years since they were the deities of the Vikings.

Nordic lore describes the advent of Christianity in the country as coming from Norway. The Norwegian king sent a missionary named Thangbrand to Iceland to spread the message of Christianity. Thangbrand discovered an Icelandic beast impervious to fire. He then set three fires: one with a Christian blessing, one with a pagan and one without a blessing. Thangbrand said if the beast cannot pass through the Christian fire, the Icelandic people must accept it as their religion. The horse passed through the "heathen" fire and spooked at the Christian one.

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While the story is somewhat fantastical and worthy of a Game of Thrones story line, it remains a fact the pagan gods were not worshiped for 1,000 years. That was until the followers of Ásatrúarfélagið, who worship the old Nordic gods, began rising popularity with 2,400 people of the 330,000 population identifying as members.

The new temple will sit on a hill overlooking the capital. There, people can pray to the gods Thor, Odin and Frigg. They will also be able to hold weddings and observe the Blót ritual which consists of honoring the gods by drinking from a horn before a feast. They skip the animal sacrifice because it is "too much trouble."

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The new paganism in the country is a little different. Followers don't believe so much in the myths as the metaphors of the stories.

"I don't believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet," Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, high priest of Ásatrúarfélagið, told the Independent.

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