The Return of the Heathens
The fastest growing religion in Iceland is Norse paganism. Why are people choosing to take up a religion that was banned in the country 1,000 years ago?
The fastest growing religion in Iceland is Norse paganism.
Floating in a hot spring, snow falling from the night sky, John Laurenson meets Teresa Drofn. A 25 year-old Heathen, Teresa describes her return to the religion of her Viking forebears as a renewal of a unique spiritual relationship with nature.
A millennium after it was banned in exchange for Christianity, John explores why Icelanders are returning to the faith. At a ‘blot’, or sacred ceremony John hears a priestess read aloud from the Eddas, an ancient Icelandic text serving as scripture for the new heathens of Europe. In the old days at a ‘blot’, there’d be animal, even human sacrifices. Today they share in traditional Viking food, horse and whale, sheep’s head, puffin pâté and rotten shark.
Visiting the site of a newly planned Heathen temple John meets high priest Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson. Hilmar has presided over hundreds of weddings and seen his own congregation increase six-fold within a single decade. This new Heathen house of worship, the first in a thousand years, will be aligned with the sun’s path and burrowed deep into a hill near the city’s airport.
(Photo: A priestess raises a bull’s horn filled with beer at a heathen ‘blot’- a religious ceremony, Iceland. Credit: Silke Schurack / BBC)