Marines who label themselves modern-day heathens and wish to mark their grave with Thor’s hammer — their religion’s version of a cross or Star of David — now have Veterans Affairs approval to do so.
While some only know of Thor as a comic book hero, he actually dates back to Norse mythology. Thor used his magical hammer to protect humans and other gods from giants.
But today, that hammer means something special to those who practice Ásatrú and worship the Norse Gods. And as NPR’s “The World” reported last week, those who identify as such and served in the military now have the option of marking their gravestone with Thor’s hammer.
NPR interviewed John Browlee, a Boston-based writer who reports on technology, about the tie between those who practice the religion and Thor’s hammer. He estimates there are between 10,000 and 20,000 self-labeled modern-day heathens in the U.S.
To them, Browlee said, Thor’s hammer is their sort of crucifix — the symbol of their religion. It symbolizes what Thor stands for: honor, bravery, loyalty and virtue.
Many of the same traits respected in the military, he added.
But getting Thor’s hammer recognized as a legitimate religious emblem by the VA wasn’t easy, he said. Reason being that the VA had a problem with pagan symbols, and Thor’s hammer got lumped into that debate.
Now Thor’s hammer is one of 56 symbols approved by the VA that those who served in the military can request to have added to their headstones.
You can hear NPR’s whole story on how it happened here: