Viking Blots, Beserkers and Barbaric Blood Eagles
Famed for their ruthless fighting skills and brave exploring little is written about Viking religion and their day to day ritual practices which were arguably a more central component in Norse cultures than warring. Contrary to what pop-culture might have one think, daily life for Vikings didn't involve sailing on violent conquests to new lands, but rather a meat-filled, human-sacrificing, hyper-spiritualized agricultural experience.
The men would almost certainly farm by day and at night sleep in a big open room with the entire family (and possibly their goats). Women generally kept domestic affairs running smoothly and occasionally accompany the family might to attended feasts at the local chieftain's longhouse. During winter both sexes skied, about which is evident by the depictions left on a 5,000-year-old rock carving discovered in the municipality of Rødøy, Norway, depicting a skier with one pole.
According to legend, the top two Birkebeiner skiers, Torstein Skjevla and Skjervald Skrukka, took H åkon H åkonsson (the king's son) to safety with King Inge II at Christmas by Mayer Bruno. (1869) (Public Domain)
Parents would have passed their knowledge on to their children through oral communications rather than writing and this is why accounts of the Viking’s written by outsiders are often incorrect, having misunderstood what they witnessed or failed to understand what they were told. Vikings would have regarded it highly important to make sacrifices to their gods and goddesses, yet the Vikings’ spiritual beliefs are regarded as a ‘non-doctrinal community religion’ meaning their beliefs and rituals varied from village to village and region to region.
Although most Vikings shared beliefs in common similar deities, and their influences on reality, there were no set ritual practices and people worshiped the gods relevant to their lifestyles by communicating with spirits of dead ancestors using sorcery and divination and differing burial practices. These are some of the spiritual traditions of the Viking’s which are known to be accurate, but be warned, some of these practices are on another level of gore.
In the 13th century, Snorri Sturluson recorded a detailed description of a ceremony called a ‘ Blót ’ which was performed by Sigurd Hakonsson to achieve the goodwill of the gods, but it also allowed chiefs to show off their wealth to surrounding communities. Blót is the term for sacrifice in Norse paganism and it began with all the local farmers gathering at the temple and sacrificing many horses.
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Ashley Cowie is a Scottish historian, author and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems, in accessible and exciting ways. His books, articles and television shows explore lost cultures and kingdoms, ancient crafts and artifacts, symbols and architecture, myths and legends telling thought-provoking stories which together offer insights into our shared social history . www.ashleycowie.com.
Top Image : Vikings Heading for Land’ 1873 by Frank Dicksee (1853–1928). ( Public Domain )
By Ashley Cowie