An FBI Operation, Germanic Heathenry, and Media Representation

The god Bragi sings while the goddess Iðunn reclines in an 1895 illustration by Lorenz Frølich. From Wikimedia Commons.

Media misrepresentation is a problem for minority religions in the United States. New religious movements and minority religions generally receive little media attention until some negative event occurs. In these cases, provided details regarding an associated minority religion can often be misleading or outright fabrications. Wicca, for example, experienced exactly these issues—likely resulting in the conviction (and subsequent placement on death row) of Damien Echols, for example—until a shift in its media representation occurred largely in the 1990s and into the 2000s.*

Germanic Heathenry is a religion (or a group of religions) often grouped together with Wicca as a "Neopagan religion". Germanic Heathenry has seen an explosion of adherents over the last few decades and it may well be eclipsing Wicca in terms of both media representation and number of adherents. However, no such media shift as seen with Wicca has so far occurred with coverage of Germanic Heathenry. Signs of change regarding this situation may be appearing via positive media reports about Iceland's Ásatrúarfélagið and by way of the efforts of some dedicated heathens and educators such as Karl E. H. Seigfried, but all too often a misleadingly hyper-masculine, prison-associated, and white supremacist version of the religion dominates media attention of the topic.

Recently such an example has been given renewed attention due to media reports around an undercover FBI operation that resulted in charges that two men in Virginia were planning to attack black churches and Jewish synagogues as well as a variety of other felonies. However, as Heather Greene at The Wild Hunt writes, the fact that the accused plotters claimed a form of Germanic Heathenry as their religion has become a media angle:

As written in the FBI report by Special Agent James Rudisill, “Doyle and Chaney … ascribe to a white supremacy extremist version of the Asatru faith.”

After news broke, the Asatru angle quickly went from a footnote in a long FBI report to a news maker and, in some cases, even a headline. A Richmond Times-Dispatch article, one of the first, clarified to its readers, “Asatru is a pagan religion.” And, the media cycle moved from there.

Some news agencies, such as CNN and ABC, did not ever mention the men’s religious affiliation, choosing to focus on the foiled crime. Others offered varying degrees of explanation from simply quoting the FBI document verbatim to inserting some limited facts about the religion. The Washington Post, for example, simply added “neo-pagan” into the FBI quote. Then, others went further exploring the white supremacy connection to Asatru. The Daily Beast went so far as to interview such a group with the added commentary, “Because pagans gonna pagan.”

Readers are encouraged to read the rest of The Wild Hunt's article here.

* See for example Pike, Sarah M. 2012. "Wicca in the News" in Winston, Diane (editor). The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media, pp. 289-303. Oxford University Press.

"Heathenry in Iceland, America and Germany: The mainstream and the fringe" via Icelandic Magazine

An illustration of a historical Hammer of Thor, worn as a pendant by North Germanic pagans during the Viking Age. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Iceland Magazine has published an article on Germanic Neopaganism (also widely known as Heathenry): "Heathenry in Iceland, America and Germany: The mainstream and the fringe". Focused on Germanic Neopaganism in Iceland, Germany, and North America, the brief article primarily examines responses to the Ásatrúarfélagið's decision to conduct gay marriage ceremonies (which we previously reported on here). The article is authored by Karl E. H. Seigfried, who runs "The Norse Mythology Blog", a blog focused on Germanic paganism and topics such as J. R. R. Tolkien and Richard Wagner.


Icelandic Germanic Neopagans Criticized Abroad for Conducting Gay Marriage Ceremonies

Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, chief gothi of the Ásatrúarfélagið—the major Germanic pagan organization of Iceland, reports that the group has received criticism abroad for its stance on gay marriage.


“We have unfortunately received some hateful communications from abroad, on account of how we handle gay issues, and have fought to be able to marry them,” Hilmar told reporters. “I think we echo Icelandic society. The people have stood with us through thick and thin.”

Hilmar says the Ásatrú Society of Iceland will continue to maintain their policy of tolerance, regardless of the misconceptions others may have.

“We’re not running this with some kind of Viking or battle romanticism,” he said. “We’re not contemplating some old text from the year 70, as some foreign Ásatrú believers seem to believe is a part of our practice.”

As of 2014, Germanic Neopaganism is the second largest religion in Iceland.

"Pagans Criticised for Being Too Liberal" at

Ásatrúarfélagið Goði Blesses Icelandic Air Company WOWair's New Airbus, "Freyja"

Dorrit Moussaief, First Lady of Iceland, and Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, goði of Ásatrúarfélagið, Iceland's major Germanic neopagan organization, were invited to to the unveiling of WOWair's, an Icelandic air company, new airbus unveiling. The airbus is named after Freyja, the North Germanic goddess. Hilmar performed a blessing for the unveiling of the airbus:

"Ancient and modern Iceland met yesterday evening at Reykjavik Airport, as Icelandic low-cost airline WOWair held a naming ceremony for one of two brand-new Airbus A321 aircraft purchased by the airline. The guests of honour at the event were Dorrit Moussaief, First Lady of Iceland, and Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, high priest of the Icelandic neo-pagan religious association, Ásatrúarfélagið.


In keeping with this reference to ancient Norse beliefs, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, chief religious official of the Icelandic neo-pagans, was then called upon to bless the new aircraft by means of a short ceremony involving pouring beer out of a horn onto the tarmac under the plane. Guests were then invited to climb the steps and view the interior of WOWair’s latest acquisition.

Freyja will be put to work straight away and is scheduled to operate WOWair’s inaugural flight to Boston, departing from Keflavík International Airport at 4pm today."

To view more, including video of the event, view the rest of the article here: "Chief pagan blesses Icelandic jet" via

Ásatrúarfélagið Temple at Reykjavík Construction to Begin in February

Reykjavík, Iceland: The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (Ríkisútvarpið; RÚV) reports that Iceland's Ásatrúarfélagið, the largest Germanic neopagan organization in Iceland, will begin construction of its first structure for worship, a modern temple (or, less ambiguously, a modern hof), in February in Reykjavík.

Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, allsherjargoði of the Ásatrúarfélagið, says that the erection of such a temple is a historic event because no such temple has been erected in Northern Europe since the Temple at Uppsala in 1070 ("Í Norður-Evrópu hefur ekki staðið hof síðan hofið í Uppsölum í Svíþjóð var byggt 1070, þannig að þetta er heimssögulegur viðburður").