There cannot be that many things in national life to celebrate for those who still worship the Norse gods.
Pagan druids and their followers might gather at Stonehenge every solstice, but there is no special national holiday to celebrate either Odin and those who live with him in Asgard, the home of the gods.
But now, after years of being ignored, the Odinists and those who still look to Norse mythology for inspiration and guidance, have finally got something to smile about.
The Royal Mail is to issue a ‘pagan’ stamp next month, depicting the Norse god Thor, the hammer wielding god of thunder and protector of mankind.
Admittedly it forms part of a set of stamps commemorating Marvel Comics superheroes – of whom Thor is one, enjoying his own comic series and film spin offs – rather than the original figure of Germanic mythology.
But the Odinist Fellowship are pretty pleased all the same.
They are a registered charity that exists to “promote the original old religion of the English people and the native faith of the northern lands”, so they naturally welcome any celebration of Norse mythology.
Ralph Harrison, the director of the Odinist Fellowship, said: “Considering how the Christian church tried so hard to eliminate the images of the Gods, it is with some satisfaction that we will be seeing people of all religions and none, who use this stamp, acknowledging, in a small way, the God Thor’s continued presence in our nation’s cultural life.”
The Odinists – who worship at a Grade II listed former almshouse in Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, dating back to the Tudor period – are so pleased they aren’t even complaining that the Thor shown in the stamps is the one created by an American comic publisher rather than the traditional depiction of him.
He’s still their man (or god), they say.
Mr Harrison said: “We recognise that the Marvel Comic depiction of Thor differs somewhat in its iconography from descriptions given in ancient sources, such as the Eddas; but Marvel seem to have based their image on that of Marten Eskil Winge’s famous painting, ‘Thor Fights the Giants’, now on display in the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm.”
The fellowship points out that under the terms of the Postal Services Act 2011 the design of all British postage stamps must be approved by the Queen, and this is the first time that the Monarch has approved a design depicting one of the Gods of pre-Christian northern Europe on a stamp.
The Royal Mail has been previously criticised its choice of imagery for stamps.
It was attacked by Boris Johnson last year for not issuing a commemorative set of stamps to mark Brexit and in 2008 its decision to include the family planning pioneer Marie Stopes in a set commemorating women’s achievement was criticised by those who accuse of her being a eugenicist and Nazi sympathiser.
But on this occasion even the Church of England, of whom the Queen is the head and Supreme Governor, appears to have no complaint about the choice of a pagan god for a set of stamps carrying her mail.
Asked to comment the Church of England declined.
The Royal Mail said the series depicting Thor and other Marvel superheroes, including Spiderman and Black Panther, celebrated the impact of the comics in Britain and the contribution made to their distinctive look by British artists and designers.A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: “The Marvel Comics stories have been enjoyed for decades by generations of UK fans, and in the 1970s Marvel launched a UK imprint of its comics.
“The 1980s, in particular, saw US comic publishers heavily recruiting British writers and illustrators, who increasingly worked on the American publications and began to inject darker storylines and widened the appeal of the characters. One such artist is Alan Davis, who designed the new Special Stamps, and has worked with Marvel since the early 1980s and first illustrated Captain Britain in 1985.”