Wednesday, August 21, 2013
The Conversion of Iceland
Þorgeir Þorkelsson Ljósvetningagoði (born ca. 940) was an Icelandic lawspeaker in Iceland's Althing from 985 to 1001.
In the year 999 or 1000, Iceland's legislative assembly was debating which religion they should practice: Norse paganism or Christianity. Þorgeir, himself a pagan priest and chieftain (a goði), decided in favour of Christianity after a day and a night of silent meditation under a fur blanket, thus averting potentially disastrous civil conflict. Under the compromise, pagans could still practise their religion in private and several of the old customs were retained. After his decision, Þorgeir himself converted to Christianity. Upon returning to his farm Ljósavatn, he is said to have thrown the idols of his gods into a nearby waterfall, for which it is now known in Icelandic as Goðafoss, the "waterfall of the gods".
Þorgeir's story is preserved in Ari Þorgilsson's Íslendingabók.