A temple in Iceland — but not for worship

I was intrigued this morning by this article in The Telegraph:

Iceland to build first temple to Norse gods in 1,000 years

In the article, high priest Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson explains:

“I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet… We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.”

I suspect this says a great deal about the form of Christianity in which northern Europeans have largely lost interest.

It also reminds me of this page from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. (Context: the deities Odin and Ishtar are at a coffee shop in modern America. She insists she is still remembered and worshiped today. Odin gets the attention of the waitress…)

She said, “You need another espresso?”

“No, my dear. I was just wondering if you could solve a little argument we were having over here. My friend and I were disagreeing over what the word ‘Easter’ means. Would you happen to know?”

The girl stared at him as if green toads had begun to push their way between his lips. Then she said, “I don’t know about any of that Christian stuff. I’m a pagan.”

The woman behind the counter said, “I think it’s like Latin or
something for ‘Christ has risen,’ maybe.”

“Really?” said Wednesday.

“Yeah, sure,” said the woman. “Easter. Just like the sun rises in the east, you know.”

“The risen son. Of course – a most logical supposition.” The woman smiled and returned to her coffee grinder. Wednesday looked up at their waitress. “I think I shall have another espresso, if you do not mind. And tell me, as a pagan, who do you worship?”

“Worship?”

“That’s right. I imagine you must have a pretty wide-open field. So to whom do you set up your household altar? To whom do you bow down? To whom do you pray at dawn and at dusk?”

Her lips described several shapes without saying anything before she said, “The female principle. It’s an empowerment thing. You know?”

“Indeed. And this female principle of yours. Does she have a
name?”

“She’s the goddess within us all,” said the girl with the eyebrow ring, color rising to her cheek. “She doesn’t need a name.”

“Ah,” said Wednesday, with a wide monkey grin, “so do you have mighty bacchanals in her honor? Do you drink blood wine under the full moon while scarlet candles burn in silver candleholders? Do you step naked into the seafoam, chanting ecstatically to your nameless goddess while the waves lick at your legs, lapping your thighs like the tongues of a thousand leopards?”

“You’re making fun of me,” she said. “We don’t do any of that stuff you were saying.” …

They shook their heads, and the waitress turned to greet another customer.

“There,” said Wednesday, “is one who ‘does not have the faith and will not have the fun,’ Chesterton. Pagan indeed.”

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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