Pagan playacting

Iceland Is Officially Worshipping Norse Gods Again

refers to the establishment of a pagan temple and legal entity in Iceland after over 900 years of Christian dominance.

“Christian mission has always positioned itself as a rescue operation, that people were in desperate straits, were indeed under the influence of demons. … It is impossible to read the reflections of Marcus Aurelius … and not recognize a profound mode of religious expression. … It is impossible … not to recognize that [paganism] is the furthest thing possible from the demonic. It is indeed a form of religious expression from which we can learn much, and at the very least we need to respect.”

Indeed – but equally the stories of the gods raping and kidnapping women and boys means that the traditions need desperate reinterpretation to offer the gods as paragons of virtue, which is why the church, since the second century, has identified the deities as demons. That some pagans show a remarkable moral sense doesn’t overcome the fact that much of pagan morality was problematic, from child abandonment to the celebration of death in the gladiator contests.

As far as the Vikings are concerned, these are the gods who were worshipped by the raiders who destroyed Lindisfarne, Iona and many other monasteries in the last years of the first millennium. Resurrecting the worship of them shows a lack of sensitivity to their victims which should be problematic. One hope that  their new believers are merely ignorant, and not proposing to recreate the whole of Viking culture. Which of course demonstrates that this is merely play acting and not a serious engagement with what those gods were about.


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