Sunday, 9 May 2010
Iceland-a Holy Isle
Iceland has received a lot of exposure in the news over recent weeks because of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and the consequent disruption to the travel arrangements of millions of people.
However how many people are aware of the special significance of this holy isle? How many realise that the Icelanders were one of the last northern peoples to be christianized in the year 1000 CE under pressure from the Norwegian King Olaf Trggvason? Despite this apparent conversion many of the people still honoured the ancient Gods and Goddesses privately. The Law Speaker Thorgeir Thorkelsson had the responsibility of making the formal decision to accept the alien religion of Christianity at the Althing in that same year. Thorgeir himself was originally a Gothi, a heathen priest. The conversion did not run deep and interestingly Iceland saw the revival of the old religion in the late 1960s and the subsequent formal recognition of Asatru in 1973 by the Icelandic government. At about the same time the old religion was experiencing a revival in other Germanic countries. The Asatru Free Assembly was created in the USA which eventually became the Asatru Folk Assembly and later the Asatru Alliance.
The Ring of Troth was formed by some former members of the Asatru Folk Assembly.
In Australia in 1972 the Odinist Movement received a reassurance by the government that the profession of Odinism would not result in prosecution by the authorities.
In England the Odinic Rite was formed in 1972. A member of their Court of Gothar subsequently created Woden`s Folk in the late 1990s.
Followers of the old religion naturally look to Iceland as a holy isle for it was in Iceland that the Eddas, the sacred literature of the pre-christian Germanic peoples were committed to writing. In addition to the Elder Edda[Poetic Edda] and the Younger Edda[Prose Edda] we have a wealth of saga material which provides us with additional information on the beliefs and practices of the Germanic peoples. Without these writings our religion would be that much the poorer and indeed may have struggled to have ever been revived.
Today in Iceland according to the latest official statistics from 2009 there are 1,395 members of the Asa Faith Society. Obviously this figure does not include those people who honour the old Gods but are not formally alligned with any organisation.
In Iceland there are still 50 known Runestones to be found today.