Worship of Norse gods declared an indigenous religion of Denmark

Toronto Star, November 8, 2003
Byline: Jan M. Olsen, Associated Press

Denmark says it will let a group that worships Thor, Odin and other Norse gods conduct legally recognized marriages.

"To me, it would be wrong if the indigenous religion of this country wasn't recognized," Tove Fergo, the minister for ecclesiastic affairs and a Lutheran priest, said this week.

Under Danish law, the state Evangelical Lutheran Church has sole authority to recognize other religious communities. The 240-member Forn Sidr, which worships Odin, Thor, Freya and the other members of the Norse pantheon, sought recognition in 1999, says Tissel Jacobsen, the group's president.

Last year, an ecclesiastic affairs panel recommended that Forn Sidr, whose name means Old Custom in old Norse, be approved, but only if their rituals were clearly detailed in its bylaws. "At a general assembly, we added and described our four annual heathen rituals - spring and fall equinoxes, and the summer and winter solstices, and our marriage ceremony," Jacobsen says. "We then returned our application and the panel approved it." Fergo said she would give her final approval "in a few days."

About 1,000 people worship the ancient gods in Denmark, Jacobsen says.

Since 1998, the panel of theology, law and history scholars have advised the government on which groups seeking to become religious communities should be recognized. "It was not up to me to evaluate whether they are telling the truth or the quality of their religion," Fergo says. "Based on the commission's evaluation and what I have read, I consider it a good religion." Officially recognized religious communities can marry people and exempt their members from the 1 per cent income tax that is imposed on members of the state church.

People born in Denmark are automatically made members of the state church, but can choose to leave it. Members of other recognized religious communities, such Catholics, Muslims and Jews, are also exempt from the tax.