Talk:Ásatrúarfélagið

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Merge with Ásatrú[edit]

Why is this article different from Ásatrú? 200.55.118.233 23:26, 3 September 2006 (UTC) Nahuel

This is an organization and so has its own history and information. :bloodofox: 16:51, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
Because it isn't about the religion qua religion, but rather about a particular organization which adheres to that religion. --D. Webb 17:00, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

"Pantheism"[edit]

I'm guessing this is a translation error, none of the Icelandic parts of the website say anything about pantheism ("algyðistrú" in Icelandic). Admittedly the word polytheism ("fjölgyðistrú" in Icelandic) doesn't occur anywhere either. Haukur (talk) 11:26, 21 January 2009 (UTC)

Older versions of the site have 'pantheon' rather than 'pantheism'. Anyway, not sure what's going on here - it would be entirely reasonable to say something about pantheism (I think all the high priests have been pantheists, more or less) - but this is such an odd way to put it. Haukur (talk) 17:00, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

Misconceptions[edit]

The following is some editorializing I can't put in the article but gives some idea of how I am approaching it.

I often encounter an idea that Ásatrúarfélagið is a model Germanic neopagan organization, free from the strife which has characterized many organizations in other countries and not associated with late 19th century or early 20th century ideas which have now become unfashionable (racial theories, theosophy etc.). To an extent, I think this is quite true. It's an established, fairly successful and reasonably respected organization. But it's easy to take this too far. Here's a typical example:

Many of these revivals, Wicca, Asatru and Neo-druidism in particular, have their roots in 19th century Romanticism and retain noticeable elements of occultism or theosophy that were current then, setting them apart from historical rural (paganus) folk religion. The Íslenska Ásatrúarfélagið is a notable exception in that it was derived more or less directly from remnants in rural folklore.[1]

I just don't think this is true. For one thing, very little of what the organization does has to do with remnants in rural folklore. The rituals are reconstructions based on literary sources rather than folk customs. And aside from literary sources there's the fact that if you want your religious organization to be relevant it had better provide the services which people expect from a religious organization. In Iceland, those expectations have very much been formed by the Lutheran Evangelical Church. So, to take an example, if you want to provide people with a relevant option you'd better provide a confirmation-type ceremony for 14 year old children - even if you don't have any literary sources for such a ceremony and even if you think that's too young an age. I think the organization has finally come to terms with this in the last few years.

Now, for another thing, it's not at all true that Icelandic neopaganism in the 1970s was not in touch with elements of occultism or theosophy. Both Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson and Þorsteinn Guðjónsson (who was probably the second most prominent person in the organization in its early years) were active members of the Nýall society, dedicated to the theories of Helgi Pjeturss. This was a somewhat peculiarly Icelandic development of theosophy/occultism/spiritualism which took a very materialistic and, in the view of its adherents, scientific view of spiritual phenomena. The most central of Helgi Pjeturss' theories was the idea that humans receive contact from material beings on other planets in dreams and in trances (kind of like Epicurus' view of the gods). It's no secret that Sveinbjörn was influenced by Helgi Pjeturss - he says so in his autobiography, for example. I do think Sveinbjörn took the whole thing with a grain of salt while Þorsteinn was more devoted to it. Þorsteinn was also very keen on racial ideas, as I've now briefly alluded to in the article.

Now, to what an extent did these ideas influence Ásatrúarfélagið? Surprisingly little, perhaps. Sveinbjörn seems to have made it clear early on that the organization would not be a vehicle for a racial political agenda. Ideas from Nýall are not present in any material I've seen from the organization, nor even in early press coverage of it (aside from the bishop's criticism, but that's another story). Sveinbjörn was the face of the organization and the press was happy to portray him as a kindly old traditionalist. And he was. In fact, it's easy to see a certain disappointment in the press that paganism really wasn't Sveinbjörn's main interest. He was, above all, interested in poetry and in that field he was certainly the representative of an old and continuous tradition going back to pagan times. Sveinbjörn did not 'resurrect' the rímur tradition, as is sometimes claimed. The rímur were still alive, even if they had seen better days.

In any case, I do think it's true that Ásatrúarfélagið is a successful neopagan organization but I don't think it should be seen as fundamentally different in its origins than other such organizations. Haukur (talk) 17:00, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

you are 100% right of course. I admit to writing the paragraph you are objecting to, but I wrote it years ago (I think), before I had a good understanding of Germanic neopaganism. You are most welcome to fixing this, or I will try once I get round to it. --dab (𒁳) 17:11, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

I didn't even realize I was quoting something currently in Wikipedia. I've now removed the sentence about Ásatrúarfélagið from the Paganism article. Haukur (talk) 17:15, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

Founding members and more on Nýall[edit]

Ásatrúarfélagið considers its founding date to be the First Day of Summer 1972. Different sources say that the people present at that founding meeting were either 11 or 12. At least one source says that there were six men and six women. Combining a few sources, I get the following six men as founding members:

  • Dagur Þorleifsson
  • Jón frá Pálmholti
  • Jóhannes Ágústsson frá Keflavík
  • Jörmundur Ingi Hansen
  • Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson
  • Þorsteinn Guðjónsson

If there were also five or six women then I haven't been able to find any of their names (though it's plausible that e.g. the wives of Jón and Þorsteinn were there) and they don't seem to have been prominent in the early years. Jörmundur Ingi mentions in a 2008 interview that he, Sveinbjörn, Dagur and Þorsteinn sat down to write the moral code of the new religion (and that they agreed on everything there). Those four seem to have been the most prominent members in the early years. Jörmundur mentions in the same interview that he participated in some Nýall séances but it seems that he got involved with this after the founding of Ásatrúarfélagið rather than before (he also mentions that he thinks these events did not get much useful information and that he is not convinced that they did contact spirits of the deceased). I don't know if Dagur was into Nýall too - it would not be surprising, he translated Erich von Däniken's books. Curiously, there is a 1973 article which explicitly states that Jón did not consider himself a Nýallist.[1] About Jóhannes I have no information.

I've added a summary of bishop Sigurbjörn Einarsson's intial criticism of the organization. He connects the dots from Ásatrúarfélagið to Nýall to Ariosophy. And he was correct too, as far as that goes. But it doesn't seem like the media took any interest in this angle and it doesn't seem like the organization felt any need to defend itself against it. So why was this such a big deal to the bishop and not to anyone else? I think I can explain. It was a big deal to Sigurbjörn Einarsson because he himself was a Nýallist and a neopagan in his youth. He even wrote some stirring words on how Christianity was a bad religion and how paganism was the way of the future. Later, of course, he reconverted to Christianity and became a church leader and the leading Christian intellectual in Iceland. It's not surprising that he would view his former opinions with such distaste - think St Augustine and the Manicheans.

But why doesn't anyone else seem to have cared much about this? Well, I think a part of the explanation is that Iceland did not suffer greatly in WWII, was never at war with Germany and was never occupied by Axis forces. The symbolism, conflict and philosophy of that era thus didn't leave as deep a mark on the Icelandic nation as on, say, the Norwegian one. So, to establish a (somewhat vague) connection between Ariosophy and a newly founded neopagan organization just didn't pack as much emotional punch in Iceland as it might have in Denmark or Norway or Germany at the same time. Haukur (talk) 23:52, 24 April 2009 (UTC)

Maybe I've made the whole Nýall thing sound more sinister than it was. In that case I should note that as far as I am aware it was a completely harmless group that conducted garden variety séances and had vague ideas about some sort of Icelandic Manifest Destiny. Haukur (talk) 10:31, 25 April 2009 (UTC)

Icelanders abroad[edit]

It's interesting that Icelandic neopagans in mainland Scandinavia have been prominent in the scene. Jón Júlíus Filipusson founded Foreningen Forn Sed in Norway. In Denmark, Óttar Ottósson headed up Forn Siðr. In Sweden, Jóhannes Ágústsson (one of the founders of Ásatrúarfélagið) has been active and at one point a misunderstanding circulated that had him as allsherjargoði over Sweden. Haukur (talk) 09:13, 4 May 2009 (UTC)

  1. ^ http://timarit.is/view_page_init.jsp?pageId=1449356&issId=115763&lang=is