Conflict & Justice

How Thor's Hammer Became an Approved Symbol by the Veteran's Administration

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REUTERS

Street artist Ruben Oviedo, 40, dressed as comics superhero Thor, poses for a photograph inside his home in downtown Mexico City March 7, 2013. Oviedo, a former television and theatre actor, began working as a street artist in downtown Mexico City a year ago. On average, a street artist in Mexico City earns some 40 dollars a day for around eight hours of work. The street artists in Mexico City are requesting the police to allow them to conduct their street performances, public dialogue and exhibit various artwork in public places. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido (MEXICO - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR3EPYR

He’s a Norse God who’s been turned turned into a comic book action movie hero.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

While you may know Thor and his famous hammer, the Mjolnir, from the movies, his hammer has symbolic meaning that goes back thousands of years.

“In the myths Thor’s hammer is the most valued treasure of the Gods because Thor uses it to defend both the Gods and humans from the giants. So it represents his sacred function; it’s a symbol of his protective role,” explained Norse Mythologist, Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried.

The hammer is a sacred symbol for modern day heathens, one of the terms for people who practice Ásatrú and worship the Norse Gods.

Though the religion has ancient roots, the modern day practice began in the 1970′s when Icelandic poet, Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson petitioned the Icelandic government for recognition for the religion. As legend has it Beinteinsson was met with skepticism. Then lightening struck.

“Very shortly after that [meeting] a storm came up over Reykjavik, lightening bolts came down and buildings in the area were burned to the ground. After that in Iceland the newspapers headlines were ‘Thor is angry’ and ‘He wants the government to get on his side and approve his religion,’” said Seigfried.

They did.

It’s taken much longer for the religion to be recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs but recently the VA approved the Mjolnir as one of the official symbols allowed to be etched on the tombstones of service members killed in the line of duty.

Army veteran Josh Heath, who has been a practicing heathen for 17-years was part of the fight to add Thor’s hammer to this list.

He started a group called the Open Halls Project which aims to bring Heathen service members together and gain official recognition.

“We’ve had no official way of saying we are Ásatrú, we are Heathens, so we’re asking to get that recognized.”

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