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Religion in Iceland

Icelandic people believe in gods as well as in the presence of trolls and elves, supernatural beings who supposedly populate the country.

From Norse paganism to Christianity

The first Viking colonies established in Icelandbelieved in the religion of Norse mythology. Their gods were Thor and Odin. This religion is still practised today under the name of Æsir. This Norse paganism appears mostly in the Icelandic sagas - books which recount the lives of the first inhabitants of the island. This religion was replaced, little by little, through the centuries by Christianity. In keeping with this, the Godafoss waterfall in the north of the country - otherwise known as the waterfall of the gods - is said to now be home to the pagan idols after the Lawspeaker Þorgeir Þorkelsson threw them in when when the parliament decided to convert to Christianity, which became the state religion in 1,000 AD. Icelandic people are therefore Lutheran for the most part. There are several Lutheran churches to discover during your trip to Iceland, with the most famous definitely being the Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik.

Icelandic church, south coast

Lutheran religion and traditional beliefs

Although the main religion may be Lutheran, freedom of religion is allowed and you can find a minority of people who are Buddhist, Muslim or Jewish. But the belief which is especially present in Iceland, although it's not considered as a religion, is that of the presence of a Huldufólk, which means a 'hidden people'. Actually there are several Icelandic people who believe in invisible and marvellous people, and believe in the presence of trolls and elves in the country. Be careful not to make fun of it, a planned road was even cancelled because it would have crossed some land known to contain elves...

Emmanuelle Bluman
157 contributions
Updated 24 March 2016

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