Thor's back: Icelanders are to build a new temple for Norse gods

Icelanders are to build the first major temple to the ancient Norse gods since the Viking age.

Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and other members of Ásatrúarfélagið walk to a "blót" ceremony.Lenka Kovářová

Nowadays Thor, Odin and Frigg are found either in comic books or history texts. However, an association that promotes faith in the old gods is determined to bring them back.

Ásatrúarfélagið, which represents a modern version of Norse paganism, is building the shrine near the Icelandic capital Reykjavik.

However, its beliefs have a distinctly modern twist. In a reference to Odin and his horse Sleipnir, its high priest Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson said: "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."

The temple will host weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies. Norse rituals tended to include animal – and occasionally human – sacrifice; however, the neo-pagans are of a much more peaceable disposition.

Ásatrúarfélagið's membership has tripled in the last decade to 2,400 from the country's total population of 330,000. Most Icelanders identify themselves as Christian, the vast majority Lutheran, though church attendance is low.