Iceland Magazine recently published a great interview with Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, the leader of Ásatrúarfélagid, the Icelandic Asatru association, described as “the fastest-growing religion in Iceland”. Asatru is now the sixth largest religion in Iceland, and the largest non-Christian religion. It has grown by over 600% since 2000, and is currently building the first pagan temple in Scandinavia for over a thousand years.
I’ve mentioned my admiration of Ásatrúarfélagid , and Hilmar, before, especially in relation to their openness to non-literal approaches to heathenry and their stalwart support of the LGBT community and marriage equality.
The Iceland Magazine interview goes into more detail, especially about Hilmar’s reaction and the global response to the recent hate-mail Ásatrúarfélagid received from conservative right-wing heathens in the US and other countries, who threatened to come to Iceland and “reconsecrate” the temple with blood rituals (Asatruarfelagid, like ADF, explicitly forbid animal sacrifice in their rites).
Icelandic Asatru seems not to be all about the “viking warrior” bravado that one sometimes sees online. Hilmar said:
Ásatrú is not a religion which celebrates machismo, militarism, or bloodshed, contrary to what many seem to believe…This misreading of Ásatrú comes from the fact that many seem to view it through the lens of 19th-century German nationalism.
He also spoke about the non-literal interpretation of the myths espoused by Ásatrúarfélagid :
I have said I do not believe in a one-eyed man, riding an eight-legged horse, and some consider this blasphemy. There are always people who want things to be set in stone. But the Poetic Edda is fundamentally about how life changes, and how you must be prepared to respond to the changes it brings.
It’s a short little piece, but a very nice and well-balanced article that shows Asatru in a very positive light. As always when I read about these guys, I wish I lived in Iceland!