Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson wanted Icelanders to have their own religion, one that was seperate from what he himself called " the imported religions". In the winter of 1972, Sveinbjorn along with Jomundur Ingi Hansen, Dagur Thorleifsson, and Thorsteinn Gudjonsson, met in a cafe to discuss the founding of a Pagan movement, and organization, that was nature based, and one which sought to seperate itself from the Industrialized world. That summer at another meeting, at the Hotel Berg, Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson was elected chairman and given the title of Allsherjargodi ( Chief Godi ), in what would now be called the Asatruarfelagid. That however was the easy part !
Late in 1972, Allsherjargodi Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson, and Thorsteinn Gudjonsson went to see Iceland's Minister of Ecclesiastical affairs, Olafur Johannesson, to petition him to recognize the Asatruarfelagid as an official religion in Iceland. The minister at first thought they were kidding, but said that if they were serious he would need addittional paperwork to submit their petition. They went right to work to get the minister they proper paperwork to show him they were serious !
The Asatruarfelagid met resistance right from the start as the Bishop of Iceland, Sigurbjorn Einarsson protested against the reinstatement of the old religion under the grounds that the constitution of Iceland stated that the citizens of Iceland had the right to found organizations to serve God ( singular ). He also made references to how the Nazis in Germany used elements of the old religion as a basis for their premise of a "Supreme Aryan Race".
The leaders of the Asatruarfelagid, however, persisted and found a (tru) friend in Olafur Johannsson, and they gained recognition in May of 1973. In 1975, the Icelandic government made sure that other " alternative religions ", would have a much harder time by passing very stringent new requirements for recognition at the Allthing that year. But once the hammer was forged it could not be broken !
On August 5, 1973, The Asatruarfelagid, lead by their first Allsherjargodi, Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson, held their first legal blot in over a thousand years. It was held at Sveinbjorn's farm at Draghals in a pouring rain. The simple ceremony was covered extensively by local and foreign media who were disappointed with the simplicity of the ritual. If they knew the man they would have expected a simple, but very sacred ritual. The news people were only interested in a story, not in the man, or this new religion, and missed the point entirely. The Old Gods were the true story, and Sveinbjorn understood that better than any of them ! That same year Sveinbjorn presided over a name - giving ceremony, and the first legal Pagan wedding was held that summer. Sveinbjorn in an interview told a funny story about a couple who got married in an Asatru ceremony as a joke only to find out that the ceremony was legally binding, and that they could not break the marriage without petitioning the courts for a divorce.
Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson is a hard man to seperate from the religion that he loved so much. He was a simple man, with simple, but wonderfully adequate ideas on all subjects, not just religion. He was opposed to abortion, wanted to see a peaceful non - violent world, loved and truly appreciated nature, and did not like the idea of nuclear energy, or industrialization. He was a farmer, a naturalist, a poet, and an author, to name but a few . He believed firmly in land spirits, or wights, and liked to use herbs to cure his ills. He never claimed to be able to see the land spirits, but instead insisted that he could sense them. A feeling I think at least a few of us have had over the years. He believed that Thor was the foremost of the Gods, and was " more people friendly than Odin". In a 1986 interview he said something I have always believed in, and incorporated into my teachings. Sveinbjorn said : " Anyone can pray to the Gods in whatever manner he likes. " He did not believe that the Asatru religion should have a religious dogma. He also believed that Freyja, the fertility Goddess, is the counterpart of Odin . I have always seen these three Gods as the Triad of Gods who rule over us.
One of my favorite quotes from him is when he said in an interview, " Let the tree stand, leave the moss on the rock, and don't kill the fly on the window." In other words they belong here too, and we do not have the right to play God over these things. We should live within our world and not try to shape our world to our needs. When we do do these things we dishonor not only nature, but ourselves and our Gods as well. He believed even as early as the 1980's that technology was being worshipped as though it were a God, and that we as a people needed to get back to nature and the natural world.
I have so much respect for this simple, but wonderful man that it is hard for me to put everything I feel into words. He was our first leader, my mentor, ( even though I never had the pleasure of meeting him ), and the man who I most respect in the old religions. Yes, respect and admiration,.....and dare I say it love, is what I feel for Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson... the greatest of all the modern heathens. So today, on your birthday, I raise my horn with pride to the Great Allsherjargodi Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson. May you sit on the Golden Benches and swap stories and poems with Bragi for eternity my friend !
All Hail Allsherjargodi Sveinbjorn Beinteinson !!
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !