Norse Mythology

The Vikings

Who were the Vikings?

The Viking are the people from the northern countries of the Scandinavia which includes:- Norway, Denmark and Sweden, and that is why they were called the Norse men, as they are from the north. These people were religious and practiced Asatru as their form of religion.

The Norse people comprised of different kinds of people who were farmers, merchant, craftsmen/Arts men and warriors. Among these people, only the warriors were well and are still known by many people today.

The word Viking means raiding and that is how they were given the name. These people-the warriors were known as a result of their brutal and cruel attacks they subjected the on those they raided. The influence is believed to have started manifesting around 793 AD when a group of them attacked the Monastery in the eastern coast of England, this continued until they raided the whole of England on or about 1066 AD.


Vikings explored many places

From What Period Are the Vikings from?

The Viking age is a period under which the Viking people are believed to have conquered almost all the lands they visited and built new economic friends. This age is estimated to have been from 793-1066 AD.

The main reason for the success of the Vikings in the Scandinavian was as a result of their great ships and navigational skills in the shallow rivers of Europe and the open ocean. This people lived in the Greenland parts of Canada 500 years before the Columbus.

During this period, the population of the Vikings had started to increase and they therefore needed some more land to accommodate the raising population. It is during this time in the mid-9th century that the Vikings moved and raided most parts of Europe.

They took possession of the England and the European midlands all the Islands and the lands that were uninhabited. By the time they were settling down on these lands, they actively affected the environment through their activities by cutting down trees, hunting down unsuspecting animals for meat and their products for trade and planting crops.

The Vikings did not leave any land that they believe was uninhabited and left it unoccupied. They went forth and took it for their own benefits. This was referred to as ‘landnam’, which means land taking.

Scandinavian is made up of three major countries namely Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Well, no one can deny that Scandinavian countries are the main homeland of the Vikings. Each country in the Scandinavian wanted to extend their own power in several parts of Europe and this resulted in making them gain good trading networks during that time.

What areas did the vikings explore?

The Danish Vikings, also known as “the Danes” took their route to the eastern coast of England and the Western coast of Europe. During this time, they went raiding as far as the Mediterranean, Spain and most of the parts of Northern Africa.

The Swedish Vikings raided Eastern Europe and Russia to explore trade. They also went as far as the eastern Mediterranean. They were very powerful in and had a great economic influence in all areas they raided. In addition, this is evident in the areas of the Black Sea, the Caspian and Eastern Mediterranean. In Russia, the Swedish Vikings were so powerful that they even had a dynasty founded that ruled the whole area of Kiev.

Lastly, we have the Norwegian Vikings. While the other two groups of Vikings were raiding the eastern and western coasts of Europe, the Vikings from Norway were busy exploring the Western areas of Europe to the Iceland and went as far as the Greenland for trade and land.

The Vikings from Norway are among those from the Scandinavian that were very famous. Examples of one famous Norwegian Vikings are Eric the Red and Leif Ericson. Eric the Red was born and in Norway and was a humble man, a farmer, hunter and a fisherman just like his fellow Scandinavian Viking of Norwegian origin.


The Voyages of Leif Ericson.

He was cheated and took the Law into his own hands and murdered a man who had wronged him. Eric was later put on trial and was found guilty and his convicted and he was to be exiled from Iceland for three years where he took with him some men and left in the summer of 982.

To cut the long story short, he went westwards of Iceland and explored Greenland in the three years he was in exile and he became famous via this land in the West.

During this period one great thing happened to the Scandinavian Vikings who were coming to Europe was were of a polytheistic society while most of the Europeans were monotheistic and this made them change as Christianity had started expanding its roots then and most of them converted to Christianity in a period of three centuries. The conversation was increasing more and more as the Vikings continued travelling and raiding.

Were the Vikings, only violent?

These were the Warriors commonly referred Scandinavian sea-born raiders of the early medieval period. The word Viking was initially referred to as private or Privacy. All this words meant the Scandinavian Sea-fearer raiders. Vikings were not professional full time soldiers but were initially full time anglers and farmers who spent much of the year at home. They would only resort to raiding after after a call from their local leaders. Those people would then raid, trade or seek out new lands for settlement. The Old Norse language spoken in Scandinavian used the word Viking in its vocabulary that meant “a rear man who came from the vik district of Oslo fjord” which in simple words meant the sea-borne Warrior.


A Viking Village

What weapons did the vikings use?

According to the customs of the Vikings, all the Norse men were required to own weapons as well as permitted to carry them at all times. They purported to the advice given to them by the Odin god that no one is supposed to leave behind his weapon since you never know when the enemy would attack. This belief is applied up to date as people have kept their weapons ready for any impromptu attack.

A wealthy Viking would have a spear, one or two javelins, wooden shield and either a battle axe or a sword. The richest would have helmets. Today most of the rich people have weapons in their custody and even some wear protective gadgets for example the police force wear the bullet proof vests to protect them against gun shots. Weapons like guns are owned by the rich in the current society just like the Vikings there are weapons the common people could not afford due to the cost involved in acquiring them.


Floki from the series Vikings.

An average farmer of the Viking was was limited to a spear, shield and a common axe or large knives. Some would bring their hunting bows to use in the opening stages of battle. These bows were very big and sophisticated made from yew, ash or elm trees.

The arrowheads were made of ironwood or antler. Today most African communities for example in Kenya the Maasai, kalenjins and the Turkanas use the arrows and bows during the raids. The arrows used are barbed and made of metal iron and wood just like the ones used by the Vikings.

The warrior Vikings used throwing spears, which had metal heads with the blade, and a hollow shaft mounted on wood. Moreover, this is evident with the Maasai spears that they use for fighting their enemies.

The Vikings used two classes of knives that is the plain single edge called’ knifr’. This weapon was even used by the slave as their common tool. These same knives are used in our homes currently for household chores.

The other kind of knife used by the Vikings was called the ‘seax’. This was bigger and heavier knife that the ordinary ‘knifr’. This is the common machete used today by some communities. It is the most powerful weapons used during war.

The Vikings used the axe as a common weapon and tool. Their sizes ranged from large ones to small ones. The head was mostly wrought iron with a steel cutting edge making it less expensive than swords. Today the axes used are of medium size with the head made of iron and wooden handle.

These axes are lighter than the ones used by the Vikings. Currently the axes are used in our homes for cutting wood and on rare cases they are used as weapons.

The Viking s used rounded and kite shields as common means of defense. The timbers used were fir, alder and poplar, which were light in the hands. They had simple patterns and painted single colors. These shields were circular in shape.

Currently the shields used by the anti-riot police are circular in shape and made of light material. The Maasai also use circular shields as a weapon in battle and made of light material of wood.

Helmets used today by the people in the security to protect their heads draw their origin from the helmets used by the Vikings to protect the head while in battle. The current helmet is metallic and very hard. The Viking helmet was made of iron and had a rounded cap that had ‘spectacle’ guard around the eye and nose. This is the same helmet that is worn by fighter soldiers and bikers today.

How did Viking houses look like?

The Vikings lived in isolated single structures which was about seven meters long and four and meters wide. The roofs were thatched and the walls were simple materials woven together within the posts. The floor of the house was mainly made of the normal earth.


A Viking house.

Life expectancy of a Viking

This refers to the maximum number of years that human being can live on earth. Vikings had an unpredictable short life. The kings of the Anglo Saxon who existed on or about 10th century had a short lifespan and therefore died in their early ages mostly. This was a very short period of time that man could live on earth. Infant mortality was high and most women died during childbirth. This led to very low population.

Diseases and acute illness frequently occurred in which there was no remedy not even through hence the Vikings would die once they got such illness. Chronic conditions for example arthritis had no cure that even led to low life expectancy.

Most common image of Vikings had a full battle dress with Armour and weaponry. The warrior was a well-armed and formidable opponent in which they had a basic uniformity to their weaponry. The Vikings had no particular uniform in which their protective gear had a leather-body protectors and a shirt of nail called Brynne protected the regions between the knee and the neck. Other Vikings had a hard leather skullcap. The rich Vikings had iron helmets conical or hemispherical in shape and a simple bar projecting down from the fore head to protect the nose.

The warriors’ body was protected by a large round shield averaging about 1 m (3 feet 3 inches) in diameter and was made from parallel wooden boards, an iron gup was first held protected by a hemispherical iron boss that protected from the outer face.

Appearance of the Vikings

Very few clues have been found about how the Viking people looked like study of skeletons were carried out so as to assist in determining the sex, age and the period they lived.

The study of skeleton would also provide information about traces of epidemics or traumas. The Science studies showed that the average height for males and female was about 5 feet. Based on these findings, the heights of both male and female heights are not different from the average statue today for example in “King Harold’s.” He offered Herald who was the king of the Viking of Norway who was seen as being 7 feet of England compared to the rest until he stood out to be the tallest among all the men. Those kings considered themselves shorter than any normal men did.

What clothes did the vikings wear?

The ordinary folk wore clothes not much different from the basic garments of the warrior. Men would wear a pair of trousers made from wool. The tunic was long sleeved and quite long up to the knees. The tunic would be fastened at the neck by a brooch and tied at the waist with a leather belt. During the cold weather, addition or oiled leather would be worn on top of the mentioned attire. The collars of these clothes ranged from mule beiges and browns, vibrant reds yellow and blues for the wealthy.

Ladies attire comprised of the underwear made from linen, log in the sleeve and extending down to the floor. Ladies would add cloaks during cold weather, and they would also wear brooches at the throat and necklaces of glass beads children wore the same clothes similar to the adults.


Appearance of the Vikings.

What was the Norse religion called?

The name of the religion used by the Vikings in the Scandinavian countries was called ‘Paigants’ or the Norse paganism. The Norse people were polytheist having different deities in which the gods were worshiped by the current members of Asatrus. Today we call this faith Asatru, and is still practiced and is gaining a growing number of new people every day.

The Vikings were pagans who believed in an array of gods and goddesses, which they were, build and designed around their experiences of life. These people believed that great warrior who died in battle were reincarnated to a heaven that was meant for them called Valhalla after death. Asatru was their belief.

Asatru is an expression of the native pre-Christian spirituality in nortern Europe. It is a way through which the Germanic people have related to divinity around them and the world at large. It is also called the Heathenry or the northern tradition.

Asatru has no central location or organization where one can relate to. Although most of the Norse/ Viking have converted to Christianity from Asatru, it took the missionaries’ time to convince them to leave Asatru and this is believed to have started on or about the 9th and the 10th centuries.

The modern or current Asatru is depended on contemporary literature and academic observations in to the Asatrus and some of the Norse deities which includes Odin, Thor, Freya, and Loki among others. Well, it has not been confirmed and is not yet clear if the above deities is explained in the Norse myths were the only ones worshiped by the Vikings or there are others not mentioned as there have been no clear information about the Asatru religion and how they practiced their form of worship.

Aesir the gods who deals with matters of the Law.

Vanir are the gods of the earth, fertilization among women and magic.

Jotun is the giant gods and in charge of riots chaos against the rebels of other gods.

Being an Asatruar, means that you believe in eternal life in Valhalla and the Asatruar tend to believe that due to the complexity of the heart a staunch Asatruar finds living a happy life very difficult.

These beliefs have made the Viking people look very peculiar before other people who practice other forms of religion. Although this was a practice of a long time, some people are still practicing it and have even asked their respective government to recognize them as a religion.

Altars of worship

Every Asatruar must have an altar in their home s as a way to communicate to the gods anytime they fill like. On alters they have their deity, candles, a table and other things the Asatruar feels s/he may think necessary for his gods. A candle is believed to bring light to the Heathens at the time of worship and it is upon them to make the place of worship lively and in a rhythm that the gods can listen to their requests.

Author of page content Martin Højbjerg