A Heathen Mecca: Interpreting the International Germanic Contemporary Pagan Response to the Icelandic Temple.

In 2008, in Iceland, the Germanic Contemporary Pagan (Heathen) organisation Ásatrúarfélagið purchased land to begin building a partly state-funded temple in Reykjavik. It was covered by international media variously as ‘first Viking temple in 1000 years’. As of January 2017 the temple remains unfinished, but in the last 8 years since its announcement, four Heathen temples have been built or purchased by groups in the US, UK, Spain and Denmark, also using the same headline in their promotion. All four groups share a Folkish (racialist) interpretation of Heathenship which is opposed by Ásatrúarfélagið and many other Heathens around the world. A number of events within the Heathen community in the last two years show a growing polarisation and division between Folkish and non-Folkish Heathens. This thesis uses data from interviews with 78 Heathens in North, Central, and South Americas, Africa, Europe, Australasia and Asia, as well as using a questionnaire with 110 US Heathens. The data shows that many Heathens perceive Folkish Heathens as in competition with the Icelandic temple. Moreover, the Icelandic temple is a beacon for change and inspiration among Heathens. Nearly all of my 188 informants intend to visit the temple, proving it is a significant turning point for this New Religious Movement, bringing a sense of strengthened confidence and international community. The data also indicates that racialist organisations’ own temples are representative of competing religious ‘market forces’. This, in turn, has led to non-Folkish Heathens becoming more confident and communicative, and closing ranks against racialist Heathens. This activity, indicates that many Heathens believe the temple itself will improve public relations and their social standing, numbers and ability to practice publicly; living more open and influential religious lives.

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