Saga Brief 6 – The Conversion of Iceland (Part 1)


In this first part of our Saga Brief, we look at the story behind the conversion of Iceland.

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Opening:Rúnatal” by An Danzza with selections from History Channel’s Vikings.
Saga Brief Intro: from Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur
Outro:  Ólafur Liljurós

2 thoughts on “Saga Brief 6 – The Conversion of Iceland (Part 1)

  1. RE: your discussion over the relative “devoutness” of Norse pagans
    I think a point that was missed is that in polytheistic pagan societies, the fundamental relationship with the gods is very different from that of monotheism. Pagans were no less “devout” in that they likely occupied the same spectrum of belief in divine power and fate that their monotheistic Christian counterparts lived within. The difference is that pagan Icelanders were free to negotiate their own relationships with whichever deity or deities they liked. Pagans frequently worshiped a rotating pantheon of their own making. Given the very human traits and failings of pagan deities, gods probably drifted in and out of a pagan’s life much the way friends and family members do. Also unlike the claims of monotheistic gods, pagan deities are powerful but not all-powerful nor insistent on exclusive relationships with their devotees, nor do they demand anywhere near the level of corporate structure or uniformity of worship as demanded by the medieval Christian god. Particular devotion to Thor may have been seen as odd by medieval Icelanders because monotheism was not the norm and an exclusive relationship with one god meant ruling out the potential benefits of other gods.

    The main edge a hierarchical, monotheistic faith is going to have over a system like this is that it locks worshipers in like the world’s most powerful cell phone contract. Paganism, without a powerful, politically muscular central authority and a slick corporate strategy for expanding into new markets, didn’t stand a chance with its central premise of freedom to worship (or not) anyone, anywhere, anytime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well put, TQ. With more time to discuss the pagan side of things, we might have said something very like this. In terms of the conversion, it’s important to note that the inherent flexibility of Icelandic paganism was a factor. The fact that the sagas rarely emphasize any aspect of the pagan culture is what suggests a lack of devotion/interest in Iceland. That’s likely misleading, as you know, since the sagas are written well after the fact and by Christian authors.


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