This year sees the 40th anniversary of the Icelandic Asatru Association, Asatruarfelagid, co-founded in April 1972 by Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson under “the desire that Icelanders could have their own faith, and nourish it no less than imported religions.” Asatruarfelagid received official government recognition in 1973, and now sports nearly 2000 members. Musician and current allsherjargoði (high chieftain) of Asatruarfelagid, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, commemorated the anniversary by donating 2 million Icelandic króna (around 16,000 US dollars) to the Coast Guard’s helicopter fund.
“The donation is for the Coast Guard’s helicopter fund. All of the Coast Guard’s vessels and aircraft bear the names of Norse gods and goddesses. Yesterday’s ceremony took place onboard the Coast Guard’s new cruiser Þór, Fréttablaðið reports. The Coast Guard’s first cruiser was the steam vessel Óðinn, which arrived to the country in 1926. A statement from Ásatrúarfélagið reads that the Icelandic Coast Guard is in charge of surveillance, search and rescue, has contributed to the safety of seafarers and protected the nation’s natural resources under difficult circumstances for decades, for which it is trusted and respected by all Icelanders. Therefore, all members of Ásatrúarfélagið decided to make a donation of ISK 1,000 (USD 7.9, EUR 6.1) towards a helicopter fund for the Coast Guard, with no strings attached.”
This civic-minded move fits very well within the profile of Ásatrúarfélagið and its Chief Godi, who has undertaken protective rituals for their country, celebrated the spirits of their land, and even weighed in on pop-culture. Iceland is fertile ground for Asatru, a place that never quite lost the connection to its pagan past.
For more on Ásatrúarfélagið and Asatru in Iceland, check out the Norse Mythology Blog’s interviews with Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson (Part One, Part Two, Part Three) and Jóhanna G. Harðardóttir (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four). Both, I think, give a good picture of how Asatru in Iceland compares with groups in the United States and other countries.
“The gods had to come back. You can see how the gods are coming in the 19th century. We had some years of rationalism – the Industrial Revolution, people losing their ties with nature and repressing religion and focusing on science and knowledge. You had the president of the French scientific academy proclaiming that we’ve more or less found out everything that there is to be found out – we only need to polish some theories. In an atmosphere like this, the gods need to come back, because they’ve been repressing them so long. Ha!” - Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson
Congratulations to Ásatrúarfélagið on forty years of existence, here’s to forty more!