Heathens up North:Politics, Polemics and Contemporary Norse Paganism in Norway
Issue: Vol 10 No. 1 (2008)
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
The variety of religious positions commonly grouped together under the heading “Neo-Paganism” call for no homogenous reading of that phenomenon. As recent research on contemporary forms of paganism has flowered in recent years, emphasis has been given to the nuances and complexities of this kind of new religious currents. For instance it is clear that contemporary pagan currents, such as Wicca, Ásatrú, and Roman paganism, tend to vary significantly between themselves on matters of theology, sociological profile, and political tendencies.
While varieties in the social manifestations of given groups can be partly explained by diverging religious/ideological content, it also holds true that ideological formations will be determined in part by the society in which they emerge. This means that a contemporary pagan current such as “Ásatrú” is not necessarily describable as one single tendency on a global scale, but will unavoidably be shaped by local conditions. Thus varieties within currents will tend to follow national and geographical borders, being always locally situated, and adapted to local political, social, and religious conditions.
This article discusses the emergence and development of contemporary Norse paganism in Norway in light of the abovementioned framework. Special notice is given to the interplay between public discourses on issues such as paganism, the occult, neo-Nazism, and the relationship between the church and state in Norway, and the self-fashioning of reconstructionist Norse pagans. Through a partial comparison with the thoroughly discussed American context of contemporary Norse religion an argument is advanced that Norwegian Ásatrú came to bear certain distinct marks that are due to and only explicable by specific, local cultural conditions.
Author: Egil Asprem