Heathens up North: Politics, Polemics, and Contemporary Norse Paganism in Norway

Egil Asprem

The variety of religious positions commonly grouped together under theheading contemporary Paganism permit 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 andcomplexities of this kind of these 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 above mentioned 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.

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