From: Tamzen Cannoy <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Date: Sun Nov 16, 2003  2:36:01  PM US/Pacific
Subject: Denmark to allow 'Norse gods' marriage ceremonies,5942,7784368,00.html

Denmark to allow 'Norse gods' marriage ceremonies
From AP

Odin, Thor, Freya and the other Viking gods of yore will soon be providing divine authority for some marriages in Denmark.

Minister for Ecclesiastic Affairs Tove Fergo said Wednesday Forn Sidr will be allowed to conduct legally-recognized marriages.

The group, whose name mean "Old Custom" in old Norse, worships gods from the Norse pantheon, like their Viking forebears from the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries.

Under Danish law, the state Evangelical Lutheran Church has sole authority to recognize other religious communities.

"To me, it would be wrong if the indigenous religion of this country wasn't recognized," Fergo, who is also a Lutheran priest, told The Associated Press.

The 240-member group sought recognition in 1999, said Tissel Jacobsen, the group's president. About 1000 people worship the ancient gods in Denmark.

Last year, an Ecclesiastic Affairs panel of scholars recommended that Forn Sidr 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 told the AP.

"We then returned our application and the panel approved it."

Fergo said she would give her final approval "in a few days."

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 said.

"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 if they want. Members of other recognized religious communities, such Catholics, Muslims and Jews, are also exempt from the tax.

In Norse mythology, Odin, a wise, one-eyed chief god; Thor, a thundering warrior god; and Freya, the goddess of love and beauty, lived with other Norse gods in Asgard, awaiting the epic battle called the Twilight of the Gods that signaled the end the world.

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