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Visit the only heathen temple in Iceland in Skagafjörður fjord for a pagan grill party this Saturday

By Magnús Sveinn Helgason

  • A pagan ceremony Jóhanna Harðardóttir leads a ceremony in Ásheimar temple. To her right hand side is the goði-to be and owner of the temple, Árni Sverrisson, along with his wife, Heiðbjört Hlín Stefánsdóttir. Photo from the Facebook page of Ásheimar temple.

If you are travelling in Northern Iceland this Saturday you should certainly consider spending the night in the only consecrated heathen temple in Iceland barbecuing some prime lamb meat and sharing a couple of beers with the heathen congregation in Skagafjörður.

The only consecrated heathen temple in Iceland
In many respects Efri Ás in Hjaltadalur valley in Skagafjörður bay is a regular prosperous Icelandic farm, with a herd of sixty dairy cows and a large flock of sheep. With one very significant exception: The farmer at Efri Ás, Árni Sverrisson is also a heathen priest-in-training. With the help of his wife, Heiðbjört Hlín Stefánsdóttir, family and friends, Árni has built a proper heathen temple, Ásheimar. Ásheimar is the only consecrated heathen temple in Iceland. 

Ásaheimur_temple.jpg

The Ásaheimur temple Capturing some of the atmosphere of a Viking age.

Árni tells us that the construction of the temple began in 2010. "It began as a small idea. We had a unused plot of land north of the farmhouse and decided to build a small temple. But, it quickly escalated, and by 2014 we had built a 80 square meter structure!" The temple is made up of stone and turf walls, a wooden framework and a turf covered roof, capturing some of the atmosphere of a Viking age pagan temple.

The temple was coscecrated in 2014 by pagan priest, or goði, Jóhanna Harðardóttir, who holds the title of Kjalensingagoði. She is also the mentor of Árni, who is training to become a goði himself. The training is in large part structured like an apprenteship, Árni explains. "The training is a two year process. During the first year I follow and observe Jóhanna  as she officiates various religious ceremonies, and during the second year she follows and stands by my side at ceremonies."

Soon to be the eleventh ordained pagan priest in Iceland
By next year Árni will be ordained as a pagan priest, receiving the title of Hegranesgoði, responsible for the flock of heathens in Skagafjörður bay. Árni will become the eleventh ordained pagan priest in Iceland. He tells us that there are some 20-30 members of Ásatrúarfélagið, the Pagan Association, in Skagafjörður. The group meets regularly in the temple he constructed with his family.

In addition to the four important annual blót (pagan feasts) we meet regularly, light up a fire, chat and enjoy each other’s company. Over the summer we meet in the temple, but during the winters we have met indoors in nearby Sauðárkrókur village.

Everyone is welcome!
While the meetings have primarily been attended by the local heathens, everyone interested in Ásatrú is of course welcome. “We have had a few foreign visitors, but not very many. Most have come because they heard of us through some family members or friends.”

Árni emphasizes that everyone is welcome to the meeting tomorrow evening. “Just bring whatever you want to throw on the grill, and whatever beverages you wish to drink. We will supply the great company and good spirits!”

The Ásheimur temple is on the land of Efri Ás farm, which stands on the northern slopes of historic Hjaltadalur, where the Hóla bishopric of Northern Iceland had its seat. The temple can be reached by road 769. 

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