An Icelandic association called Asatruarfelagid headed by high-priest Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson has raised sufficient funds and received permission from the government to construct the first Norse temple in 1,000 years. The neo-paganistic revival of such native traditions sends a positive message of inter-religious tolerance and co-existence once again.

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Image: Chris Hemsworth from Thor, the movie

Norse traditional beliefs include mythologies surrounding Odin, Thor and Freya, some of the gods behind which our seven days of the week are named as such. While we know that Saturday, Sunday and Monday are named after Saturn, Sun and Moon respectively, some of us are not aware that Tuesday is named after Tiwaz or Tyr which parallels Mars (Tiwaz day), Wednesday after the magical Woden or Odin also symbolized by Mercury (Woden’s day), Thursday after Thor connected to Jupiter (Thor’s day) and Friday after goddess Freya (Freya’s day)….all ancient Norse deities once regarded in high esteem in northern lands.

Iceland officially converted to Christianity 973 years ago overshadowing their ancient native traditions revolving around their rich mythologies of the Norse faith. Once Christianity had established itself, paganism was suppressed and forced underground. However, thanks to the literary endeavors of 13th Century Icelandic scholar and chieftain Snorri Sturlason, the old Norse myths were preserved and widely read by Icelanders through the ages. Today these mythologies not taken literally but as poetic metaphors of the forces of nature and human psychology.

Professor Luke Timothy Johnson of Emory University says early Christians frequently misinterpreted virtuous gods as demons adding that, “It is impossible … not to recognize that [paganism] is the furthest thing possible from the demonic. It is indeed a form of religious expression from which we can learn much, and at the very least we need to respect.”

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